Today I would like to tell you how much India has surprise me with their sense of nationalism and patriotism.
I must say I am not the most patriotic person you will find, but I do shed a tear during that moment my country comes together to sing the national Anthem, usually for some big sport event like the World Cup… but that’s not really nationalism is it? I think I am just a very emotional person. Now screaming and shouting during the whole game and telling how my team is playing much better (when I know nothing about football and don’t even know the name of the players, apart from Cristiano Ronaldo of course) now that might be a bit more nationalism, or perhaps it still is my emotional side getting the best (or worst) out of me.
But I am very proud to be Portuguese and I do love saying I am from Portugal when people ask me where I come from (usually I am asked like 30 times a day while traveling), and I am very much proud of our legacy and our past as the World main Explorers.
Anyway, being in India, I have learned another level of Patriotism, the one I have never seen in anyone in Portugal or anywhere else in Europe or even in the world really. So after 2 months in India, this degree of nationalism/patriotism that I have never seen before, has actually made me smile and happy but also made me worry a few times…
So let me share with you why do I think Indians take nationalism to the next level:
- National Anthem. For those that have been following my blog will know about this one, but yeah still pretty much on top of the list, the moment I was in the cinema waiting for the commercials to finish so the movie would start, but instead the National anthem started playing while the flag, big and proud on the huge screen light up the cinema room, and everyone suddenly stand singing on their lungs and their hands on their chests. Don’t know if the image made me emotional or scared…. and I though the national anthem was only for big sports events or national events…. not in India if you are a cinema regular ;p
- Getting inside the country. Well, not only they love their country but they also seriously protective of who gets in. So lets talk about VISA. I must say that after traveling a bit, including to remote and “hard to enter” countries such Angola, India is definitely top 1 on the list so far (ermmmm currently applying for China VISA and it might take India number 1 spot). Not only the process was long and VERY expensive – paid over £120, that’s roughly $200 USD ladies and gentleman. Now reminding you we are talking about a country where 70% of population makes less than $2 USD per day. Luckily Indians don’t need to pay to get in the country as I did. I don’t know if we can call this nationalism but don’t know what else to call it? Also, find it a bit nerve-raking all the questions that were made during the application process and also to get inside the country about Pakistan and a few other countries, if I have family living there, of if I ever visited the country etc etc… well, kinda glad I didn’t as I had a feeling that even if I had a long-lost friend living in Pakistan, I probably will not be welcome in the country and therefore have my VISA denied.
- The enemy. Hummmm, since we are talking about Pakistan, also noted that if I want to make friends with locals, is not a good idea talk about Pakistan or Pakistanis…. Maybe I was just unlucky but I felt it was a bit hostile to mention the country. Now I understand that many countries are quite frenemies with their neighbours… but don’t think any Portuguese would be truly upset if a foreigner says a couple of nice things about Spanish people… and expect the same from the Spaniards… but I guess they really don’t get along, but well, I do like Malala, and don’t care where in the world I am, I will always defend her and stand for what she stands for! Oh, also found a bad idea to walk around with my jumper with the United States of American flag while in India…. I guess they are not the best friends… but oh well, is the only jumper I have!
- Oil &Gas. One thing that really surprised me was the fact that through the entire country, from North to South, West to East, there was not once, not even one time only that I have seen a BP, or a TOTAL, SHELL, EXXON, CHEVRON, MAERSK, ENI, PETRONAS, etc etc gas station. I am not saying they don’t exist, even tho I ever never seen one, but its incredible that wherever you go in the World, will find them around, but not in India, because India has Indian Oil , Bharat Oil and Hindustan Petroleum – all National. I have found really impressive how do they control and monopolyse the Oil and Gas Industry, an industry with so many lobbies and power, still, in India, you find Indian only.
- Food. Interesting how during the 2 months I was in India, I have met several locals that were so faithful to their food. Now, differently from the Oil & Gas industry, you do find a lot of Western fast food chains, yes MacDonals is all around, so is KFC and you might even find a Pizza Hut (I did find one in Agra). And you will definitely find Italian restaurants. Now I also found that most people who were in those Italian restaurants or Pizza Hut (I completely refuse to even enter a MacDonals or a KFC – ethic reasons) were in fact people like me: travellers, tourists, foreigners, yankees… call it what you want but is not like those places were full of Indians, because Indians will be happy in their local eateries eating their curries. It’s actually touching and fun as I found it when I tried to convince one of my team leaders to come to Pizza Hut with us as we seriously needed a break from curries, or convincing another one of my team leaders to try porridge for breakfast instead of dahl, dosas or curries.
- The National flag. Right, you will see it 58247 times in a day. Every car will have it, a few versions of it actually and if you see a truck (you will, in fact you will see MANY) than you are on for a eyes feast, as you will see the flag in any sort of types… a draw, a stick, etc… But what impressed me the most was while in Rajasthan, in Jaipur’s largest park more precisely, I have found the tallest National flag I have seen in my life. So the “monster” is roughly 22 meters in length and around 9 meters wide and weights around 28 kilos. I mean, this is a flag. Funnily enough the name of the park is Central Park… wondering who got inspired by who :p
- Cricket. So, I am not going to comment much on this topic because I’m not the largest connoisseur in sports specially in cricket but I must say that not only cricket is definitely the most popular sport in India but also if you want to make friends between the locals, just agree that Sachin Tendulkar is indeed “God of Cricket”. Of course I have never heard about this gentleman before I got to India, to then heard his name 24h a day. Well the fact that he just retired while I was in India certainly helped but I have found Indians to be soooo passionate about their cricket and once again, they show me another degree of nationalism – yes, the gentleman Sachin has his own temple. I mean, they really think he is a God 🙂
- Dressing. This is something I really appreciate. Indians are not loosing their roots or customs and is absolutely magic to see the way of dressings hasn’t change in many many years. Yes, you might find a girl here or there with jeans but most of population wears their beautiful costumes. Saris are absolutely stunning and funnily enough, it doesn’t matter if you live in the city, in the countryside, if you are extremely wealthy or very poor, Indian women look very similar when it comes to wear their saris. And men also wear some pretty cool stuff, specially in Rajasthan… This is the sort of nationalism that makes me happy and leaves a smile in my face.
- Cinema. Now don’t confuse Bollywood with Indian Cinema as Bollywood is a just a part of it. Its much more than that. Now you might not know this but India produces more movies than Hollywood or any other place really. The cinema Industry is something huge and Indians embrace it beautifully. Forget Hollywood or any Westernised movie concept if you happen to be in India as there is all about the national product and they are extremely proud of it. Coming from a world where I though Hollywood was pretty much everything and I think I have watched 2 or 3 movies from Portugal , maximum, to be in India was an eye opener. Suddenly I feel like I also want to be patriotic and watch and embrace all the Portuguese movies ever made. But surely Bollywood and the Indian cinema in general are huge contributors for the nationalism, as it helps on the dress code, on the advertisement, media, marketing, socially…. There are a few jokes in India, that I am not really sure they are jokes as they seem pretty true to me. I was told a few times that in India you might not have a house and live on the slums but you will definitely have a big TV so you can watch your movies non stopping. Also, while in Malaysia, met this friend and she was telling me that once a friend was on a flight to India full of Indians and there was this famous Indian movie going on, but was longer than the flight so apparently the pilot was told he better delay the flight and stay on air for a bit longer or there will be a revolution if the plane lands without the movie finishing… well, I don’t know if this is possible or real, but knowing Indians as I know and their passion for their movies, it does make sense to me ahahhaha.
- Music. Pretty much the same as the cinema. Indians do consume the national product and listen mainly their music. However, you will find out many Indians love the Beatles, Michael Jackson (but who doesn’t?)! Also seems like they are big fans of Enrique Iglesias. Everyone seems to know his songs and they are played everywhere, which was quite the surprise for me, but was refreshing to see them embracing more than their culture. Still, Indian music is number 1 always 🙂
- No Westernisation on media. Jennifer Lopes? Taylor Swift? Charlize Theron? Gisele Bundchen? Beyonce? Angelina Jolie? Brad Pitt? David Beckham ahahah forget, you will not see these pretty faces anywhere advertised or their big Channel number 5 adverts or lingerie or whatever. In India you will see a LOT of street advertisement, ads, huge billboards, etc, yes, they do exist. Is just the faces change, so they will ALL have indians on it (mostly their Bollywood and Indian cinema stars). In the entire time I was in India i didn’t see, not even once, one of these celebrities that follow us wherever we go in the Western world… Now promoting only your national product and face… if this isn’t nationalism, than don’t know what it is!!!
- School. This beautiful picture that proves my point 🙂 I LOVE MY INDIA
Be proud of your country. It is a great thing.