This morning, I witnessed something beautiful. It was a moment from last night's Brazil vs. Korea FIFA 2010 match. The MIM told me about it and I immediately youtubed it.
I watched dewy-eyed as Korean striker, Jong Tae-se fought and failed to hold back his tears at the start of the match when the band played the Korean national anthem. I don't think anyone who saw that could possibly remain unmoved.
His emotional downpour during the anthem immediately became one of my favourite moments of FIFA 2010. I don't know if anything will be able to top that...
Yes, yes...I am woman, hear me roar, see me weep...
But all said and done, it was a heart-touching moment on so many levels. To see such raw emotion on display, and from someone who is 'supposed to be' all alpha-male, is always a powerful yet humbling experience. Not to mention over-whelming. This man must have dreamt about this moment ever since he was in school playing in the dusty fields with his friends. He must have skinned his knees a gazillion times, maybe even broken his nose and a few bones some countless times. Dirty shirts and socks that made his mom scream in frustration; inter-school and local club tournaments where he may have sometimes soared and triumphed or tripped and crashed; kicking that ball an inch closer to his dream with every match.
And then, on June 15th, 2010, there he was. Right in the middle of his dream. Except, it was all true. It was a reality. We were in the midst of that dream coming true for him and to see him embrace it in the way he did, was almost to be a part of it; on the fringes in a voyeuristic way perhaps, but part of it we were, helplessly entwined.
The other thing that always gets me choked up is seeing such an overt display of national pride. It's no secret that I love my India, even though on paper I do not belong to Her. But I am a part of Her. And She is a huge part of me.
That's why, when anyone shows Her or Her symbols, raiment and accessories the slightest bit of disrespect, my blood begins to boil.
Like to the National Anthem, for example.
I have to say, right at the beginning, that I don't approve of the national anthem being played in theatres. It's a beautiful song and the piece that is played is inspired. But the theatre is not the place for it. I must say I appreciate the thought that went behind it, but I still feel that the cinema hall is an inappropriate place to stir up nationalistic pride. You have people trying to shush crying babies and excited kids, juggling trays of ice-laden cold drinks, hot coffee and tubs overflowing with popcorn. You can forgive them for being distracted, but the anthem is the anthem. And to be honest, once the first bars of the anthem start, these tired and stressed out parents will grab their kids, stand where they are, clutch onto dangerously wobbly and over-loaded trays and desperately wish for the next few minutes to speed on by. But they show respect. What is going on in their minds is a different conversation altogether.
But it gets distressing and upsetting to pick out a verbal duel with the set of nonchalant 'cool' dudes who sit there smirking away, munching their popcorn while others stand around them and sing.
I've always tried to remain true to my beliefs. Hypocrisy turns me off. So I've taught the EO all about respecting the national anthem; not just his own, but any and every, single one in this world. It's about respect. It's about peace and brotherhood. It's about what's right.
Before going to Singapore for our holiday, I took the boys to see "Shrek 4." There were four people sitting down when the anthem started playing, a scruffy, unwashed, hippie, blond, back-packing couple and a pair whose facial features led me to believe that they belonged to the North East.
My six-year-old son, having learnt to respect the National Anthem and Flag without question; having picked up the Sense-of-Outrage gene from me; and even before I could deliver my looks to kill and swoop down on the unworthies, started to head towards the sitters saying "Excuse me!"
I grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt collar and he turned to look at me, bewilderment and confusion writ large in his eyes, "But Mamma, they're sitting for the nashnul anthum!" I reassured him that I was going to tell them, he was just a little boy after all and they probably would not appreciate it.
I first turned to the foreigners. "Excuse me", I said coldly, "but would you mind standing please? This is our national anthem playing." They looked at me, took two seconds to decide whether to stand or not, and finally did.
I next turned my attention to the pair from the Seven Sisters (I dislike the term 'chinks'). I looked at them and said, puzzled, "Excuse me?" And they looked back at me. I said, "It's the national anthem." The look they gave me was a challenging one that said, "So?" And I said, exasperatedly, "So please stand." They had these wry smiles on their faces that were hard to define. I almost thought that maybe they weren't going to stand after all, but a few seconds, they did.
I went back to join my sons and my mother. I sang along loudly but my mind was swirling with uneasy thoughts. The blond guy looked back at me a couple of times and I was rather perplexed with their attitude. I would totally stand for their country's anthem, why couldn't they stand for ours? And didn't they get a clue that a country's national anthem was playing when the notice flashed in huge letters across the screen and everyone around them stood up?
And as for my North-East sisters, maybe they were making a political statement. Did I goad them into doing something that they did not believe in?
That day I was really confused by my actions.
But in my son's eyes, I had done the right thing. I walked the talk.
And I had also preserved the honour and integrity of my country's anthem.
Or had I?
I had tears in my eyes that day as I stood up singing our country's anthem in a darkened theatre hall.
But they were not of the same weight and value as Jong Tae-se's.
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