I recently posted this as a status message on my Facebook account to celebrate my country India’s 71st year of democracy:

Extremely proud to be an Indian 🇮🇳 and celebrate 71 years of democracy. We are one of the cradles of civilization, we are warm and friendly, colourful, our hospitality is exceptional, we are intelligent, kind, caring, family and community is important to us, our food is divine and most of all we are diverse and beautiful. Let us never forget that we are built on justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and peace. #RepublicDayIndia

I wrote this because I wanted everyone who read it to take away something positive. To remember where we came from and the kind of foundations our country was built on. Especially in the light of all the recent events happening all over our country. Surely, to be a true Indian would be to embody those things?

As I sat there writing that status message, and reading through the preamble of the Constitution Of India aka the supreme law of our land, i realised that these were not just the rights of every Indian, but also a duty laid out for each of us. Most often though, the ‘duty’ part isn’t highlighted as much as the ‘rights’ part is. Think about that for a second. It’s easier to take than to give, but wouldn’t our problems go away if we stopped taking so much and started giving instead?

preamble of Indian constitution image

Preamble to the constitution of India. Illumination/ornamentation by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha, calligraphy by Prem Behari Narain Raizada. [Public domain]

Rights Given And Duties Assumed

“Don’t play the victim”, is something a friend so rightly said in a video I recently worked on with my husband, and when I think about all the terrible things we’ve been hearing on the news, I realize that most often, everyone is fighting for their rights – freedom of speech, equality, liberty, and so on. Now I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, because every human being should be able to fight for their rights. To be denied rights is to be denied the most basic thing, but India and her people are not and should not be victims.

So dream with me for a minute as I imagine a perfect India where every one of us considers justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as our duties as Indians! We insist on carrying them out and the news is only filled with stories of the great achievements of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. A place where we make the choice to choose these values over our pettiness, greed, hatred, selfishness and hunger for power. ..

As the dart of the next shocking piece of news bursts that ‘perfect India’ bubble you were conjuring up with me, let me leave you with a poster I created to commemorate 71 years of our sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.

This Is Not The Death Of Democracy

Please contact me to re-use image. Copyright protected.

Through my art I say to those that choose to turn their backs on their duties as true Indians: you might try to cut us down, but we will come back stronger and better. This is not death to democracy. At least not as long as the values of our Constitution are honoured, not in part but as a whole. Love this poem by Rabindranath Tagore that A.P.J. Abdul Kalam our former president quoted in his book Indomitable Spirit:

Give me the strength never to disown the poor
Or bend my knees before insolent might.
Give me the strength
To raise my head high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength
To surrender my strength to Thy will with love.

I hope that each of us would take time to think about what it is that gives us that deep sense of pride to be Indian. Is it that particular colour of clothing, the signs and symbols on our bodies or any of other outward-ness that makes us truly Indian? Or is it something deeper than that, a feeling that comes from the balance between rights given and duties assumed – the indomitable spirit?

Jaya he, jaya he and jai ho to you!