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Flagging off a dream project

A new coffee-table book explores the many roles of the national flag,

Jai Arjun Singh  |  New Delhi 

When Naveen Jindal's nine-year struggle for permission to display the national flag in homes and workplaces bore fruit through a Supreme Court judgement last year, it was a strong blow for freedom of expression.
But the Jindals "" Naveen and his wife Shallu "" aren't half done yet in their bid to flag off awareness for the tricolour. In January 2002 they established the Flag Foundation of India, which has organised art exhibitions on the Tiranga across the country.
Now comes the Jindals' latest project "" a coffee-table book of tricolour-themed photographs.
The genesis for Tiranga: A Celebration of the Indian Flag was an idea-bulb that visited Shallu Jindal on Republic Day last year.
"I realised there was no coffee-table book that dealt exclusively with the national flag,"she says.
The Jindals got in touch with Vijay and Samar Jodha of Neovision Publishers and put out advertisements inviting applications in photographic journals.
"Briefly, we considered using photos shot by just my brother and myself,"says Vijay Jodha, "but the project had to be vast in scope, covering pictures from around the country and many viewpoints."
So they ended up holding a photo contest as well as selecting images taken by leading photographers like Raghu Rai and Swapan Parekh.
The book emphasises visuals over text, but sprinkled throughout are quotes from well-known personalities.
What adds to the credibility of the project is that despite the Jindals' own well-documented reverence for the national flag, the book isn't a fawn project.
Quotes of the "National Flag is equal to God" variety are balanced by those that are critical of overt nationalism ("We must remember that there are 200 such flags in the world...our patriotism should not be exclusive or antipathetic to others,"says Dr Karan Singh.)
Likewise, some of the pictures make their own eloquent statements "" like the irony implicit in impoverished streetchildren being expected to pay obeisance to the tricolour.
"We were careful not to sentimentalise the book too much,"says Jodha. "After all, we're all aware of the ground realities too."
The photos range from the conventional (flags at parade rehearsals and hoistings) to the whimsical (a superhero figure dressed in a tricolour costume, a hawker selling pennants in one hand and vegetables in the other).
Next on the Jindals' agenda is a comic book on the history of the flag, aimed at schoolchildren, and a motivational film for children.
"What happens with most of us is that once we leave school the presence of the tiranga in our lives reduces greatly," says Shallu Jindal.
"We want to make this national symbol as visible as possible."

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First Published: Sat, February 05 2005. 00:00 IST