Like most people, our national anthem makes me emotional. It is part of one’s history. It is a feeling. I do not deconstruct it nor do I see it as a necessary vehicle to flash patriotism. I have reservations about blind patriotism, anyway.
There are people like me, people like us, who feel and think. So, how would you react if you were told that the anthem you grew up singing and listening to is being reinvented? That it is being “launched” in a “limited edition” by a private company?
We have had the “Saare jahaan se achcha”, “Vande Mataram” and “Mile sur mera tumhara” versions, which is fine. It is also all right to alter the tune of the anthem for a specific purpose that is not in any manner insulting or takes away from the way we know it.
What is about to be unleashed on us is an extended version with four more verses that were in the original "poem" by Rabindranath Tagore:
Now, for the first time in the nation’s history, these four verses, set to music and produced by Saregama, will be presented to the nation by The Times of India. At a special launch ceremony this evening, two days before the nation celebrates Independence Day, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will release ‘Jaya He!’ a unique, limited edition rendition of these verses… Over the next few days, the four stanzas will also be unveiled at the 9pm News Hour on Times Now.
This is not any ordinary song. How has the finance minister agreed to attend the function? Who has granted the permission for this adaptation? There is often a ruckus about depiction of caste, religion and tampering with ‘facts’ and even names and shlokas from holy scriptures. This anthem is about India, despite its controversial history that it was written in praise of the imperial powers at the time. You cannot tamper with it. For, even technically, “Jana Gana Mana was officially adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the Indian national anthem on January 24, 1950.”
This obviously implies the verses as they are recited today and have always been since. The music company is riding on the Independence Day fervour and the media company is marketing its news channel and taking over the nationalism bastion too, after capitalising on everything that can be commercially sold, including the soul. Buy those darned CDs about sufi, bhakti, shakti sangeet and be transported to some delusionary heaven.
The TOI report states rather audaciously:
There are few who don’t get a lump in the throat when the national anthem is played, especially when it wraps up with the distinctive flourish of ‘Jaya He!’. But the irony is that Rabindranath Tagore never intended Jana Gana Mana to be signed off with ‘Jaya He!’ He’d actually written four more verses of our moving anthem, which are hardly known about.
Before barfing this tripe, the least they can do is gather some basic research. It takes less than two minutes, unless you really want to use the word “irony” in the news item. Besides, rather disgustingly, the headline of the report is 'Unchained Melody'. Is the original shackling us and are the private companies in charge of unchaining us? Here are a couple of details:
- All the stanzas end with “Jaye He”, which translated means: “Victory, Victory, Victory be to You, the Supreme King, the dispenser of the destiny of India!” So Tagore wrote it this way, and whether it is a sign-off with a flourish or not is a matter of one’s preferences. All the original five verses are here with translation.
- Tagore did not choose the national anthem. It was legally adopted by the INC.
Given its controversial history, what is this new marketing trying to achieve? Get into more discussions, more panellists splitting hairs, more friction? I can already see the Reverand Arnab Goswami (who is also an anchor for those who do not know!) going rat-a-tat-tat about how India needs to get in touch with its roots and wipe out corruption. Yes, some hoity-toity socialite conscience will be around to sniff the air disgustedly and quote from what Tagore intended, according to the said Rev. Goswami: “By the halo of Your compassion India that was asleep is now waking”. The “your” could be the youth, the citizen’s movement, Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, the Dalai Lama, Sonia Gandhi, heck even the cartel of industrialists. I mean, they run the marathon so they are awake, stupid.
They have roped in top singers and the fact that it is limited edition is a smart strategy. Whet the appetite. This is one Armani of an anthem.
What next, India? Outsource the tricolour, the assembly and even Parliament? There is not much difference between a buyer of the spurious from a sell-out.
If this is called waking up, then it is time for the country to get some sleep.