The last time I distinctly remember feeling patriotic was as a kid after watching JP Dutta's Border for the first time. After the movie ended with the jingoistic jig "Hindustan, Hindustan" I jumped on my bed like a zombie. Too excited to sleep, I stared in the darkness of night feeling that India has the most beautiful cartographic image in the world and that the Indian soldiers at the border must be great fearless and patriotic warriors as those in the movie. During the Kargil war I used to tally the number of wounded and dead Indian soldiers against those on the Pakistani side. I watched a lot of movies in the muddled up category of "patriotism and national integration" as a child.
As I grew up, learning more about myself with each passing year, I realized that I could feel patriotic only when I forcibly pumped that feeling into myself. Since then I have occasionally felt an itch of guilt for what I have become and learnt to live with it. The first time after I left college, took a job, lived independently, paid taxes and donated for charity my itch started to recede and instead has been being replaced with a growing sense of disillusionment and despair.
I am not very different from the billion other people who desire to live on their own and strive for their livelihood and dreams, people who work for themselves, their families and if possible for their communities. I feel optimistic about the opportunities available to the youth, I am inspired by the creativity and capabilities of many of those, and am amused by their naiveté in forwarding to each other Manmohan Singh's résumé or Abdul Kalam's speech about how India really is a developed country and not just a developing one. The latter amusement has in fact shifted from pride to realization and now vacillates between pity and condescension.
I don't particularly like nor respect India as a country. It is very unlike the developed countries that many of my generation truly envy. It appraises property in crores and human lives in lakhs. Nor is it like the war-torn developing countries that not only struggle for survival but also rebuild themselves with alacrity. It takes decades to construct projects, pays its voters hooch money before elections, and confuses fighting terrorism with curbing citizens' rights. Its few achievements are usually those of individuals from whom they have duly been nationalized, and when it does make to the top of a global economic or demographic index in a positive manner it is mostly because of its colossal population. It is at best the largest dysfunctional democracy and in fact the largest mobocracy in the world.
To the critic who questions what I do to change the situation: Bless the man who shot the guy who had said, "Ask not what the country did for you but what you did for the country." The country, whatever it means, is not my ruler and I am not a slave. We have a symbiotic relationship not very dissimilar from the relationship between an apartment building and its residents. The residents pay for the maintenance and a few other funds in exchange for a host of benefits. The residents should not default on their payments and the apartment building (through its elected association) should not fail to provide those benefits. The resident who is unhappy with the functioning of the association complains, and if things don't improve leaves to another apartment building.