A few years ago, I had the privilege of being the MC for the annual Navy Week in Mumbai, and later at teatime on the lawns of Navy House, I was introduced to the Vice Admiral. “Thank you for the wonderful emceeing you did, and also for the piece you wrote on the navy,” he said and even as I smiled my head turned hearing the strains of ‘Abide With Me,’ as the sun set that evening.
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide,
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide;
When other helpers, fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, Lord abide with me.
And then the trumpeters on top of the Gateway joined in and I sang softly with them.
This hymn has been played by buglers, trumpeters, drummers sometimes by a lone flautist for soldiers at the end of a long day at battle, to tell them to retreat from fighting and rest for the night. And what better thought, then asking the Lord to stay by their side through the darkness of the night. What a beautiful way, to be restored, repaired and rejuvenated with the Lord abiding with you through the night.
And yet, suddenly, the hymn, which was also the favourite hymn of the Father of our Nation, was removed for this Republic Day at the Beating the Retreat!
A hymn that had strengthened the hearts of millions through the ages, was suddenly thought of as unnecessary: But soon quiet protests were voiced, not just by Christians, but those of other faiths too, and it was brought back and hopefully will be played at the Beating Retreat this year!
My question is, why tamper with what is smooth and going well?
Aren’t there enough problems in our country, without having to time and again focus on issues that could best be left alone? Or are these frequent tamashas, a way to stop people focusing on the real issues of non-availability of enough roti, kapada , makaan and jobs, which are not being dealt with?
My prayer this Republic Day, is that the Lord, who’s ‘abiding’, was needed by this government will open the eyes of the nation, and then we together in unison, our voices rising in rising magnificent crescendo will sing out the last verse:
I fear no foe with
Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is deaths sting? Where grave thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Yes, it is time for we people of this nation, abiding with the Constitution of India, and with the Lord abiding in us, triumph, as we make India strong again..!
(Published on 27th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 05)