How much do you love your country? And to what extent would you go to see its honour upheld and to ensure no one disrespects symbols that represent your motherland? This is a tricky one. Now try answering this one: Are you more patriotic than the person sitting next to you? Or than your neighbour?
The Supreme Court's order on Monday asking the Centre and the BCCI to reply to a petition that the officials had failed to protect the honour of the tricolour during cricket matches held in Kolkata raises these questions.
The apex court was reviewing an appeal against an order of the Calcutta High Court. A petitioner had moved the high court complaining that spectators had dishonoured the national flag during two matches that were played at the Eden Gardens ground in Kolkata.
Spectators, in various photographs that were presented as proof, were seen using the flag as a turban or putting it over their shoulders. This, it is contended in the petition, was a serious violation of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 and the Flag Code of India, 2002.
While there is no standardised metre to measure patriotic fervour, we have many informal ways of grading it. You're different from the 'others' if you have a thumbnail-size tricolour brooch pinned to your breast pocket.
It is still, however, unlawful to 'wear' the national flag and to display it anywhere south of the belly button. If you have a beach shirt with the Union Jack design on it or a stars-and-stripes undergarment and thought of getting its desi version, hold on to that thought.... or even better, just forget about it. Such spontaneous outbursts of patriotism need to be exorcised as the misuse of the tiranga could land you in jail.
Honour and respect are intangible, superfluous social constructs that cannot be defined in definite terms. Attempts to give them a definite boundary, as the national honour Act and the flag code does, often end up creating confusion.
Until there's more clarity on this, don't drape yourself in the tricolour on a cold winter night while cheering for Team India.