Celebrating Independence, are we?
It is 15th August, my country’s Independence Day, the day when India was able to rid itself of the British rule.
Every year, my parents switch on DD National channel to watch the flag hoisting ceremony and the Prime Minister’s speech at the Red Fort.
Since the time I started to understand the importance of the Independence Day, watching the Tri-Colour waving high in the blue sky has always given me goose-bumps. My eyes swell with tears of pride whenever I stand up to ‘sing’ Jana Gana Mana.
However, over the years, the patriotic feeling inside me has begun to subside. My eyes no longer get moist whenever I ‘hear’ the national anthem, my head isn’t held that high whenever I see the national flag fluttering vigorously, and my heart in no longer filled with that much pride when my fellow countrymen celebrate our nation’s independence. For I question, “Are we truly FREE and INDEPENDENT?”
Freedom for me has always meant to live without fear, and that fear may have a different meaning from individual to individual; be it the fear of heights, or riding a bicycle or even the fear of death. Once a person overcomes his fear, he truly starts living and enjoying his freedom.
But the fears that I am talking about are very different.
I am talking about the fear a woman has when she steps out of her home alone late at night. She doesn’t know if it’ll be safe for her to walk down to the market, as her husband is not in town, so as to get some medicines for her crying baby. She knows that there are miscreants who linger about and pass lewd comments at every other girl passing by. Though nothing may happen to her, it is always possible that something might. It is this fear of safety that we have to get independence from.
I am also talking of the fear a child has when he appears for an examination. The fear of failure, the fear of what ‘people’ would say to his family if he fails, the fear of his parents’ disappointment, if by any chance ‘Sharma Ji’s’ son scores more than him… We live in a country where a child’s A+ report card is more valued than his character and an IIT and IIM pass-out is more respected than a gifted small town painter. It is this fear that emanates from a false-value system that we need to be free from.
I am also talking of the fear a father has when his child leaves home for college; who knows, the next moment a bomb might blow off inside the local train compartment and he might never see him again. Let me tell you that I got my first mobile phone when I joined college and had to travel alone by bus. Irritating as some may find it, but my father called me after every one hour to know if I was still receiving his calls. It is this fear of violence on our soil that we and our leaders have to overcome.
Then there is another heinous fear that stalks our nation and is encountered by two people when they fall in love, especially when one of them is from a so called lower caste or economic strata or a different religion. God forbid if they both belong to the same gotra! The fear of not being ‘accepted’ by the society is just a trivial matter, the fear of being ‘killed’ so as to protect the honour of the family haunts the couple more. Maybe we can learn to live without the fear of ‘mad man’s honour’.
There is one more fear that hovers around us; the fear of the country losing its pride. I fear that if we are not ready by 3rd October, we will not be able to host a successful Commonwealth Games. The fear is not only for the stadiums not being ready on time, but also how the national capital will act as hosts to the visitors from other countries. Will the guests have to fight it out with the rowdy autowalas for auto-fare? Will the guests be safe on Delhi roads, considering the number of chain-snatching, rape and robbery cases that rampant? I fear that the visitors might go back with an unpleasant feeling about our country.
This Independence Day, these are some fears I wish to be free from, so that, one day, I can stand up and say that I live in a country that is truly FREE.