Republic Day: A Parade of Pointless Shenanigans
I never understood the point of Republic Day.
Imagine this, I’m in the process of writing a tad less than 145,000 word long book over the course of three years, and I finally finish it. However, the book doesn’t get published for another three months from now. Am I going to celebrate more on the day I finished writing the book, or the day it gets published? Wait no, in hindsight, I would probably celebrate more three months later because it gets commercially available then, so forget I was trying to make a point there! The previous contrast has nothing to do with Republic Day and the Constitution and any uncanny resemblance to the same is unintended!
Well, that went out the window.
Anyways, the only real perk of Republic Day, anyone would agree, is the well-deserved holiday we get from it. Although it’s on Wednesday this time around, which is a very odd day considering it is in the middle of the week, hey, a holiday is a holiday, so no complaints from here. Being an Economics student, I know that having something in short supply increases its value. I guess a lot of economic theory was put into deciding nationally-mandated holidays, so kudos to the sadist human being who designed the system in this way. Also, being a student of the IBO without any religious or festive holidays, the system works even better.
The Beating Retreat is one of those traditions which stirs up a patriotic sentiment in me. However unrelated the Retreat is to the point of Republic Day, it’s still one of those things that is iconic. The Beating Retreat conveniently happens on the Rajpath, which is flanked on both sides by the Rashtrapati Bhavan, just so that the President can watch the parade from his balcony in his PJs. The highlight of the show, however, are the fighter jets that fly overhead. All the loop-de-loops they conduct never fail to leave me in awe. Also, air pollution.
The awards given out after all the ceremonies of Republic Day are the most bizarre functions you can ever imagine. Hear me out, of course they’re one of the most prized civilian honours in India, but their classification baffles me. The Padma Vibushan is the second highest civilian honour in India while the Padma Bushan is the third highest civilian honour. The only difference between these two is that the former is awarded for “exceptional and distinguished service” while the latter is awarded for “distinguished service of a high order”. That makes as much sense as the IBO marking the topmost marking band for “satisfactory analysis of a diagram” with the second highest band being marked for “appropriate analysis of a diagram”.
Anyways, like I was trying to say, to me, Republic Day makes the least sense out of the three national holidays in our country. But as long as I get a state-mandated holiday along with a complimentary snack box at the apartment’s flag hoisting, you will not see me complaining. My point is, if you enjoy Republic Day festivities, by all means, lead the way. My only advice is don’t read into the thing too much because that rabbit hole is hard to escape from. But if not, just enjoy your holiday (it’s a bonus if you’re NOT a student of the IBO). :)
- Shravan and Ananya
Our Country's Constitution - Our Column's Commentary
According to Wikipedia, a constitution is a comprehensive document that contains “an aggregate of fundamental principles that constitute the legal basis of a political entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed”. B. R. Ambedkar’s Constitution of India does much of the same - it provides a framework of rules and regulations that the citizens of India are required to follow. We, ironically enough, will be breaking these rules several times over the course of this article.
In our defense, the Government started it.
While the actual book has an interesting premise - laws, regulations, and the several ways the government can legitimize censorship, there are a few contradictory statements in the Constitution that, for the sake of not being arrested, we choose to simply look at as ‘silly little plot holes’. For example, Article 19, also known as the Right To Freedom, states that ‘all the citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression’. However, as we write this article, we are also worrying about being booked for sedition - something that would not be very Right-To-Freedom-Of-Expression of the government.
Also, considering the fact that Section 377 existed as a legitimate law in our country up until 2018, a mere 3 years ago, we do not think it would be too far-fetched to say that all the citizens of India are not exactly treated equally under the law, as suggested by Article 14. The editor, in our opinion, should have taken one last look at it - you know, to make sure people weren’t accidentally getting oppressed.
One more place where the Indian Constitution falls short is the storyline. Don't get us wrong, it has its moments - the preamble's an amazing opening chapter that immediately pulls you in, the section about educational rights was utterly fabulous, and we loved the part that said wealth shouldn't be concentrated in the hands of a few. Alas, if only the Ambanis agreed. We do think, however, that after a certain point, the writers bit off more than they could chew (which is surprising, given Indians' affinity towards paan). Most sections go on too long and lose focus, clouding the main themes and ideas. Eventually, the plot gets too convoluted for any reader to understand.
Another critique that we have is that the Drafting Committee (a fancy word for ‘ghostwriters’) of the Constitution were predominantly male and Hindu. For a country that is home to people across the gender and religious spectrum, this set of writers clearly did not reflect that. While one may argue that it was so that the entire thing could have a uniform tone (the tone being ‘a little patriarchal’), we think that a little bit of versatility in style and opinion wouldn’t have hurt. It would have been a much better read, in our opinion, if there was a little bit of flavour in their writing - something, perhaps, other than saffron.
Finally, they say that to write a lot, one must first read a lot. Drawing inspiration from the vast world of literature out there is a great way to write. Unfortunately enough, however, the Constituent Assembly must've read a tad bit too much, because the Constitution reeks of plagiarism. Upon reading the first few articles, it's immediately apparent that the text is incredibly derivative of the works of Thomas Jefferson and Walter Bagehot (authors of the US and British Constitutions, respectively).
The concept of the legal system was pretty much taken from Britain. The ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity were taken from France. The concept of impeachment was taken from the USA, the country that literally failed to impeach its most recent bigot of a President twice. We'd be lying if we said these countries didn't steal more from Indians (prestige, shelter, freedom, a working economy, culture, human rights, the Kohinoor, etc.), but the lack of original content makes for a book that's not only intellectually dishonest, but also a disservice to the Indian people.
Overall, we feel that while some elements of the Constitution are effective and poignant, the book as a whole is a pretty skippable and slow read. While we do think that it’d make a great addition to the Government of India’s Bookstagram, we also believe that we, as a country, would be better off dedicating a day to How I Taught My Grandmother To Read instead - for it’s the epitome of Indian values that reflects the fabric of our nation, better than the Constitution could.
Hoist it up
Mornings are generally quite gloomy parts of the week. You’re sleepy, you’re tired, you want to go back to sleep instead of doing your homework - you know, the whole idea of “morning blues”. But every single year, there are about 3 days where I look forward to (or should I say used to look forward to) the mornings:
1. Independence Day
2. Kannada Rajyotsava
3. Republic Day
Every single time one of these days used to come around, I would ask my parents “What time is the flag hoisting?” and every time I ask this they would tell me the same thing - “It starts at 9am, go with your grandfather.” And every single time, I would go without fail.
You see, my parents are not very social, whereas me? I am a social animal. Well, I take every chance I can to talk and hang out with people. And it so happens that these 3 days provide the most unique experiences to do so throughout the year. My grandfather and I are always present for them, and as my mother says, “We have the oldest and youngest in our house representing us.” I had never, ever bailed on a flag hoisting ceremony from when I was 6 to when I was 15.
Having homework due the next day because teachers decided that a holiday means homework (because students don’t deserve a break do they)? Ignore all that, you bet I will make it to the flag hoisting!
Woke up an hour too early and don’t know what to do until the flag hoisting starts? You bet I’ll be cycling around the clubhouse till it starts!
The first person to be there without fail every time? You bet your bottom rupees that it’s me!
Now, you must be thinking, what’s so great about these events? Why am I so obsessed with them? Well, there are several answers to these questions.
Republic Day, the day our Constitution came into effect, the day India became a newly formed republic, is by far my favourite of these three days. Think about it, there are exactly two holidays in January - one is Pongal. The only other holiday is the one for Republic Day and it sometimes marks the first holiday in the year that isn’t a weekend when Pongal occurs on a weekend (except when the world is cruel and Republic Day comes on a weekend too). This fact alone makes the Republic Day experience so much more amazing and enjoyable. What is the Republic Day experience? I’m glad you asked! (well, you didn’t technically ask, but I asked it for you)
Every time we had flag hoistings, almost all my friends would show up, often late, but still, they would always be there. It was a tradition for us to play tag around the park and clubhouse before and after the flag hoisting. Sometimes we would even play cricket, volleyball, and a little game called hunters and escapers (a glorified version of chor-police). I used to look forward to this every single year. Imagine running away from someone while patriotic songs blast through speakers. Well, it doesn’t sound that fun when I say it like that, but it is frankly more enjoyable than I would like to admit. I mean, who doesn’t like hanging out with their friends, especially when you get to eat food together, food that you did not pay for? Speaking of…
The reason most children show up
On Republic Day, we get free samosas and free tea and coffee at the club house. I think now you can better understand why I am so obsessed with this day. I’m sure that in other apartments and layouts as well, you would get some variation of these snacks and quite frankly, they are a staple of an event like this one. Going up to the manager distributing them for the 5th time saying “Bhaiya, mujhe ek aur chahiye” really never gets old. And for the record, when my friends and I compete to see who can eat the most samosas, I win all the time (what do you mean “you’re lying”? I’m not). Plus, Republic Day 2013 was the first time I had coffee, and when I tell you that it was love at first sight, I would not be lying. Isn’t it funny how I fell in love with coffee on Republic Day and how I am awake at 2:30 am because of coffee while writing an article about Republic Day?
This has happened more recently, in the past five years or so. After hearing patriotic songs year after year, I started really enjoying listening to them. It's not the patriotism in them, but a lot of the songs are just so good to listen to on their own (tell me you didn’t want to jam to Rang de Basanti or scream the lyrics of Ma tujhe salam; seriously, they are a cultural phenomenon). I had a whole period where I used to look up mashups of several patriotic songs and I even played DJ one year at the clubhouse where I chose the songs to play. I felt incredibly important until the very same day, about an hour later, when I ended up losing my phone by putting it in the security’s drawer at the reception and not finding it when I got back.
Talking to adults and impressing them with your incredible knowledge on the history of India, knowing the national anthem while not all your friends do because you sang it everyday after school for 9 years, and watching new children every year sing patriotic songs that they spent a month learning. It’s all just surreal. I even played Saare Jahaan Se Acha one year on the keyboard and after that I learnt to appreciate and applaud anyone who performed live these days, because it really takes a good amount of confidence and is just an incredible thing to do. I always felt extremely mature when I told my friends to focus on the performance whenever they would start talking over it in the background and that is something I still stand by today.
The day almost always ends with me longing for more fun and more food. Everyone usually leaves to go back home by 11 and I am almost always one of the last to leave. My grandfather always says “Okay, I'm going home, you come later okay?” because I used to always go around the clubhouse and look for people to talk to and memories to create, sometimes in vain, but sometimes it worked. Republic Day might just sound like another normal day to you, but it means so much to me because of all the amazing memories I have made through the years. It just sucks that we haven’t been able to have a flag hoisting the past couple years due to the pandemic. But that’s all right, I can listen to songs that are Indian masterpieces and have a just as good time at home with my family!
I’ve never put any posters or pictures up on my wall, because I always thought about the fateful day that I’d leave home. I’d have to put in the effort to take down taped A4 sheets from the walls, as they carried with them the remnants of who I was before. I had always promised myself I’d have a simple room, with no decoration to make it unique to myself. All to save myself the sadness I would feel on an unmarked day I couldn’t find on any calendar.
Today, I broke that promise, and hung a mirror on the wall, and flung some flowered lights around it for added measure. No more future to worry about. All that mattered was my happiness in the present.
I remember when I tried my best to bake bread, but failed. I also remember that I planned to try once again, writing it down on a paper plane of a thought that would have now crashed alone in a forgotten corner of my brain. Lists and tasks, hopes and dreams, they all concern the future; an entity I know nothing about. And yet, I stare at crystal balls, refreshed inboxes, and multiple loading screens, all to see a glimpse of the future. All to forget the promises of my past, as I cling on to the loose string of a tomorrow, while the cool breeze of the present misses me, by an ever so tiny inch.
The present tense (in my experience), is the easiest tense to learn, in any language. But in reality, it’s also the easiest to forget.
Life seems to be weighed down by I have tos and I wills, lacking the simplicity of the present tense that has slipped so easily from our minds. We do have complex lives, enriched by complex thought, possessed by complex personas.
When you take a bite of stale bread, it is hard and difficult, and moves around your mouth like a stubborn asteroid. But as you put in the effort to chew, it softens and loses its ruggedness. The starchiness became pleasant, because you broke the complex carbohydrate into its simpler, sweeter form.
Let’s say I wasn’t talking about bread anymore, but larger everyday acts that involve more than biting and chewing. If it took a tiny bit of effort to make life a little simpler, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you break out of your habits of speaking in the past and future, and implement a little of the present as well?
Surviving is learning from the past, and hoping for a better future. Living, on the other hand, requires you to be grounded in the present. For a while, forget about your to-do list, and the promises you’ve made before. Promise yourself now, that you’ll live a little. That you’ll bask in the simpleness of now, and remember that the future doesn’t exist, as of yet.
All that matters is the present. Because there’s nothing else like it.
No Gift Like the Present (Tense)
A SERIES OF INFINITE POSSIBILITIES
As a perfectionist with a penchant for embarrassing myself, I often find myself rethinking old decisions or thinking of a mediocre zinger I could have used in an old conversation instead of whatever boring sentence I did say. I often find myself wondering about what could have been. This led me to realize: in my measly 16 and a half years on this planet, many life-altering decisions have been made to put me on the path I am on right at this moment.
And it’s not just me, it’s you too.
This concept is beautifully phrased by Baljeet from Phineas and Ferb in season 4 episode 8, Primal Perry:
“Every choice carries within it its own potential timeline. So every decision I make effectively nullifies a possible future. I cannot even choose which flavor of ice cream to order! If I choose vanilla, that may set me on the path to the presidency. But if I have strawberry, I could get hit by a bus! … I do not know that if I choose strawberry I will get hit by a bus! I am just saying that every decision we make has unforeseen repercussions.”
And he was right – he did get hit by a bus after choosing strawberry. But that’s not the point. What I’m trying to say (and what our dear Baljeet was trying to say) is that there are many aspects of our lives that could be vastly different if we had chosen alternate paths. I like to think that there’s some version of me out there in an alternate universe that’s enjoying all the things I could’ve enjoyed if I had made different decisions.
I can now think of so many instances where I wish I had said or done something other than what I did. For example, if I had asked for a guitar when I was younger, would I now be able to play chords on the guitar without feeling like my fingers are about to rupture? Definitely. If I had continued athletics training would I have participated in the Tokyo Olympics? Definitely. Ok fine, maybe there’s a chance I wouldn’t have, but I’ll never really know; we don’t know if the decisions we didn’t make would’ve had any serious repercussions. We’ll never be able to find out what could have been.
That led me to think of the decisions I could’ve made but didn’t. I could’ve chosen not to watch Parks and Recreation based on the first season, but I did anyway. And my brain would’ve been drastically less fun to be controlled by than it is now, if I hadn’t watched the show. I could’ve even made the decision not to go to the school I am now, which would eventually lead to me not discovering this magazine!
One thing I know for sure is that the decisions I’ve made (conscious or otherwise) have not led to me getting hit by a bus, or being without the joys that come with any show touched by Michael Schur, or never writing this article (although you would’ve probably had a few extra minutes today if I hadn’t written it; I’m truly sorry a decision I made 5 years ago has wasted your time).
We should try to make the most of the decisions that we actually have made, instead of being stuck in the past, regretting old decisions that can never be reversed. Because, after all, those decisions have led to us being who we are today, through the good times and the bad. We should try to learn from the decisions we regret to make sure that our future self has a better life than the one somewhere out there in an alternate universe, playing the guitar without getting carpal tunnel, and also representing their country in the Summer Olympics.
MONEY, MASSACRE AND VANITY
“Made in Bangladesh”,”Made in Vietnam”, “Made in India”. I catch sight of these words as I neatly stack my fresh laundry, imprinted onto the labels of my favorite sweaters, skirts, and the like. I didn't think much of it at the time; it was only until 8th grade Economics did I start to make sense of it. In an era of free market capitalism, it would make sense for capitalist societies as well as their corporations to have profit bearing aims. To keep costs low, it's no surprise that private firms and individuals would go to great lengths ergo reaping maximum profits. As I delve into the debate of fast fashion, its profitability and its environmental impact, I discover the collapse of Rana Plaza. Not only was this incident one of the world's worst industrial disasters due to poor structural integrity-it awakened the world to poor labor conditions. It served as a kind of defining moment in the conversation of environmental and human rights in textile supply chains. It caused activists to lobby for sustainable textile and fashion industry, the establishment of standards as well as agencies whose sole purpose is to safekeep both workers and the surrounding environment of the industry.
The building housed around 5 garment factories, for which higher stories were illegally constructed for their accommodation. The plaza was known to have been built with substandard materials; conditions that were certainly inadequate to lodge nearly 4000 garment workers. To make matters worse, the mayor of Dhaka had granted permission to Sohel Rana (the owner of the plaza) for this illegal construction and to discount construction codes for the sake of its profitability. Large power generators were used daily for basic utilities such as electricity and water that shook the building whenever they were switched on. Large cracks were observed in the body of the building the day before the crash for which an engineer was called for inspection . It was determined that this building was unsafe and at risk of an immediate collapse. The workers were sent home, given the instruction to return the next morning. When the generators were switched on that day, the building and its eight floors collapsed into a pile of steaming concrete, crushing underneath it some 4000 workers- out of which 1130 had passed and over 2500 injured. Sohel Rana and the mayor himself, however, remained unscathed, and fled from the country after numerous charges were pressed against them.
What puts this into perspective is that this isn't an isolated incident. Merely 5 months earlier another textile and garment factory by the name of Tazreen had collapsed with the same magnitude, and it is estimated that there have been around 110 such industrial accidents in Bangladesh since. What's bitter is that these are only incidents that have been reported. There are countless women and children out there that are as deserving as any of us are that have had mines collapse over the top of their heads, just so they could go to bed with a full stomach. Large companies such as Adidas, MAC, H&M, Zara, Nike and Estee Lauder all manufactured at these factories, not only under illegal working conditions, but also with unethically sourced raw materials, giving their workers little to no compensation despite the blood on their hands.
Since these tragedies, the Fairtrade Foundation has created a powerful coalition of agencies, including key figures from the fashion industry, press and academics across the globe to call for a transparent textile supply chain. The fashion revolution movement asks us, as consumers, a single question: “Who made my clothes?”.
About 75 million people work to make the clothes we wear from which about 80% are women aged 18-24. When we catch sight of that cute sweater that we just absolutely have to buy, that very sweater has passed through the hands of cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers- only to name a few. The Fairtrade foundation essentially protects them, by setting standards (such as the cotton standard where they ensure cotton farmers receive a fair price for their crop) and providing certification (a seal that represents millions of products across 62 countries, improving a multiplicity of lives, land and waterways).
Now, it is inevitable to avoid the consumption of commodities from such firms. However, what we can do is choose local vendors over MNCs, shop less often, recycle, and be aware and conscious of the effort that has gone behind our novelty. We, as a society, need to learn to prioritize literal human lives and wellbeing as well as the escalating conditions of our planet over instant gratification.