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Jan-Gan-Man and little ‘Netaji’

Children waving Indian flag (Image credit: PTI)
Children waving Indian flag (Image credit: PTI)

When the sound of our national anthem reaches the ears, the footsteps stop there itself, the body goes into attention mode and thrillingly but spontaneously, two pearly drops of tears fall from the eyes—the tears that symbolize the unmatched beauty of the hallowed occasion.

On Facebook, a very old classmate sent a friend request with a message — “ Zameen salam kare asmaan salam kare, karo woh kaam ki saara jahan salam kare.” Seeing the picture of that gentleman, it did not take me long to recollect that till class fifth we studied together in the same school. But even then I was unable to understand the context of his Facebook message.

I was very happy to see (though on Facebook) that old friend after so many years. I took his phone number on Messenger and immediately called him and asked the first question, why did he write ‘Zameen Salaam kare’ in his message? My friend answered with a laugh, “Hey you don’t remember! This qawwali was sung by both of us, wearing white kurta and black sadri, sitting on the stage in our school ground.”

Yes, I could recall through the mist of time those halcyon old days. This would be around 1986 or 87, when we were studying in class fourth or fifth. I was surprised to see that he could still remember, so vividly such an old thing till now. This little call, like a ‘time machine’, brought alive my enthusiasm before the national festivals in childhood. Memories of the beginning of student life arose from many directions.

Just before the ringing of holiday bells in nursery school, all children had to sing the national anthem together in our class. Immediately after the last line of the national anthem was sung, all the children used to pick up their bags and flee to their homes, saying ‘Good afternoon’. How much does a nursery child understand? I felt for a long time that ‘Good afternoon’ are the concluding words of our national anthem!

Then another picture emerges on the horizon of my memories — in the same school, we children were also taught the song ‘Nannha Munna Rahi Hoon, Desh Ka Sipahi Hoon Bolo Mere Sang Jai Hind‘. It used to electrify us with the energy of patriotism during the prayers. This song was also recorded by my uncle in my voice in his tape recorder and that audio cassette is still safe with him.

At that time we used to live in a colony of administrative employees, which was located in the office premises. My father was also posted in the same office. I often used to sing ‘National Anthem and ‘Nannha Munna Rahi’ fervently to everyone, small and big, in that colony. I was a mere child studying in a nursery; but so charged I was with the fire of patriotism that the people of the colony started calling me ‘Netaji’.

That was just the beginning! Soon thereafter, most of my father’s colleagues living there unanimously suggested to the office manager, ‘Nazir ji! Instead of playing the national anthem on the disc immediately after the flag hoisting on the upcoming Republic Day, let ‘Netaji’ sing live in front of the mike”. Nazir ji had no other option but to accede to this recommendation as one of his seniors- Nayeb Tehsildar Uncle was among those who had advised him to do so.

The flag was hoisted by the then Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) amidst the ‘Salami Shashtra‘ of the cops posted in the premises at exactly eight o’clock on the morning of 26 January. And for the first time I stood facing hundreds of people while singing the national anthem on mike wearing my school uniform.

After the flag hoisting, all the people present at the ceremony sat on spick-and-span white sheets laid on top of the carpets in a large hall covered with flags inside the office premises. SDM addressed the gathering followed by a cultural program which was inaugurated with a ‘kirtan’ presented by a participating group. Immediately after the kirtan was over, the moderator of the program announced, “Now you will all be listening to a song by the ‘Netaji’ of our campus.” Then I got up in the middle of the applause and reached the stage with a short-stepped gait. Mike’s height was adjusted for me and I recited the song ‘Nannha Munna Rahi Hoon’ in a loud voice with the matching gesticulations – ‘dahine bayen-dahine bayen’ as is done in a march past.

As soon as the song was over, ponderous but docile Sub Divisional Magistrate sitting on the stage lovingly called me towards him and said, “You sing very sweetly, but you made a small mistake while singing the national anthem.”  He then asked, “Why did you add ‘Good Afternoon’ at the end of ‘Jan-Gan-Man’ ?” Then he explained to me that the national anthem just ends on ‘Jai Jai He’ and ‘Good afternoon’ is a formal way of bidding goodbye to the teacher before departing for home from the school. After this, he  beckoned to Nazir ji with his finger pointing and instructed  that on all the national festivals in future will be held there and that every time the national anthem will be sung by Netaji only.’ My younger-self felt a touch of pride with this epaulette. Then he also gave me some money and laddus as a reward. I was very happy.

After that ceremony, Nazir ji always used to call me for the national anthem before the program started on 26 January and 15 August for many years and I used to go there as a special guest. Therefore, I used to wait eagerly for these two days throughout the year.

Since childhood, interest in such programs and regular attendance has led to such an association with our national anthem that even today, when the sound of this patriotic song reaches the ears, the footsteps stop there itself, the body goes into attention mode and thrillingly but spontaneously, two pearly drops of tears fall from the eyes—the tears that symbolize the unmatched beauty of the hallowed occasion. I cannot help recalling how passionately and rousingly I sang, ‘Bolo mere sang Jai Hind,.Jai Hind,.Jai Hind’.

May the honour of our Great Republic and our Great Constitution be maintained and may we touch new heights of glory!  With this wish, I offer my felicitations  to all of you on our grand Republic Day. ‘Bolo mere sang Jai Hind..Jai Hind..Jai Hind’.

Riyaz Khan

Written by Riyaz Khan

The author is Director at an engineering and IT services company in Hyderabad and a columnist.

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