Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rising for the National Anthem - below your dignity?

Republic Day is round the corner and this brings me to a topic that I have often wondered about.

I am sure I am not the only one to have noticed it - but why do we Indians hesitate to stand up when the National Anthem is playing? The last time I remember an entire gathering rising at once when the National Anthem was sung/played was at school.

The first time I noticed this phenomenon was years ago, when I visited Delhi with my cousins. We were watching the Light and Sound show at the Red Fort. The show ended, and the National Anthem was played. The audience sat rooted to their seats. My then eleven-year-old cousin looked around in surprise, then stood up promptly, ramrod straight. We quickly did the same. Since we were somewhere in the front, the rest of the audience followed our example, and slowly, everybody rose. Did they really need an eleven-year-old to tell them to rise when the National Anthem is played?

I remember a campaign from a while ago. I remember watching it in theaters before the movie began - I don't quite remember having watched it on TV. A wizened old man is sitting on the footpath (at a shoeshine stand?) along with a number of young boys. The old man tunes the radio with knobby fingers. The national anthem starts playing. The young kids sit where they are. But this old man struggles hard to get up, and then stands up - on his only leg. It starts raining then - and the picture is of the very old one-legged man standing, chin up, in the rain, as the anthem plays in the background. The other kids look at him, and stand up too. It is followed by the message "Respect your national anthem" or something like that. Even then, I thought - do you actually need an ad to tell you to rise when the national anthem is playing?

I have seen this attitude - this reluctance to rise, everywhere. For example, in Mumbai, the anthem is played before the movie begins. Only half of the hall rises immediately - the others do follow suit, but only after embarrassed looks at each other. And some people remain seated throughout, one leg over the other, munching their pop-corn.

Why are we expected to rise when the National Anthem is played? For the same reason that we rise when a senior person enters a room - as a mark of respect. Is it below our dignity to display respect for our Anthem?

I don't mean to say that people who don't rise are unpatriotic or that they don't respect the anthem. For that matter, just standing up for the anthem doesn't reflect your patriotism. But it is just a gesture of respect. And I don't think these people mean any disrespect. But then why the hesitation in standing up? Why the embarrassment? Why the sheepish smiles? In fact, when only one person in a group rises, I have seen him being ribbed and teased. I am sure he will not rise the next time.

I have no idea what the scene is in other countries. I doubt that this is the case there. If it is not, please enlighten me, all you well-travelled folks out there. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you tell me stories about an Indian in the US rising immediately if "The Star-spangled banner" is played, and remaining seated when "Jana Gana Mana" is played.

On the lighter side, what do you do when it is being played on TV and you are sitting at home, alone or with family? Do you change channels? Or do you rise? Just curious!


Anonymous said...

hmm idealistic post...btw u forgot to mention lalu and his puppet wife rabri's goof up a couple of years back..those buggers kept their dirty assess rooted to their seats even though everybody else stood up..i blame it on their utter ignorance..probably they were wondering why everybody is standing up for an old bollywood number!!

Anonymous said...

Standing at attention for National Anthem not mandatory: Court

Indore, February 4, 2005: A local court here has ruled that not standing at attention during the National Anthem is not prima facie a crime.

"It is the moral duty of a person to stand in the attention position when the National Anthem is played but if they do not do so, then, prima facae it is not a crime under the 1971 Act, and, under the 2002 National Flag Code, no mention of any crime is stated if a person is not standing at attention," Judicial Magistrate Narendra Jain ruled here.

The court ruling came while dismissing a petition filed against Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi and Railway Minister Laloo Prasad for remaining seated during the rendition of the National Anthem at a function.

"The court has not found prima facae any evidence to act against the couple under these two Acts, and therefore, it is dismissing the complaint," the magistrate said.

The petition was filed on the basis of a photograph, published by an evening paper here, showing the couple sitting while others were standing at attention.

The court further held that the photograph did not establish whether the National Anthem was being played at the time and the seated couple had not caused any "obstruction" to the ceremony.


National Anthem order challenged

INDORE: A revision petition challenging a local court order that not standing at attention during National Anthem cannot be considered as an 'obstruction', was filed in the district and sessions court on Saturday.

Challenging the order in the court of district and session judge, the counsel for the Tiranga Abhiyan, a non-governmental organisation, urged the court it will be a "serious legal mistake" to treat a person sitting during the National Anthem as not obstruction.

The counsel Shailendra Dwivedi said in the prevention of insult to the National Honour Act of 1971, it has been stated any obstruction during rendition of the National Anthem is a "disrespect" to the Anthem.

He said the lower court has not considered as obstruction while dismissing a petition against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi for being seated at the time of the playing of the National Anthem.

The Act has not described the "reasons for obstructions" and in that scenario the ruling of the lower court "is a serious legal mistake," Dwivedi said in his petition.

"If sitting and reading of a person is not an obstruction, when the other persons were standing in an attention position during the National Anthem, then other activities too like lying down, sleeping and eating will not be treated as obstruction during the National Anthem," he said.

Since the country is independent, it is the moral duty of every person to stand in the honour of the National Anthem and is more important for those occupying high posts in the country as people emulate them and their acts as role model, Dwivedi said.

He prayed to the court to quash the lower court order by taking cognizance of the facts mentioned in the petition on its merits.

The petition was filed on the basis of a photograph published in an eveninger on January 5, showing the couple sitting, while others were standing at attention when National Anthem was played at a function in Bihar.

The court has fixed February 7, as the next date of hearing in the case.

Anonymous said...

I SAY: STANDING AT ATTENTION FOR NATIONAL ANTHEM IS MANDATORY (bed-ridden and differntly abled people forbidden)
This is the least we can do to show respect to the anthem. And how long do we need to stand? Just a couple of mins.

Anonymous said...

Respect for the National anthem or the tricolor are things which are probably more explicit images of nationalism. What about the seething anti-nationals we all are? For every south indian anybody up north is a northie and viceversa for them people down south are madrasis..
How about the regional bias we all hold? How many times have we made sidey comments about people from other states? How many times have we spoken in the local language when there are lesser mortals who might not know the language? How many times have we said that am an insider and person x is an outsider?
For all the nationalistic jingoism how many times has anybody stood up and said we are one nation and everybody belongs here.

Shruthi said...

Scarface, idealistic? Because I said we should rise for the anthem? :))
Yeah I remember that photo - it was horrifying. LOL @ Bollywood number :)

Bellur, thanks for the info. I did try to look for some info on this - I should have just asked Wiki-takavi ;)
The report calls it "moral duty". Hmm.. I would just call it, maybe, common sense!
Yeah, but I still wonder why people are loathe to rise...

Anon, I wouldn't want to go into that discussion here, it is a never-ending one.

Supremus said...

I love the comment by anon above, and perhaps indicates the deeper problem with us Indians. We justify not doing something by comparing it with everything else that is wrong as well, and with an attitude "You want me to set it right... Ya Hell, go set those 100 things right first, then I will do this right!".

Its a sad attitude, when it really should have been "Lets do this thing right first and think about rest later".


Anonymous said...

What you say is really sad and to be seen increasingly. Suyog's comment is also true. The attitude is a problem.

Anonymous said...


re: "This is the least we can do to show respect to the anthem. And how long do we need to stand? Just a couple of mins. "

i believe it is 52 seconds for the indian anthem, unless we convert to the usa style where you can elongate it as much as you want!

- s.b.

Viky said...

Along with all the regionalism which Anon pointed out comes the debate of why Jana Gana Mana - which was written in praise of a Englishman, hailing him as our saviour - should be the anthem in the first place. Why not Vande Mataram, which was the pinnacle slogan of the freedom movement of India...

I think patriotism should come intrinsically, and should never be forced. In a certain theater in Pune, I always find the anthem played after each movie, and people, forced to stand, are doing all sorts of things - men are fiddling with their mobiles, women are searching their handbags, the youth, yawning, chewing gum or scratching here and there, find it a good time to check out the opposite sex - in short, things that make you feel it would have been better had they not played it at all !!!

Shruthi said...

Suyog, you are right. I have seen this many times - but hadn't identified it as a concrete problem in attitude!

Manasi, yup :(

S.b, that's true. Ideally our anthem should be sung/played in 52 secs.

Viky, I wanted to put a footnote in my post - "Let's not discuss whether Jana Gana Mana is the right anthem at this point" - but missed it out.
And the behaviour you are talking about is exactly what I mean - why do they do it? And yes, it is better not to play it in such places.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why it has anything to do with dignity or respect. It definitely is nothing like standing up when an elder walks in to a room!! It's just a song after all!! Any jingoism that is attached to such nationalistic sentiments is, i believe, useless. But, that is my opinion and it differs from others. So, I will not stand up when an anthem plays and someone else might. Just like I have no right to ask her to not stand up, I believe no one has the right to ask me to stand up either

Anonymous said...

I do not agree that standing while national anthem is being played, indicates any sign of patriotism or respect to the country!. In public ceremonies which are marked with playing anthem, where you would be expecting anthem to be played, it does make sense the entire crowd stands as the gesture of respect without hesitation!

I do not understand why should national anthem be played in theatres and force people to stand up against their self-will!, what purpose does it serve?. On the contrary it is sheer stupidity to play anthem in irrelevant places, at odd circumstances and expect people to stand up!

Finally it boils down to matter of convenience, to take an extreme situation what do you expect if you hear anthem while answering nature call?.

Standing is no indication of any patriotism or the absence of it!. It can be just concluded that, it's an expected public manners to stand up if played in an appropriate place and occasion!

Anonymous said...

i believe it is 52 seconds for the indian anthem, unless we convert to the usa style where you can elongate it as much as you want!

@s.b: :) I am forced to remember my own post after you mentioned this

@bellur: I think the law is right. You cannot "force" somebody to respect their national anthem. It's their moral responsibility.

I would say, even if they don't get up for the anthem it is fine, as long as they don't bad mouth India in front of others!

@shruthi: The situation is not drastically different in other countries. There also there are people who care a damn when the national anthem is played.

But it's more "I-care-a-damn" attitude more than "shame".
There is a difference!

Shruthi said...

Shreyas, ok, I do see how you look at it - but then, of course, I disagree!

Sharath, I have also mentioned in my post that standing up or not standing up in no way reflects your patriotism. My question is that since you are "expected" to stand up or in your words, "expected public manners", then what is it that makes a person ashamed or embarrassed to have to stand?
Yes, I have often questioned the need for the anthem to be played in places like theaters - I don't necessarily go with their decision to play the anthem, but once it is being played, then why not rise gracefully?

Shark, thanks for that info about the attitude! ;) And yes, your post is hilarious :D

HP said...

I always had this urge to stand up while the national anthem used to be sung even on TV...And that used to create problems while having lunch/dinner...So,we used to just change the channels and feel that we have not neglected our patritoic duty :-)

I know its kinda stupid but thats what we used to do..


Anonymous said...

shruthi, how do you conclude that 'people are embarrassed or ashamed to stand up when the anthem is being played?". As you can see from the responses here, for every person who thinks that patriotism must be worn on one's sleeve, there is another who feels, as Shaw put it, " Patriotism is the belief that one's country is the best, merely because one was born in it". So, I think those who don't get up when the anthem is played don't do so out of embarrassment, but because they don't feel the need to.

Anonymous said...

shark sez:

"I would say, even if they don't get up for the anthem it is fine, as long as they don't bad mouth India in front of others!"


"I do not understand why it has anything to do with dignity or respect. It definitely is nothing like standing up when an elder walks in to a room!! It's just a song after all!! Any jingoism that is attached to such nationalistic sentiments is, i believe, useless. But, that is my opinion and it differs from others. So, I will not stand up when an anthem plays and someone else might. Just like I have no right to ask her to not stand up, I believe no one has the right to ask me to stand up either "

what you say is all right, as long as you don't demonstrate jingoism for usa or some other country, i am ok with you not demostrating jingoism for india. in other words, if you come to the usa and stand up for the usa national anthem but stay seatedor the indian one, i will be upset (not that you have to mind me!).

- s.b.

Shruthi said...

HP, ha ha :) I know just what you mean!

Raj Plus, I am not assuming that people are embarrassed to stand for the anthem. If, like Shreyas, they don't feel the need to, they need not stand at all. The people I refer to look around in doubt, then give each other sheepish smiles, then stand half-heartedly, and like I said, when one of them does stand, others tease him. This is the attitude that I have observed. If my assumption that it is embarrassment is wrong, then what is it?

S.B., that would be a strange kind of attitude indeed!

Anonymous said...

I think Indians have always lacked unity. Either all the people should sit, or all of them should stand. But this never happens. It would be fine with me if everybody continued sitting and remained silent - they get their due rest and dont tire their weary legs. Or better, if everyone stood up so they can stretch their limbs and shift weight between legs. But there is a lack of solidarity and discipline among a billion people in the absence of dictatorship. Remember, India is the land of diversity. We need to think differently. Even sheep in a herd wander in all directions when there is no shepherd. The shepherd was our school teacher/ Principal... now we're we express it! Fortunately, its not easy to neither stand nor sit, ie, sit in an easy chair, half upright position... else we would've seen that too... :-))

Shammi said...

Hmmm.. nice question, Shruthi :) I confess that if I'm at home, I dont stand up but I also dont change the channel. (Actually I sing along, but dont tell anyone that!) Outside, I always stand to attention.

Agree with Sharath, the Anthem shouldnt be played at movie theatres... it's meant for more solemn occasions.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments! I guess I am old-fashioned but my eyes can get moist during a flag-hoisting ceremony or when the National Anthem is played (like today when I went to attend the Republic Day event in my four year old daughter's school). And I am not one who wears his patriotism on his sleeve or even gets initiates these discussions.

Shruthi said...

Anand, had certainly not thought of it that way!

Shyam, your comment made me smile :D I do sing along too, very often!

Shantanu, actually I occasionally get teary-eyed too - but it depends on the situation. I don't really think it's got anything to do with being old-fashioned, though ;)

Anonymous said...

a great post on a great day
shruthi other day the people who met your tata at mysore came (some of them) showed the photos they have taken with tata and others also. these guys celebrate both independance day and republic day in one of members house and hoist a national flag on his house and offer their respect to the nation and leave after their break fast to gether what a great thought and action. I was amazed at their activities.
yes it is ones moral duty to respect the nation your organisation your family etc.,
like in any place there are people who are not in the main stream here also there are people who give scant respect to this we have to ignore.
yes it ir right thing now that they have stopped playing national anthem in theatres it was horrible state of affairs people will watch the movie for 21/2 to 3 hours be it be good bad or ugly but no time just 52 seconds to pay respect to our rashtragite

Anonymous said...

This post brings to the fore one of those thoughts that every Indian always has in his mind but has never put it on paper. Thanks to Shruthi for that! :)

I can't speak for everybody (Like someone says in this comments section "India is not united") I always make it a point to stand up (if not in attention with that V-shape formation with the feet) with my head held high. And I must admit that sometimes I end up with moist eyes. For eg. when Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes won the Gold medal at Doha, I also had tears in my eyes. I relate to this country and this is mine. The anthem (whether it is right or wrong to have it as our anthem is something I am not knowledgeable enough to comment about. But I should also mention that I am equally emotional about "Vande Mataram") is mine and I am proud of being a part of this country. The anthem gives me a few minutes (52 seconds as s.b. points out) to show that emotion inside me and I do it by standing up with pride.

Jai Hind!

Anonymous said...

Very Nice post. We should stand up when our national anthem is being played. Have you wondered why during Indian national anthem, we are supposed to bow our heads slightly, while the US national anthem is accompanied by heads raised high with pride?

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Anonymous said...

I think it should be intrinsic. Most people (i believe) stand up only to avoid negative comments. Why cant we be more matured and stand up (pun intended) for what we believe. It should be a non-issue. I have observed a lot of sportsmen (abroad) do a lot of curious things - like remove their caps, adjust their hair/glasses during the time when their national anthem is played. Let it be, amen.


the mad momma said...

I stand up when it's played and I get teary eyed whenever I hear it... but I am probably in a minority. something like the national anthem cuts across communities and races etc and should be respected...

On the other hand I hate being forced to do stuff under the guise of respect... like touching people's feet etc.... so i can understand people rebelling...

at the end of the day its not abt whether its 52 seconds or 52 minutes or who it was written in praise of. i think it should be used wisely and not in silly cinema halls...

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