Priya Ranjan Sarkar from West Bengal is being lauded as the Flag Man for all the right reasons

Nat Geo's Independence Day special docu-film Tiranga explores Priya Ranjan Sarkar's unusual hobby

author_img Raima Ganguly Published :  14th August 2022 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  14th August 2022 12:00 AM
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Priya Ranjan Sarkar

Have you ever seen flags lying around on the road after ceremonial gatherings on Independence Day and Republic Day, and wondered if people truly understand the meaning of patriotism and respect for one’s own motherland? Priya Ranjan Sarkar, popularly known as Flag Man grew up in Bally, Howrah and was moved by similar occurrences, early on in life. He was taken aback as a kid when he saw his mother picking up the national flag lying around amidst rags. Upon being asked about this, his mother replied, the tricolour represents our soil, and it's equally respectable as one’s own mother. His speech, even though partially impaired, doesn't restrict him from expressing his sense of patriotism. For the past fourteen years, Priya Ranjan has been collecting discarded flags which has amounted to about 60,000 tricolors till date. 

"I have had to discard many since they were picked from sewage lines. I usually bury such pieces together as they emanate a strong stench when kept at home," shares Priya Ranjan.

The Flag Man wishes to build a shrine for Mother India one day, and his day starts with a mandatory homage to our motherland every morning. His efforts have garnered much required attention on this topic, and National Geographic India has recently featured him in their Independence Day special docu-film Tiranga. We caught up with Priya Ranjan for a quick chat ahead of the 75th year celebrations of Indian Independence.

 

 

What made you choose such an off-beat hobby?

It isn't just a hobby, but a passion. I believe it is a little hypocritical that people celebrate these patriotic events with such zest, yet forget about the tricolour once they are done with the hullabaloo on specific days. The flag represents our motherland, and it is a culmination of the blood and sweat of people who fought for our independence. Hence, thr tricolour must be respected at all times and not just on Independence Day and Republic Day.

What reactions did you receive when you began collecting discarded flags?

There were many who laughed at my efforts, and considered me crazy. However, it was my mother's words that kept me going. She believed in me and my efforts, and told me that one day people will realise the importance of my actions, and in turn it will enlighten them about their perception of patriotism. I have a team of about 50 volunteers working with me in this initiative today. Our group of volunteers are popularly known as Maa er Prerona.

I believe people can show respect to their motherland by picking even one discarded tricolor, they don't necessarily have to pick thousands. No Indian citizen has the right to disrespect our tricolour.

What is your message to the ones who throw away the flags after patriotic celebrations?

I would request them to not throw the flags away. If they have a problem storing them at home, they can contact our helpline number and we will send volunteers to collect them. Every citizen has to respectfully hoist the flag, and pay an equal amount of respect while dehoisting. Disrespecting the flag amounts to the disrespect and disregard of every mother in our country. We have already worked in different districts of south Bengal, but yet to reach out to northern parts of our state.

In what other way do you wish to help our motherland?

I have been urging people to not use plastic flags for a long time now. I think there should be one proper flag in every locality, that people should pay their respect to instead of using multiple flags. These generate a lot of plastic waste that in turn harm our environmental balance. I also wish to build a shrine for Mother India one day. The tricolor is not supposed to be used indoors, instead it is supposed to be hoisted above institutions and public places so that people look up to it. I feel this very essence of our tricolour needs to be imbibed more in the minds of the public.

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