I was seven years old when I was introduced to the concept of ‘Patriotism’ for the first time. I remember my Social Studies classes when we’d sit and talk about the things that made us feel proud to be Indians, but for some reason I couldn’t relate to this as well as the others could and this made me feel weird. It’d make me ask questions like,” Why don’t I understand this?” “Is it that difficult? But wait, all the people in class seem to be able to relate to it” And then I concluded that something was wrong with me because of which I couldn’t feel and understand and relate to patriotism in its complete sense. I remember thinking- “So what if India wins a cricket match? How does that make anyone feel patriotic? How is cricket= patriotism?” I continued to believe that something was wrong with my emotional abilities. But this was only until the second week of August, when my dad came home from work and asked me to get ready. He said he’d picked up four tickets for the movie ‘Chak De! India’ and I was like, “Why Pappa? It’s about patriotism, my friends told me and I don’t even understand that so I wont understand the movie” But he didn’t seem to care and I realized that my resistance would’ve probably worked if he hadn’t bought the tickets already. So I wore a T- shirt and a pair of jeans intending to convey the message that I do not care. We reached the theatre, I think the one in Forum Mall fifteen minutes before the movie began and I asked for popcorn justifying my demand by saying that I came to watch the movie for his sake. Now that I look back on this memory, I see no logic in the reason but whatever, I got popcorn and Coke.
The movie began and I sat in between my mother and father, my feet not reaching the ground and me occupying only half of the space on my seat. And something about the movie caught my attention from the very beginning. I have always liked to believe that it was the presence of Shah Rukh Khan, my then celebrity crush. And I seemed to understand every bit of it. I’m not referring to understanding the movie as in the language here, but I’m referring to the story. From the very beginning where the hockey players introduce themselves- their names and where they come from. There’s this one girl who said, “I’m from India” and that fascinated me for some vague reason. The movie then showed the girls fighting a lot because of their differences which I then thought was very dumb because they all had introduced (or had been taught to introduce) themselves as Indians. I understand this now and think of me having thought of it as dumb back then to be dumb. Getting back to the movie, so, after a while they all got to know eachother and became good friends or acquaintances. Skipping to about one hour into the movie, the Indian women’s Hockey team play against the Indian men’s team and I thought that this wasn’t fair. The women’s team lost this and I justified this to myself back then by saying that men are physically stronger than women. I don’t believe in this anymore but that justification is probably fair from a seven year old’s point of view, maybe this generation seven year old’s are much more rational than I was in 2007 but whatever. Then the Indian women’s team get permission to go to Australia and for four minutes after that the song ‘Badal pe pao hain’ played in the back ground and I sat in my seat bobbing my head to the beats of the song and I felt patriotism for the first time and I stopped to completely feel that moment when I understood that vague concept. It wasn’t vague anymore! I felt happy and I couldn’t wait to go to school and tell my friends about on Monday morning.
Now that I’ve started talking about this movie, I’ll tell you the entire story and then stop. So yeah the Indian women’s team train really hard for their match against the Australian women’s team and I was at the edge of my seat. I gave the Coke and popcorn to parents which I’d barely eaten because the movie was so damn interesting. I still do that if I’m watching a good movie. Then the Indian team needed just one goal (I’m assuming that’s what it is called) to win and Shah Rukh Khan crosses his fingers, and so did I and when they won I smiled so broadly, I felt like I had won the game.
That was the first time I understood and felt patriotic. I understood that it is something that a person feels because of which s/he can identify with the country’s team playing a game or it is because people felt for the country and each other that all the people came together to fight for India’s independence. This is what made the it made so amazing. I was filled with joy, I finally understood it! I was so happy that my father had insisted that I watch this movie.
Even now when I sit down to watch this movie I feel as happy as I did the first time when the Indian team won. I feel this way when I watch the Republic Day and Independence Day parades and when I watch a cricket match or read about all those people who won several medals for the country in the Olympics or other sports tournaments.
So on our way back home my mother asked me, ”So did you understand the movie? Did it help you understand patriotism?” I said, “Yes Amma so patriotism is actually the name of the feeling that you feel which makes you think of the country as yours”.