15th August is almost here, and the entire nation is giddying up for the 70th Independence Day celebrations and how! With stores all across selling flags of different sizes and types, and big brands cashing upon the Independence Day fever in the form of sales, we Indians are going all out this Independence Day.
But have you ever thought what happens to all the paper and plastic flags after all the celebrations are over? What about all those small flags we bought on the street to deck up our cars, bikes or even homes?
Well, usually they end up lying on the road or in some trashy corner and sadly so. But one man from Kolkata has taken upon himself to instill the love for our country and our national flag even after Independence Day is over.
Meet Jignesh Thakkar, the Flag Man of Kolkata, who since the last many years has been taking out time after every Independence Day to go out on the streets and pick up the flags as and where he comes across one.
We get back to the hustle of everyday lives, and we even crib about having to get along with life chores again but this man ditches his work and everything else to reinstate the National Flag to where it rightfully belongs— our hearts.
Here’s Beacon Kolkata in conversation with Jignesh Thakkar.
Since when did you start collecting flags?
Well, I started back in 2010 and it’s been seven years since and I intend to carry on with this initiative for as long as I can.
Which areas in Kolkata do you go to?
I generally cover mostly the northern parts of the city, namely, Lake Town, Belgachia, Shyambazaar, College Street and Amherst Street. I ride roughly for 2-3 hours, collecting flags as and where I come across them lying on the road.
What does the national flag mean to you?
It is everything to me, I feel proud to be an Indian. It is the first thing that comes to the mind when I think of India.
What made you start with this initiative? Do you plan to involve others and grow it into a kind of a movement?
One day I was out for a walk after the Independence Day Celebrations, I saw some flags lying on the road, it made me feel very bad and thought that it’s not the right place for a flag to be. It hurt me on a deep level.
I do ask people to join in for this initiative; earlier people were not aware of it, but now thanks to social media people are more aware.Often, I get calls from various individuals intending to join me. Some of my friends from other cities, who are there on my social media lists have been inspired to do the same in their respective cities.
Over the years, would you say that the respect for our national flag improved?
It has definitely improved but I am waiting for the day plastic and paper flags will be banned—because we are not using it in a proper way, as it lies on the road after the day of the Independence Day event.
In this era of hyper nationalism, how do differentiate between true patriotism and pseudo-nationalism on social media?
I think it’s very difficult and inappropriate to tag someone as patriotic or a nationalist; I believe everyone has their own way of expressing their love for the country. Some people choose to show it explicitly, whereas some tend not to show at all, but that doesn’t mean they are not emotional about their country too. For example, on Independence Day some people put flags on their bikes and ride around the city, but if you see as per law it is illegal and yet people do it to express their love for the nation.