Iam a nationalist; I believe in nations and I love them too. I have never considered going abroad, working or even studying there for the fear that once I cross the political boundaries of my nation, I might lose my basic coordinates and thus become disoriented in the world and thereafter steeped in nostalgia may stop in the tracks of my spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth. NRI relatives and now friends really never inspired me except for their bags full of money, and which because provenance had kindly bestowed upon me, I was relaxed enough not to have pursued with any serious intent. Nations are sublime ideals which help you to consider yourself in larger dimensions, exist beyond your own time, find a continuity of purpose; people who do not seek larger entities for themselves cannot be nationalistic. I loved the USA, so I loved the UAE, the only two places I have ever been beyond my own country and after this I spent years reading up on their histories and cultures, cuisines and fads, religious sects and the ecclesia only to get under my skin, the feel of nations which become historical entities out of long journeys that their people have made together in time. I cannot realize myself wholly as an individual until and unless I have a nation. I am constitutionally not an NRI. Perhaps this is why I respect nationalism, take interest in national struggles even at the risk of those being, by specific arrangements of territories get treated as subnationalisms.
Sometimes I carry nationalism too far into competitive sports in which I want
India to win so badly that I lose focus from the game and forget to enjoy games
as games. This is why I stay away from the sports channels. But circumstances
made me watch for the first time ever, the ICC match between Bangladesh and
India and this is when my innate nationalism leaves me confused. During my childhood, the cricket matches were played more on the grounds to the galleries and less on television sets to couch potatoes. Our galleries were noisy but grounds, which were far away were usually silent except for the occasional appeal for “out” by the bowling teams. Sometimes, bats clicked as shots were played. But in the day and age of the television, now voices of players can easily be heard through close range microphones. Under such changed and “mediatically” evolved circumstances I was forced to partake in the India-Bangladesh match because my parents watch cricket keenly. It was then that I heard the players speak; and it was Bangla.
The Bangladesh players looked like Bengalis, they spoke in Bengalis, and their
mannerisms were stereotypically Bengali. They emanated from a culture that I was primarily socialized into, its literature which I read and they lived in lands around which my collective and historical memories have grown. And these are typically the very things that extend and enlarge me, place me into the transcendental and sublimated ideal like the nation. In sharp contrast, I never speak in Hindi, do not have any consonance with the so-called “Indian” festivals of Diwali or Ramnavami, I have no interest in their marriage rituals, or in their daily routines, I understand none of their family politics, or the meanings of their everyday lives. Suddenly I felt myself turn against in repulsion towards the so-called Indians; the bunch sitting on the spectator benches looked so crude, so uncultured, and full of the boorishness that non exposure to the refinement of the Bengali culture consists of. India was just an imagination; it was never a lived in reality in which I learnt to sublimate myself. In which language did I think of Mother India? In which language did I learn that India was the first among the nations in the world? It was not Hindi; it was Bengali. What was the Golden land that had to be freed from the British? It were the green paddy fields which lay in a limitless stretch under the vibrant blue skies which I often watched in the afternoons from the window of the mother’s village home. These were neither the Sahyadri, nor the Thar, neither the sea side nor the snow-capped hills. The lived in reality of a nation is the culture that you use to sublimate your mind. Bengal is a nation; divided or not. India is not one, united or otherwise. Not for a person like me who draw so much from her surroundings rather than be given to imaginative fantasies.
I suddenly wanted Bangladesh to win the match. I felt as if my identity, my moorings, my bearings depended on the victory; just as I felt moments ago for India. Bangladeshis played fabulously, bowled fiercely and compared to the relatively puny Indians, they looked robust and muscular. They stepped heavily, moved bodily and screamed violently; all the right kind of voice, eye and body language to make any nation proud. But then they all collapsed and lost the match rather timidly to India. The commentators, now known as the fourth umpires said that the Bangladeshi captain changed bowlers too often and experimented far too much rather than stick to the conservative strategies that was ensuring them wickets. To my mind, this was not so. The reason for Bangladesh team to lose the game were the three consecutive wickets which the umpire decisions refused to let them take. From what it appeared on television and me not really in sync with cricket these days, drawing up solely from my long term memory since my father went up to go to the washroom and my mother throwing holy water on a small make shift temple in one corner of our study board just in that short interval of bowler appeals, I was fairly convinced that Bangladesh was right and the umpires were wrong. This could have devastated any team and it did to Bangladesh as well.
But there was a caveat; the umpires’ decisions hurt the team so badly that they started destroying themselves. It was very clear that the Bangladesh game was self-destructive, suicidal and on purpose plotting defeat. This was a very strange behaviour emanating out of a set of young men purporting to represent their society and nation, thorough bred in the art of the game, excellent of technique, remarkable in physique and fitness. Is this then the character of the Bengali? Is it possible to break the Bengalis so easily? It seems that it is. Bengalis, it is said are emotional. It is easy to break Bengal by promoting bad press, spiteful media publicity. Bengal’s concentration can easily be broken. Speak of one Sarada scam, Bengalis lose faith in their leader; speak of non-industrialization political parties bend backwards to give away land to corporates like the Tatas and Jindals. Bengal has been easy to break, to colonize, to incite into violence, to crush under debts, to steal away from and to exploit. No wonder then Bengalis love dictators; Hitler is admired, his book Mein Kampf, is one of the best sellers. Part of Subhas Bose’s appeal lay in his ideas of dictatorship as being the best form of government for India for the first decade after Independence. In contrast to this, “India” seems to be staider and less emotional in its approach. Why this difference?
The difference between Bengal and India can be linked to homogeneity in one and diversity in the other. Bengal as an idea is homogenous in culture and continuous in territory; this culture can easily be produced through biological reproduction; languages are taught at home. Homogenous nations have poorly developed public spheres, less of formal interactions and exchanges between individuals are familiar, informal, and casual and if such cultures lose the hierarchies of feudalism and fall into the equality of democracy, the process of informalization gets accelerated. Those nations, or those universals like India which has not an iota of homogeneity, on the other hand develop a sort of outwardliness, a public space and hence attitudes and values of being capable of self-control and self-distancing which requires a great deal of formal behaviour. The informalization of the self of Bangladesh, the complete letting go of the attitude happened precisely because the homogeneity of culture gives the nation a certain familiarity whereas the facelessness of India helps provides the right kind of unfamiliarity that requires individuals to hold themselves more dispassionately. Dispassion is the fundamental requirement of rationality, of impersonal and scientific attitudes and indeed of performance and achievements. Too closed cultures are unable to achieve, and fall into the trap of garnering resources to reproduce their cultures in its purest forms. Brahminism was one of this kind, and it is not surprising that Bengal had seen the most fanatic version of this trait. Brahmins practiced high polygamy in form of Kulinism and Sati mostly in the manner of purification of culture. The idea of a Hindu nation came up from Bengal and the germinator of the idea of the Hindu Rashtra, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee being a Bengali and a kulin Brahmin was no coincidence.
Let us all teach ourselves a lesson from the Bangladesh debacle in the ICC quarter final match. Pursuit of homogenized cultures can leave us as under achievers in real life. India presently is enamoured by a homogenous culture; one of a Hindu-Gujju dominated axis, a culture in which the bania pursuit of immediate gain and gratification appears to rule. The advertisors such as Ray Titus is lauding the universalization of India’s youth and the television serials are converting these impulses of the homogenizing of a diverse people into family soaps. The significance of locating a universal culture in a family soap is to give it the right of emotions so as to make it appear as if the universals are procreated from wombs and nurtured among infants through primary socialization. The loss of cultural diversity can be a great loss to people for it takes away from them the sense of a distanced rationality, steeps them into emotions and hence “de-modernizes” them and eventually makes them go out of step with world constituted of formal,
rational and scientific and impersonal forces.