APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India passed away on July 27 2015.
August 15 2015, India turned 68 years old.We celebrated independence day and honored APJ: his dedication to science, education and patriotism to India.
In these days of deep divisions, I believe, in death Abdul Kalam wanted to send us a strong message.
APJ, a Muslim born of Indian soil, wanted to remind us what life of a good human being looks like: learning that leads to acceptance of all; dedication to the soil befitting a patriot, generosity for its own reward. APJ, who had the highest honor in India had never held on to any money that came his way. He wanted to remind us what it means to be Indian.
Born in India, living in America, I celebrate July 4th as well as August 15th.. Because I celebrate America, does not make me less Indian and vice versa. There is no conflict in my soul about divided loyalties. I pledge allegiance to both flags. I think this comes from having spent my early years in independent India with role models like APJ.
I was born in 1948, independent India. My parents, instilled in me a sense of responsibility: to nurture and develop what they had strived so hard and so long for – in birthing a nation based in secular values; where we awoke to a morning of church bells that pealed alongside Hindu chants and Muslim namaaz. We said Eid mubarak and shubh Diwali irrespective of religion. Festivals were for celebrating – for fun, for a chance to get together. We went to midnight mass on Christmas eve and sang carols.
We spoke different languages but always understood one another. We ate meat or we did not: it was a choice Different food, clothing, customs were to be celebrated.
Every child knew Nehru’s mantra: Unity in Diversity.
Prior to independence, India had British colonizers and even before that Muslim invaders and kings. With independence all that was forgiven. At home and school, we were taught to respect every citizen of India and to respect our differences. We knew history but we found it filled with gifts: the unifying English Language of the Raj, art, music and poetry of the Mughals and mystical food flavors of the subcontinent.
We took pride in being multi-hued.
So today when July 4th rolls around, I feel just as patriotic as I do on August 15th. Because in America also we take pride in celebrating people of different races, different religions. We work towards forming a just society with freedom and opportunity for our citizens. We broaden our minds with music of the world.
We don’t let history divide us.
Blogging 101 -Make a prompt your own – Prompt – what does being patriotic mean to you?