Opinion: 11 ways you can show that you love India

Independence day banner

My husband and I went to watch ‘Hobbs and Shaw’, the latest offering from the Fast and Furious franchise. The national anthem was played, we all rose, some of us sang along. But as Jana Gana Mana ended and we were all going to take our seats, someone in the audience screamed ‘Bharat mata ki…’. 80% of the crowd, predominantly college students and young professionals, responded with a resounding ‘…jai!

I looked around, flabbergasted with what was going on around me. I heard college kids sniggering in the corners as the lights went out and the movie began. This got me thinking, was the slogan really necessary? Have slogans and trivial outer shows become criteria of patriotism? Do the young people of this generation know what true patriotism means?

For our great-grandparents fighting the war for independence, patriotism had a different meaning. It meant laying down ones life for the country, it meant suffering the consequences of going against the British. For those of us born much later, patriotism may not mean all of these things. But it continues to mean a true love for the land in which God designated your birth. When you love something, you care for it, you want to see it grow, flourish.

These small ways of showing your love for India may not compare to laying your life down for the country, but love is in the little things, right?

1. So stop the littering, seriously, stop.

Volunteers cleaning up litter on sunny wet sand beach

The highway, your local roads, your nullah, even your building premises are not your personal garbage dump. Have something to discard? Keep a garbage bag in your purse at all times. Encourage your family members to throw wrappers, leftover food items, chewing gum, cola bottles in the garbage bag. Yes, we get it, in our country, it is next to impossible to find a public garbage bin; So? Take your personal trash home, and dump it in your personal bin.

2. Speak out!

Martin Luther King Jr., the famous crusader for African-American rights once said, “It's not the violence of the few that scares me, it's the silence of many.” This country has so many social evils that plague the development of this great nation. The biggest one is the caste system. Can this generation break the shackles of the caste system and be the pioneers of a casteless society?

3. Give a little bit more.

It is often said, God loves a cheerful giver. The key to happiness is not to receive, or covet, but to give. Imagine if every family contributed to the education and wellbeing of the children of their maids, security guards? Imagine if every family contributed to the education and wellbeing of a family in a remote village?

4. Pay your taxes, legitimately.

Tax deduction written on a piece of paper.

Stop looking at — and being inspired by — those who evade taxes. They may be richer than you are, but it’s not worth it. Show your income, your full income, file your returns within the stipulated time; and take nice long naps of contentment, you deserve it.

5. Take up a cause!

Do you find injustice happening in your society against the marginalised? To be patriotic is to stand up for those who are weak. Ask relevant questions to authority and find solutions. And you don’t have to go too far to find people in need. Get to know your maid, cleaners, building security guard, bhaji wala, doodh wala. Fight for them.

6. Save water, go green — this cannot be said enough.

We are moving so fast into an era where things we take for granted, like water, will have to be rationed. It’s happening already in most of our cities. There is drought, famine, water shortage in most parts of India already. The water table has been depleted, and rain water cannot replenish it because everything is concretised. So what can you do? Do your bit at home by not wasting water. Teach your maids to save water when they clean. Stop using single-use plastic - cola bottles (the small ones), smaller shampoo bottles, smaller lotions, toothpaste. Buy the larger sizes that will go for longer.

7. Own up and pay the price.

If you have crossed a red light, not worn your seatbelt, not worn a helmet, or charged with speeding, whose fault is it? Own up and pay the price. Stop bribing traffic cops for your silly mistakes. Don’t forget the take the receipt. And don’t repeat the same mistake again.

8. Be a good ambassador of your country during your travels abroad. And be a good host to those travel to India.

We pride ourselves on ‘atithi deva bhavo’, but often the case is quite the opposite. Some miscreants may already be taking advantage of the confused tourist you see on the other side of the road. Don’t be one of them by being apathetic. Walk over, ask if they need help, and genuinely be of service to India’s guests. While on trips abroad, follow rules, try their cuisines; don’t pretend to throw up over their national dish! Mingle with the locals, learn few words, make new friends, and invite them to India.

9. It may be trendy to study and move abroad, but how about studying and working in India?

Don’t you wonder what would happen if India’s best minds contribute to the progress of this country, instead of a foreign land? That would be a radical thought, indeed. Parents, it’s time to stop being proud of your children going abroad. It’s time to be proud of your children taking part in India’s development.

10. Be the voice of dissent

Do you find injustice and corruption going rampant? Be the voice of dissent - Loving your country does not mean you agree on every single aspect. Unfortunately, the social media has become the PA system for trolls and haters; so why not try to use it constructively? Speak the truth, dispel myths, share context and history for those who only read the headlines. Speak out against all forms of reservation. Our country needs a merit-based system, not a reserved system. The more each citizen speaks out, the louder it will sound to the lawmakers.

11. Consciously stop being apathetic.

Unfortunately the corruption, injustice, inhumane nature of criminals and rapists, rampant natural disasters, and terrorist attacks among others is turning everyone’s heart colder, little by little. It is easy now to look away from crime, poverty, suffering. But try not to. This I-day, can you make compassion your daily goal?

Bonus point - teach your children how to love India. Because really, if you don’t, no one will.