Four years ago, on Independence Day, we were driving down the Delhi-Jaipur National Highway from Gurugram to our home in the afternoon.
PM Modi had unfurled our National Flag on the ramparts of Red Fort, Delhi, in the morning.
Suddenly, a man in his early twenties, on a motorcycle, in a tearing hurry, overtook us from the wrong side. A National Flag was fluttering in the wind on his motorcycle. The young man was swinging his motorcycle from left to right and back left. It was his way of celebrating our Independence Day on the road.
Dressed in a sleeveless shirt to show off his bulging biceps and a chain around his neck, he looked like a character out of the 1969 cult film ‘Easy Rider’. If you have seen it, you would remember those riders had long and unkempt hair and dark goggles perched on his nose and were racing around in the countryside like him.
“Get your motor running
Head out on the highway
Looking for adventure (jailtime, maybe. FIRs are filed against the innocuous of things.)
In whatever comes my way…”
He squeezed in between our car and the one in front to go to the right. Then, after driving for some time, he again got into the same space to overtake the car from the left.
He barely escaped colliding with the car in front.
“What’s he doing?” I screamed. “The idiot will get himself or somebody else killed.”
No matter how one can be in control of one’s machine, one’s, it often confuses others. It sometimes results in a fatal accident.
We were all travelling at high speed, the cars, buses, trucks, two-wheelers and whatnot. Any carelessness would have resulted in an accident.
I hoped he would disappear and let us drive without getting distracted.
He overtook vehicles after another and disappeared in the traffic ahead.
I began humming Steppenwolf’s song, ‘Born to be Wild’ from the film, ‘Easy Rider’.
“…Yeah, darling gonna make it happen
Take the world in a loving embrace.
Fire all your guns at once and explode into space….”
I was getting high on the song.
His dare-devil antics had proved infectious. Had I been at the wheel of the car, I might have speeded up and caused an accident.
“I like smoke and lightning,
Heavy Metal Thunder
Racing in the Wind and
The feeling that I am under…” (always gives me the feeling I’m on a motorcycle).
Ten or fifteen minutes later, I abruptly stopped humming. I saw cars stopping in front of me at the flyover ahead and people getting down from them.
While picking our way through the crowd, I saw an old couple lying on the ground by side of their scooter. The motorcyclist sat propped up against the wall of the bridge, bleeding profusely and groaning away in pain. The Flag and his motorcycle lay a few feet away from him in the dust. Nobody was paying attention to the Flag. Everybody was involved in saving the three.
And rightfully so.
Sometimes, saving lives is more important than the National Flag. It is just a piece of cloth without people. They make it come alive for them by breathing life into it by their words and deeds. They come under it to safeguard theirs interests. You cannot give the flag to just anybody.
The Army does not give the Flag to every soldier in times of war. If it did, who could fight the war with the flag in hand? There is always a man deputed for that job to hoist the flag to claim one’s hold over the territory or to show it is under their control. Remember How our soldiers retook Tiger Hill from the Pakistan in war in 1999. Our Indian soldiers gave their lives to hoist the Flag to show it was back in their control. If a soldier deputed to hold the flag gets hurt or killed, another soldier rushes to hold the Flag aloft, but they do not stop fighting. They know if they lose, the Flag would not matter. The soldiers know where their priorities lie in winning the war.
It is we civilians, politicians, jingoists, and others do not know.
Only the soldiers and those who win medals at international sporting events know the value of Tiranga. The others just wear it on their shirt sleeves. Who flaunts it at home? Or do we not consider India to be our home? Any show of strength when there is no war is meaningless. It only holds any meaning if there is war. If not, it is so much energy and time wasted, which could be utilised elsewhere.
We hand over our Flag to everyone who does not even know the value of it There are umpteenth videos on the internet, showing BJP workers and supporters carrying out a flag march on motorcycles and on foot with National Flags waving in air and fighting amongst themselves under the same flags to come to the notice of their leaders. One leader, an MP, too, led a band of motorcyclists as part of Azadi Amrit Mahotsav and was fined Rs2100/- for not wearing a helmet.
When I saw some of those videos, it brought back the memory of that motorcyclist and the song, ‘Born to be Wild’ all over again but not in excitement but fear
“Fire al your guns at once
and explode into space (they were filling tv screens to demonstrate their power)
Like a true nature child
We were born to be wild
We have climbed so high
never want to die
This is what the BJP and its workers seem to be saying in a wild embrace of its patriotism as if no other than them are the true nationalists.
We need our Tiranga in the hands of a select few and atop designated buildings. In wrong hands and atop dark and sinister looking buildings, it loses its appeal.
The Flag will always be there even if it does turn saffron as some fear. It will still be our National Flag, representing our hopes and aspirations. not chaos as it is doing now with people fighting each other in the name of caste, religion and nationalism. We were not born to be wild with the Flag.
Rajendra Yadav is a free-lance writer, a blogger, and a member of Shri Ram Chandra Mission, a Spiritual Organisation, also an anti-child labour activist