Five days later, my independence day was saved by a movie about field hockey.
It started with the national anthem, required to be performed before movies. Unlike the Star Spangled Banner, the Indian counterpart of Jana Gana Mana has generally given me chills and sort of a sense of being a part. Of course, Assam is not mentioned so I also feel apart. In later years, I would intellectualize this to wonder why I fell for any Indian nationalism at all. BUT today right there in PVR Cinemas in Saket, I tingled and goosebumped as I watched and listened to Asha and Lata and Jagjit singing Tagore's lyrics about what it means to be Indian. And then all of a sudden Bhupen Hazarika's face came onscreen and I grinned widely, truly feeling represented for the first time in a long time in India. Sure, for most of my time in the US, he and his music were a tatste, a semblance of home; and since he is friends with my parents, it was an even deeper connection and familiarity to wake up to his songs blaring on weekend mornings and even now when I hear him I think of the smell and sound of a kerahi popping with oil. But this sighting was unexpected, not sought after -- yet so needed. After his voice subsided, I whispered to Naya, "He's Assamese, like us."
And then SRK's latest hit, "Chak De" went onto debunk my parochialism, make me a part of something even bigger. A group of girls come together, from different socioeconomic backgrounds, regions, languages, religions and values for a common purpose. They also beat up a bunch of boys who harassed two girls from the Northeast in a McDonald's. It was the first time I felt Indian --and good about that -- in a long long long time. Chak de, indeed.
(I think you can see what I mean here)