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The Thin Edge

Why we must love our land and not romanticise the nation state

If the State forgets its reason for existence then it needs to be, and will be, challenged.

Let me begin with a declaration.

I am not a nationalist. I am not even patriotic about this state created national identity. I refuse to be an unquestioning loyal servant of our political form. I am not wowed by the symbols of the State. I certainly don’t enjoy watching the Republic Day parade where every type of killing machine is on grand display. I don’t believe that the death sentence should be awarded even to terrorists. Yet, I will say that I belong to this land and have an equal right to its embrace and no one, and I mean absolutely no one, including the highest courts can take that away from me. That sense of belonging is in me and will live until the day I pass on. But I will not have someone demanding my love, my salute, my tribute for his notion of India.

So, who am I and where do I belong?

Right to question

In the last few weeks we have seen the deadliest venom spewed on students who have expressed a different idea of their land and its purpose. Beyond the legal arguments, we have seen rank hatred being hurled and that needs challenging. We must ask: What is the nature of the love that is being demanded from all those who hold that white voter identity card or blue passport? Is it love at all, or just a selfish protectionism, violent assertion, an unthinking stone-walling of those who question the very foundation of our political construct? But is it not just this kind of discourse that allows for a revaluation, even rejection of “what is”? We are told that these questioning people are negative, bringing disgrace to our country, contributing nothing to nation building. Where does the blueprint for this building come from? It evolves from difficult, uncomfortable, disturbing questions raised by voices of varied textures and tones. I, for one, certainly believe, that we cannot move ahead without their words questioning the meaning in our sentences. This is openness to receiving without anger, inhibition or confrontation.

Let us also not reduce this to Voltaire’s cliché on freedom of expression. This is a deeper, subtler enquiry into the nature of belonging to a nation. We need to go beyond the right to speech and explore the thoughts behind expression. Born from this is also humility towards what we believe as being sacrosanct and essential. There will be very many pitches, each providing for a different insight. And unless we make an attempt to receive everyone, we are lifeless.

Creating the ‘other’

Why are we unable to listen to voices without being reactionist? What are we so scared about? I am baffled. The students in Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University did not at any point take up arms and attack anyone. They did not demand the killing of any human being or the destruction of any natural assets, yet we want them removed. But the corporates and conglomerates of the world are allowed to strip our land with state sanction and displace people. And religious bullies continue to spread hate among people.

Where did this madness for national pride come from? By drawing dotted lines around us and separating us from the rest we have all been forced to assert an identity of pride, pride itself being an imbalanced emotion. The students at Hyderabad and JNU are not anti-national – whatever that may mean – but let us suppose, for the sake of argument that they are, I don’t see a problem. They are not anti-people, anti-life, anti-nature, anti-love, anti-compassion or anti-welfare. We need to seriously ask ourselves what we are looking for in our co-inhabitants. Isn’t an inhuman nationalist worse than an empathetic anti-national? Take one look at many of those who today drum their loyalty to the Indian nation and you will see a religiously sectarian, casteist, male-chauvinist who cares little for the poor and marginalised. Any active involvement of theirs in social upliftment comes from the position of charity or a misuse of that for advancing their own divisiveness.

What keeps us safe?

Let us love our land, not romanticise the nation state as the insider-outsider dichotomy built into the latter’s DNA. This separation operates as much within its borders as it does beyond. It is to the credit of our founders that they recognised this problem and tried their very best to address its structural complexity. But the debate continues and should. Our Constitution has given us some remarkable things. But there is nothing absolute or final about a document that allows amendments to keep it abreast of the times, of life!

Political parties have only worsened the situation by twisting people’s ideas into party positions. The BJP, Congress and the rest are incapable of seeing anything beyond their own noses but will use every opportunity to create confusion, manipulate minds and weaken the quality of the debate that normal people want. It is also true, that we live in a society where few are willing to listen to political questions that emanate beyond party outfits.

The other dimension that has been added to this shouting and counter-screaming is pitting the sacrifice made by the armed forces against questions being asked by students. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and actors like Mohanlal have unfortunately used the death of soldiers to trivialise dissent. Their sacrifices can never be forgotten or diminished, yet I am wearied by the argument that we sleep safe at night only because someone patrols our borders, for truth that it is, it is not the whole truth. Sleep settles over us at night because someone called the Indian peasant is growing our cereals, someone called the line engineer and manual scavenger is keeping our water and drainage pipes going, someone is handling the dangerous chemicals that make our paints safe, someone cleans our streets of all the garbage we patriots keep heaping on them, someone is fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and because our teachers share generously and policemen and policewomen guard our roads selflessly. And, let us not forget, we find rapture in the morning and repose at night because someone called an artist sings or dances for our happiness. Every member of society helps us sleep safely and happily and no one can be placed on a lower or higher pedestal. There is also another side to any country’s fighting machine that we cannot glorify. That which keeps us safe, threatens others, does it not? I refuse to sanctify the bomb-dropping jet and the flame-throwing tank.

Humanity above all

I belong to this land because of the air, fragrance, earth, sounds, languages, music, dance, drama, rituals, cuisine, unsaid words, smiles, quirks, jokes, habits, battles, inequalities and sharing that make me who and what I am. All this exists beyond the state. This is my land, my people and my life. My “here” is not bound by the homogenising tag that makes for an Indian citizen – whether of the ordinary native, or OCI or NRI variety. My land is fluid not static, constantly self-renewing, self-defining, leaving me free to sing any song. There is no question that the state has facilitated my living, but the state itself comes from the experiences that I have described above and therefore it cannot take away who I am. The state is not a privilege gifted to us, it is built on the understanding, questioning and framing of what already exists. If the state forgets its reason for existence then it needs to be, and will be, challenged.

Tagore, who gave us our national anthem, also said:

“I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds. I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”

Let us not destroy life by succumbing to the State.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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As corporate India changes from strait-jacketed to stylish, here’s how you can stay on-trend

For men and women, tips to make your office style game strong.

Office wear in India tends to be conservative. For men, the staple blue or white shirt and dark trouser arranged in a monotonous assembly line has been a permanent feature of the wardrobe (a tactic shrewdly administered to ensure minimum time is spent shopping). For women, androgynous work wear has been ever reliable and just as dull.

But camouflage is of no use in the corporate jungle anymore. The Indian office is no longer a place for dull, unthinking conformity, it is a place that expects vibrancy in thought and action. With a younger workforce and a greater mix of multinationals and jobs, there is a greater acceptance of edgier trends. Men are stepping away from their blues and greys and women are reshaping their workwear to be more interesting and distinctly feminine. As corporate India is proving its mettle on the global stage and to itself, it’s also growing confident in expressing individuality and style in the formal work environment. From clothing to office décor and fashion accessories to work tools, the workplace is becoming a place to display merit as well as taste.

Work clothes have shed their monochrome and moved into the light of technicolor. Bright colours have steadily become popular as Pantone’s annual colours of the year show us. For the corporate warrior who wants to be stylish here is our pick of trends worth considering.


Statement jacket. A statement jacket is one that doesn’t merely stand out in a crowd, but blows it open for you. How do you recognize one? You’ll know it when you see it. Most statement jackets have a non-traditional color. They could also have subtle prints on them if you want to go funky.

Technicolor socks. Multicolored socks (or hipster socks as they are known in some quarters) peek out every once in a while and brighten things up in the workplace. From polka dots and caricatures to geometric patterns, you can choose a pair to suit your mood or your workplace. A great way of telling people you don’t take fashion rules seriously (except these ones).

Plaid: Well played is well, plaid. Great for your 9-to-5 and even performs well after. Plaids, in shirts and jackets, are perhaps the most versatile tool in the corporate warrior’s armory, and straddle the fine line between formal and casual effectively. They’re also age-resistant meaning a young buck in his twenties can rock them as much as your seasoned forty-plus campaigner. Plaid, though Scottish in origin, has an Indian connection too, in the Madras checks that became popular all over the world after the World War.

Inside collars and cuffs. If you like to keep it classy but still a little edgy, nothing does it like contrast or printed insides of your collar and cuffs. After the work day, when it’s proper to roll up your sleeves, it even adds a touch of evening character.

Coloured Shoes. Alternate your staid blacks and browns with variants like burgundy, light buttery browns and ashen blues. Play with moccasins, tassel loafers and lace-ups. Go beyond leather and try suede and maybe even canvas. But do remember to take a quick course in matching.


Floral prints. Flowers are back (though one could argue that they never went out) and now they’re storming the bastion of your office. Even the traditional Indian paisley is making its way into formal wear. With the prevalence of digital printing, with a little hunting, you’ll even find beautiful florals in watercolour style.

Scarves. The first rule of wearing scarves is to rid yourself of the notion that they are to be worn only in winter. A colourful scarf paired with a monochrome top works wonders. A dozen online videos will teach you to wear it in a dozen ways. Plus, it always comes in handy when the thermostat isn’t to your liking. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw wears scarves frequently, and is a great example of how you can use it strikingly.

Pants. Yes. Pants. Experiment with different styles and you’ll be surprised how they can really spruce up a boring look. Silhouette is everything when it comes to pants. Choose from high-waisted, wide legged, pleated to ankle length pants and what not! The best part is offices rarely prescribe silhouettes, so you can always get by with some style even if your workplace demands a uniform.

Houndstooth. The houndstooth pattern is at the sweet intersection between casual and formal and can be worn to make a splash in either occasion. Whether its jackets or a dress or a simple top, a houndstooth pattern is incredibly versatile.

Chic suits. A sharp suit is a must for a modern professional’s wardrobe. And please don’t even look in the direction of black. Pastel colours or even greys with patterns are great options for suits. Uncoordinated suits are also a great option depending on how edgy you want your office attire to be.


It isn’t enough to be well-dressed in the modern workplace. A good professional is known by his or her tools and how they carry it.

Designer laptop sleeves. Your high-precision instrument deserves a cover chosen with as much care. Black Neoprene is out. Pastel monochromes, geometric patterns and bold designs are very much in. Different materials like cotton, leather and even paper are a great option.

Natural fiber or leather bags (yes kill your black synthetic one now). Briefcases are ancient and black messenger bags are done. Go for a color variant or a subtle pattern. Pay attention to the different leather finishes. Adding a few nicely done metal trims can make all the difference. But convenience and ease are top priority. If you travel a lot, get a stylish strolley and thank yourself later.

Commute pack. The urban corporate needs to be productive at all times, or at the very least, needs to be accessible. A modern commute pack should include wireless headphones, a USB battery pack (power bank) and a wire/gadget organisation pack just so that you’re always prepared.

Machine. We’ve all showed off our latest smartphones. Your work machine is way more important. And like in smartphones, a good laptop is no longer only about performance. The specifications must be top-notch but it has also become an expression of your personality. It can up your style quotient and significantly impact your experience.

Source: Dell
Source: Dell

The Dell XPS 13 is one device that achieves excellence in both form and function. With a virtually borderless infinity display that maximises screen space, and measuring a super slim 9-15mm, the Dell XPS 13 is an unalloyed delight. A sixth generation Intel® Core™ processor and the latest Intel HD graphics gives cutting edge performance for 18 hours and 14 minutes per charge—the longest battery life in any 13-inch device. The Dell XPS 13 epitomises the ethos of the modern day corporate warrior—chic and smart. To make even more of a fashion statement, you now get a free TUMI laptop sleeve worth Rs. 9000 with your XPS notebook purchase (offer valid till 31st October). For more information about the Dell XPS 13, see here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Dell and not by the Scroll editorial team.

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