We are 1.27 billion hearts beating for freedom. Most of us think, what we need is money. But extrapolate your thoughts beyond the all-powerful moolah and you would find yourself stopping at an end point of freedom.
So it`s been 66 free years for us now. Enough time to brush off the remains of a collective chained mindset – thanks to the British and hundreds of indigenous princes (now, we have just one left and that too vestigial!)
But does it take more than six decades to shed away all the unwanted inhibitions and evolve into a new Indian species with freedom in its DNA? Perhaps yes. And even more so, when we refuse to break the monotony of obsolete habits that we confuse for tradition.
Tradition must be fluid, so that the elements, which become meaninglessly dense and opaque, are left behind to freeze within that stratum of time. Fresh and better habits must be embraced and allowed to flow along so that we continue to evolve for better.
So much for the word tradition because whenever days like 15 August or 26 January approach, praises begin to be showered on Indian cultural heritage and tradition. But we often misunderstand the word tradition. And clenched in the cobwebs of habitual thoughts, we find it hard to widen the narrowness of our nervous systems and imbibe novel ways of leading freer lives.
Every year on August 15, we just do the same things. We listen to the patriotic songs and hum along, watch our martyrs being glorified at least for a day on national television, witness the `grand` ceremony of martyrs` kins being honoured by round metal things with strings of silk attached called medals, gorge on the `sweets of freedom`, go out and have fun and last but not the least, we never forget to fear.
I am extremely dubious about the idea of freedom and fear co-existing.
Now sample this. We are free to celebrate the gala I-Day, by venturing out of our homes and visiting places, but not without the inevitable fear of some untoward incident. We are free to board a metro, but not without the fear of a suspicious bag or toy lurking beneath the seat.
In fact, we get to know I-Day is round the corner, when the colour khaki starts being omnipresent, when the metro security lady frisks you for double the normal time, when entry to malls and markets gets tougher than cracking entrance exams, when bikes and cars and trucks are stopped more often, and when traffic pace resembles the walk of a newly-wed bride.
But it is not just the fear of terror that has percolated to our subconscious, fear at every level manages to threaten the idea of freedom and the worst point is, we are getting used to it.
We are free to let our daughters soar into their ether of freedom, but not without fearing the perverts on the prowl. We are free to start a relationship with the person who we think connects to us, only to fear the consequences of the jilted lover if a ‘disconnect’ erupts. We are free to sympathise with the disaster-hit people and donate what we can, but not without the fear of the relief fund getting siphoned off mid-way. We are free to speak and write our minds out, but not without the fear of getting arrested if a political entity wants so.
We are free to walk on the barren path of honesty, but not without the fear of a corrupt and powerful crowd trampling us down. We are free to wear our surname on our chest, but not without the scourge of some poor thoughts creeping shamelessly into others` minds. We are free to think, but not without the fear of what others are thinking of us.
We are free to breathe, but not freedom. Fear seems to be denser, and we inhale it every moment. This ‘fear’ pollution is suffocating enough. With hearts heavy with doubt and minds cluttered with `important` information, we continue to pirouette on the tightrope of life, with a perennial fear of falling down. Deadlines suck the life out of us and we continue to burn the midnight oil in hope of a richer and freer morning.
Onion rates have hit the roof and the only thing left free, seems to be the fall of Rupee. Our soldiers continue to die, and get beheaded at the LoC, but people
in the Parliament with a Z-plus security cover, don`t hesitate to dine with Pakistani officials and also give the culprit a clean chit, though making a U-turn later on. Soldier Hemraj was sent back without a face and the ministers thronged his village in a cold January making lofty promises that evaporated in the heat of Delhi`s summer and the rhetoric of Parliament.
Tears were consoled by political promises that a memorial will be built in the martyr`s name. But what remains of the slain soldier`s grave, are few bricks, trying to mantle the melancholy sacrifice by a soldier forgotten.
This reminds me of a couplet written years ago, `shaheedon ki mazaaro par, lagenge har baras mele, watan pe marne waalon ka, yahi baaqi nishaa hoga.`
But, given the plight of soldier Hemraj`s grave, the couplet that would best suit today`s situation, will read like this.
`Shaheedon ki mazaaro pe toh bas veeraaniyan hongi, watan pe marne walon ka, ab koi kahaan hoga`
(Now, even martyr`s graves will remain unvisited, those who die for nation, will not have any one to count on)
I apologise for painting a grim portrait of today`s society, polity, administration, security and freedom. But, no matter, how many Prithvi missiles, INS Arihants, or INS Vikrants, we boast of, we would remain a nation endangered by the scourge of fear, if we don`t strive to change the way we think.
It doesn`t matter how many Indians feature on world`s richest list, what matters is when would our leaders, drunk on `power tea`, stop hallucinating that `poverty is a state of mind`.
It nice to know that Indian women have carved a niche of their own even on the global canvas, but what remains to be learnt is how we should change the patriarchal mindsets ingrained in us and allow ours and others` daughters to live freely. We must not forget that we are a nation of `Durga Shakti Nagpals` and `Kiran Bedis`, who would fight their way through the treacherous lanes of nasty politics and big money.
In spite of all negativities orbiting around, we must not forget that
we have got a strong positive nucleus, with our culture and heritage binding us into one strong nation.
And even as people say, `Modi does an Obama by saying yes we can`, we
should bother to remember an Indian named Swami Vivekananda, who in
1893 had blew a sea of American minds by his famous Chicago speech.
And it was Vivekananda who had said, ``The power is within you. You
can do anything and everything``.
So this I-Day, let’s just not sit back and devote this free day to browse about the latest smartphones or the pretty wedges and stilettos in vogue. Let this day, for a change, be a special occasion when we decide not to bow down before the demon of fear.
Should this be the day, when we stop worrying about dozens of `what
ifs`, and put our heart and soul in doing what we really believe in?
Should it be the day we stop fearing the economic downturn and what
recession jargons mean? Yes.
Should it be the day, when we stop thinking what others would think of us? Yes.
Should it be the day we would walk free out of the dungeons created by our own thoughts of what we cannot do? Yes.
We should know that `Yes We Can` is not just a political tagline used for votes by Obamas and Modis. Because, We Really Can - Be Free.