Lindsay Pereira column: Why fake it when you can shake it?

Lindsay PereiraWe need a National Dance.

I suggest a nice shimmy that isn’t too complicated, so toddlers can be taught to do it without a fuss, adults can join in without damaging their pot bellies, and senior citizens can pull it off even after their hips have been replaced.

We need this National Dance so that we can do it together, whenever we can — at public hospitals when doctors haven’t turned up, at railway stations when the trains are 26 minutes late, or if there’s no interesting communal riot being obsessively covered on television.

We need this National Dance simply because I believe it will make us feel more patriotic. We need more things to make us feel patriotic, because ending all emails with ‘Jai Hind’ no longer provides the rush it once did back in 1996. We will learn to love India a lot more if we all know the same moves and break into them together with smiles on our proud, Indian faces.

Running boy

Foreigners visiting our ancient country will also realise that this National Dance is a great way for Indians to show how much they love India. They will post videos of us shimmying on the streets to their Facebook pages. #NationalDance will trend on Republic Day and Independence Day, when millions of people will put up videos of family and friends doing the dance to show how much they love India. NRIs will send their own videos, dancing in front of the Empire State Building to show everyone back home how Indian they still are, even if they now have Green Cards and have destroyed their old passports.

The National Dance must come into being only after a government-approved panel deliberates on what the moves should be like, of course. They must discuss it at length for at least a few years, and make sure no community is offended. They must make sure no part of the body is thrust obscenely, because while pelvic thrusts are fine on the big screen, they don’t really belong to our ever-changing idea of what constitutes Indian culture. We should also make sure the National Dance is approved by heads of all religious communities, so riots don’t break out in sensitive areas in the aftermath of an energetic group jig.

Not dancing to the National Dance should be made punishable by law. There should be no excuse for the disabled or infirm to avoid it either, especially if we create special versions for the disabled and infirm. Losing a limb shouldn’t excuse one from not doing the Dance and proving one’s patriotism. It should also be mandatory to begin one’s day at school or work with it.

And for those who find the idea of a National Dance ludicrous, how is it less ludicrous than the idea of being forced to stand for the National Anthem before a movie begins? What purpose does standing up and showing respect serve when that respect goes out the window the minute the credits roll and we’re back on the street?

The truth is, we like describing ourselves as patriotic simply because it makes us feel like we’ve done the right thing. It’s like eating bitter gourd because we’ve always been told that it’s good for the blood, without ever trying to figure out whether or not that’s true. We want to tell people how much we love our country. We applaud when people are forced out of movie theatres for not standing up for the National Anthem. And yet, we’re okay with bribing traffic cops when they pull us over for jumping a signal. We’re okay with jumping those signals whenever we can. We don’t have a problem with enabling or tolerating corruption at every level, despite knowing how much it damages not just the quality of our lives, but the image of India, here and abroad.

We want to wear our patriotism on our sleeves, and prove it by tacking plastic flags on to the dashboards of our cars. We want to prove it by standing up before a movie, so we can then sit back and watch an item number that commodifies women, safe in the knowledge that we may be misogynists, but that’s okay because we love our country.

We need to accept the fact that standing up for an anthem doesn’t prove how Indian we are. If we’re not working towards making our city or state a better place, in any way we can, our respect for the flag or anthem is of no importance. We might as well dance.

When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira

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