Appropriate behavior during National Anthem

via PVAS published on March 29, 2009
Did Sashi Tharoor
do wrong, in stopping the national anthem midway to suggest an
alternative show of respect? It would seem so. It is not so much that
he advised everyone during the gathering  to place their hand on their
chest as mark of respect when the national anthem was played, but that
he chose to interupt the anthem midway to render his advice. Both
these acts are improper; the latter even more so.
First, there is a proper protocol to be maintained, on how to
behave and what to do, or what not to do, when one’s national anthem
is being played in public occasions. Interupting the national anthem
midway is not an acceptable behavior; unless it is rehearsal for a
later performance. Any advice or instruction to the audience should be
given before the start of the anthem, or after the anthem is over. When
we were at school, we would always be instructed by our teachers to
stand up straight, stand still, and not fidget for the anthem. These
instructions, or advice, however would be given before the start of the
anthem, and not midway.
Second, placing the hand on the chest during the anthem is an
American practice. Indians do not do this, and never have from the time
we have had the national anthem. We have always stood straight whenever
the national anthem was played. Every country has its protocol on
how to show respect in public when its national anthem is being played.
In some countries, like the US, it may be customary for the citizens to
place their hand over the heart when the national anthem is played,
whereas in other countries, people may stand up straight in attention.
Yet in others, there may be other ways of showing respect.
Tharoor’s call to change the normal protocol followed in India
in public gatherings seems out of place. He might have been used to the
American style, given his long stay in the US, but that does not make
it all right for him to stop the Indian national anthem midway to
ask Indians in India to subscribe to his way of showing respect. One
would like to have seen him conduct himself this way in the US –
stopping the American anthem midway and requesting all the Americans to
stand in attention with their arms down to their sides just as the
way the Indians do. He, a widely traveled man, surely knows that such
behavior is deemed not acceptable in the US, or any other country. But
somehow, in India, every behavior is seen as acceptable, and ‘chalta
Perhaps, the current culture of the  Congress-UPA government has
something to do with rendering any appropriate show of respect towards
the national flag, national song, and
national anthem as a ‘Hindu’ idiosyncrasy, thereby making it acceptable
for some of its citizens to behave as they like toward the national symbols.

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