It is the 69th Independence Day! We have now been an independent country for 68 whole years! 68 years since the Tryst With Destiny!
But sometimes, I wonder, in these 68 years, have we forgotten the very meaning of freedom? I know I sound cliched. But this morning, when I woke up, I woke up to a loudspeaker loudly playing patriotic sounds. I woke up to a loud rambling of ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti’, playing well above the allowed decibel limit. I went and closed my windows, trying to block the noise. But no. The noise was so loud that it just wouldn’t be blocked. Soon enough, I developed a headache and couldn’t help but feel extremely sorry for all the babies and elderly in the area. Celebrating at the cost of someone else’s convenience, that is not independence.
I remember the Independence Days of my childhood. I would go to school, there would be a flag hoisting, well meant speeches that we would inevitably sleep through, sweets and candies distributed and the rest of the day off. The only reason I looked forward to Independence Day was because I would have half a day off from school. That is not independence.
Skip to midday, my maid came. She went about her daily routine, sweeping, mopping, washing the dishes, dusting. It was just another day for her. She is a working mother, she has three kids in high school. Making ends meet itself is a struggle for her. Grumble about her as I might, she probably works harder than I ever have. She doesn’t even get weekends off. And struggle as she might, things probably will not change much for her, not in this lifetime. That is not independence.
But then, flip the coin over and you can see a whole new picture. All those things that I just said are not independence, that is exactly what is independence.
Confused, aren’t you? So am I.
Google describes independence as ‘The fact or state of being independent, self governance, autonomy, freedom, liberty’. But that is such a relative thing.
Waking up to a loud rambling of ‘Mere Desh ki Dharti’ was something that curbed my freedom. But getting that shut (if that was possible) would curb their freedom too, because celebrating with loud music is their way of expressing their independence.
Going to school for a flag hoisting, boring speeches and yummy candies might not have taught me anything about what independence is. But having the rest of the day off and having to juggle that between leftover homework and playing with friends sure did. Running around, playing with the other kids was our way of expressing our independence.
Working to her bones without a day off might not be freedom for my domestic help. But watching her kids go through high school and seeing them having a better future, living her life vicariously through theirs, that is an expression of independence. We are not always born with a silver spoon, but aspiring for bigger and better things is an expression of independence.
And any act of expressing independence is independence in itself.
So are we truly free? Well, that completely depends on the lens that you are looking at the world through.
On that note, here is some food for thought, a video from last year, asking Indians where they can find freedom. Enjoy!