India-pendance Day: An American’s take

Yes, the title should read “India-pendence”, not “India-pendance”. Thanks to the dedicated reader who noticed my mistake. Although I wonder what the India pen dance would look like…


For one day each summer, three colors take over the country’s landscape. Special events are held throughout major cities, with loud bangs causing bystanders to stare. Flags of every size fly everywhere – on cars, from flagpoles, and above doorways. Citizens pay tribute to those who made their country’s independence possible.

Except those three colors are saffron, white and green – not red, white and blue. The loud noises are caused by a schoolgirl beating an Indian drum at a school assembly, not fireworks. The flags are Indian flags, and have three stripes, not thirteen.

It is August 15, 2010: India’s 64th Independence Day.

For whatever reason, I didn’t expect much patriotism in India. I knew diversity to be a hallmark of life throughout India – with citizens strongly attached to their regional customs – so I figured Independence Day wouldn’t mean much to most people.

It seems I underestimated India’s nationalism.

Early Sunday morning, Saket, Mayank and I put on our nice kurtas – mine bought the day before – and the latter two of us headed to a local school with our friend Nathan, his sister, and his mom.

In some ways I was reminded of my schooldays at Dr. Howard. Antsy children talked amongst themselves while the teachers attempted to silence them. Flagholders, shifting weight from leg to leg, were told to correct their posture. A group of first year students softly sang patriotic songs in front of smiling parents as only six-year-olds can.

Patriotism was inescapable. As we rode to a restaurant for An Indian Lunch, small children walked amongst the cars and motorbikes selling small Indian flags. Brigades of a half dozen vehicles rode down the street with a man on a motorcycle waving a large flag. The restaurant – which normally served Chinese and Continental food in addition to Indian food – had a special Independence Day menu.

If I learned anything from this Independence Day, it’s that India has a strong national identity. Every Indian born after World War II has lived all their life in an independent democracy. Various regions of India have their differences – just as they do in the USA – but the Indian identity pervades India as much as the American identity pervades the USA.

Perhaps India’s variety is just spice for its identity. If America is a melting pot, India is a bowl of curry. Americans think of curry as just one type of spice, when in reality curry varies as much as India’s cultures. Over time, “curries” have become “curry”. The cultures of India have become Indian Culture. Because diversity is inseparable from life in India, such diversity inherently becomes Indian.

That’s what people were celebrating on Independence Day: the Indian identity.

Those who wave the tricolor do so because they are proud to be Indian.


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4 Responses to “India-pendance Day: An American’s take”

  1. Vijay Parsi Says:

    Nice one! I stumbled upon this after having blogged something similar! Nice read… keep it up!

  2. John Says:

    Very insightful, your point on diversity and that leading to the culture of India. “If America is a melting pot, India is a bowl of curry” made me laugh, but I have a request for another one:
    Could you post a picture of yourself in a Kurta? 🙂

  3. jaber2 Says:

    About the Indian restaurant, what new food was on the menu… 🙂

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