THE UTOPIA OF FREEDOM

During my childhood days, Independence day always meant patriotic songs, pompous processions, humdrum speeches and delectable jalebis, all-in-all an eventful holiday to me. It was when I grew up a little that I started understanding the reason behind all these festivities. Independence day is a celebration of freedom, a reiteration of our rights and duties towards our great nation, I was told. As for rights and duties, they are clearly adumbrated in our constitution, it was the term ‘freedom’ which puzzled me quite a bit. What is freedom, I asked myself. Does this only mean that we can elect our own government who get to rule us, and not some foreign tyrants. Is it only symbolic or has an aspect to it which affects our day-to-day life? To which extent have we achieved freedom and how far do we have to further go?

Freedom is when we have the right to act, speak or think, when we’re not imprisoned or enslaved, the state of not being subjected to or affected by something undesirable. But is this all the freedom we’ve ever aspired for? Is this all we want as human beings?

On further contemplation, I realize that the essence of true freedom is the freedom of choice. When no one has to justify their choice or preferences to others as long as it lies within moral boundaries. It’s a society where a woman doesn’t get questioned if she wants to fulfil her career ambitions instead of ‘settling down’. Where a man doesn’t have to put up with scrutiny and interrogations like ‘’any issues??” if he wants to adopt a kid instead of having one.  

True freedom is when people supporting one end of a cause, don’t find the other side objectionable. When folks right wing or left wing, beef or no beef, Hindu or Muslim, can all live together in harmony without creating a hullabaloo out of dissent. Tolerance and sympathy are major constituents of this aspect of freedom.

True freedom promotes individual growth. It’s when all citizens get equal opportunities to evolve into their own spheres. Or, even break free from the sphere and pick a different trajectory if they want to. When no one is devoid of options. When a student isn’t discouraged to opt for pursuing liberal arts if that’s where his/her interest resides. It’s when the society and the nation lets a person be.

So, when we talk about freedom in truer sense, we still have a long way to go.

SLAVE TO OTHER’S JUDGEMENT

It was an early morning and Gunjan had a bad headache. She couldn’t sleep the whole night. The reason for this strong restless night was her husband who just wasn’t paying enough attention to her. There was no love, no care or no interest from his side. To make things worse, her mother in law would often taunt her for the fact that she couldn’t give them a grandchild even after 4 years of marriage. How would she tell her that she cannot produce a child alone?

Gunjan was stuck in a vicious circle. More she felt neglected by her husband, less she would care for herself too. She started over-working, staying late in the office, leaving home early. But none of this worked. She was almost always upset, sometimes she felt that she has forgotten how to be happy.

This is not just Gunjan’s story but many more such stories are living around us.

“She made me feel really small!”

“He made me feel so angry!”

“The way she said it – I couldn’t even control my tears!”

We have heard such similar statements so many times. I was living a life similar to Gunjan when I had all the reasons to be unhappy all the time and all those reasons were always the people around me. I learnt to sulk and was resistant to any help.

Many things later made me realize that I am a slave to other’s judgment and emotions. Did I have the guts to say “I don’t care, I will do what makes me happy”? No. I used to feel jealous of people who are selfish because they really don’t care for anything else except for their own happiness. They don’t care to be a perfect wife, daughter, friend, daughter-in law etc. I wish I could be like that.

I dealt with a lot of shocks and heartbreaks to realize that it is high time that I free myself off these chains. I need to be myself and really be that. Of course I don’t want to hurt people I love but I wouldn’t allow people to hurt me as well. If it is needed to demand – I shall demand. Why should I feel small just because somebody is being mean to me? Why should I boil my blood in anger because of somebody else’s mistake? Why should I cry because somebody else cannot love me or respect me enough?

It is not like I have changed drastically. I still fall back to my old self many a times. But I keep reminding myself that my life and my emotions are my responsibility. Nobody has a right to make me feel a certain way. Of course, as a human being I will react to certain situations but how long my reaction lasts shall be in my control.

If I achieve this at all times – I know that I will experience a complete freedom.

FREE FROM TRASH

Recently a famous Basketball player visited India and commented that how the Real India was very different from the India of his imagination. How there were cows and monkeys on the road, dirt lying around and the general apathy we have towards even heritage monuments like Taj Mahal. I was really upset. And so were a lot of Indians. And he tweeted an apology the very next day. The first thought that came to my mind was ‘How dare he say something like this about my country?” But if you don’t just react and sit back and think don’t you see some truth in his words? You don’t agree??

Ok fine he is an outsider why accept his words. Let me give you another example. During summer vacations my friend visited her brother in USA along with her two school going children. After a wonderful stay of two and a half months they came back to India. Their father went to the airport to pick them up. On the way back the elder son pointed out that how dirty the Mumbai streets are, how much dirt and filth is accumulated all around. His parents were amazed at how easily the child who had stayed all his life in India got sensitized to the dirtiness in just two and a half months. Have I made my point? Now how can you not accept the words of a 12 year old?

India completed 70 years of Independence on 15th August 2017. For me among other things, one major form of freedom would be the freedom from filth, dirt, waste, rubbish, garbage, trash or whatever you choose to call it from our streets and cities which has become so much a way of life for us that we seem to accept it as part of the landscape.

Next question would be ‘Whose responsibility is it?’ The general answer would be the municipality is not doing their jobs properly, what can we do? The system is not right here… etc. etc. I agree this is their job and they are trying to do it. I have seen the municipal employees working in inhuman conditions while collecting garbage. But the quantum is so huge that they can’t keep up.

I have another question. Who is increasing their job? For this let me give you a little background. We Indians love cleanliness a lot, our houses are kept spick and span. We don’t pray without taking a bath and in some household don’t even enter the kitchen without taking a bath. But this love of cleanliness is limited only to our house or compound. The moment we step outside it becomes none of our concern. I have seen people stepping out of a Mercedes car and carrying a Gucci bag and throwing the cold drink can nonchalantly on to the street. People not segregating the garbage before throwing it and expecting the sanitation workers to go through the muck and segregate it. Garbage getting accumulated around the garbage bins because someone is not bothered to go all the way to the bin and generally toss the garbage in that direction and move on. These are only a few examples but I hope you get the picture.

So the onus to keep our city clean lies with us. We as people need to learn to show a little more empathy rather than apathy towards our public property. Have a feeling of belonging towards your surrounding and don’t do anything deliberately to make it dirty. And most important raise the children is such a way that littering is not a way of life for them. My children carry empty packs of chips or wrappers in their bags or even pockets but never throw it outside. They have become so used to this that they stop even their friends from throwing trash out of the school bus and carry their trash back home to throw in the dustbin.

Keep our city clean. This is not just an official slogan it’s our duty. Remember way back when were kids we read in our civics textbooks that “Rights and Duties are two wheels on which the chariot of life and society moves forward.” If we take our rights so seriously we should be taking our duties also seriously.

When you stand on the road and look around and can’t see or smell garbage. Then according to me we are on path to true freedom.

MARRIAGE FOR YOU – A BOND OR BONDAGE?

Hello Everyone,

One of my friend recently sent me a message on WhatsApp defining “Oxymoron” which means a phrase where words of completely opposite meaning are brought together.  Example : Open Secret ( both the words are opposites), still used together.

One more example which made me laugh only to think later was “Happily Married” 😉.  Well they simply don’t go together or at least this is how many stand up comedians think so ( marriage is most commonly touched upon topic by almost every stand up comedian whom I watched so far).  And I would like to talk about it today.

My question to all of you, married or otherwise:  Is marriage a Bond or a Bondage to you?  I hope there is no need to explain the difference.

My understanding :  Since every relationship demands compromises and sacrifices marriage isn’t different.  Marriage is a bond when compromises are made for happiness – of individual and eventually it becomes mutual.  It becomes a bondage when compromises are made with the sole purpose of avoiding the arguments.  It goes like “I give up now, do whatever you want to do, I don’t really care”.  The first case is underlined by emotions of love and respect and the second case is marred by the feeling of bearing the person and the relationship.

Well it’s a very complex subject in itself that we might probably need a round table conference to discuss layer by layer 😁.

Marriage – Independence – Society -Individuals:  In India the institution of marriage holds a place of utmost importance.  It’s not just a definition of relationship between a man and a woman. It decides the fate of not just two individuals tying up the knot but the families involved.  It’s the society that frames the guidelines at first place about how a marriage should be, how the individuals are supposed to conduct themselves before and after marriage (predominantly for women). In short it’s the neighbors who are more curious and worried about your marriage than yourself because they are the society.

If you’re a girl:  In a country like India marriage starts doing rounds in parents mind the moment a girl hits puberty (true for majority).  Since then innumerable restrictions start making their place felt in a girl’s life.  For instance: Must learn how to cook; shouldn’t be headstrong; must learn to adjust (must be her second nature) in every situation; rebellious nature a big “NO” (in short no partying, no tattoos – for many they are symbolic to rebellious attitude).  I can go on and on, literally.  From what to wear to whom to talk and how to,  constant efforts are made to cage the free spirit of a girl.  Reason: If you don’t comply to set standards you won’t get married – it’s this simple and hell will break loose if you die single.

If you are a boy: Well I don’t want to be branded as a feminist by not discussing about how marriage  effect a boy’s life.  They do stand a fair chance of being discussed, isn’t it?  When a boy announces “Maa meri naukri lag gayi” (Mother I got job) the next big agenda on family’s bucket list is “Get him married”.   Even if he is insisting that he is not ready for a commitment,  reaction of parents be like “marry once you will be responsibly committed automatically”. And just the way marriage impose restrictions on a girl, it definitely impede independence of a man (I can see those chuckles from married men😉). The biggest threat that I have seen around is to the independence of choosing a career.  You simply can’t follow your passion  and learn the tricks of bartending, DJ-ying or be a writer.  Because they are not seen as viable career options yielding a regular/ sizeable income (read salary) which is very important to take care of a family that soon follows marriage.  An age-old notion that a man is the bread earner of the family is the root cause.

What’s really saddening?  When decision to stay together in a marriage is influenced by this question “what would everyone say” one should catch the hint “it’s not worth continuing”.  Sadly people are turning a blind eye towards it.  We are in a deplorable situation where crime in a marriage is acceptable than parting away and leading independent lives just because society is watching you and partly because a huge amount was spent on marriage ceremony (it’s sadly true).

For a marriage to be a bond it should be a decision of two individuals in love and mutual respect.  Anything other than that is a “Bondage“.

You can always beg to differ, waiting for your views.

THE DREAM OF A FREE CITIZEN

The dream to tread on the free soil of their beloved motherland was a dream left unfulfilled for the countless named and unnamed martyrs of India’s freedom struggle. Long nights of intensive strategising, violent and non-violent protests, famous slogans like ‘Go back Simon’, ‘Quit India’, ‘Give me blood and I will give you freedom’, boycotts and satyagrahas, non-cooperation movements and Round Table Conferences finally gave way to the jubilation of independence. The epic speech of the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament on the eve of India’s independence towards midnight, as the hour hand and the minute hand shook hands to welcome 15th August, 1947 began thus –

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…..”

What a joyous moment it would have been for those involved in the freedom struggle to breathe the air of their free motherland!!

Today, as we celebrate the 71st Independence Day, we have indeed come a long way. The freedom to emphatically run across the length and breadth of this independent nation with one’s head held high has been long realised. The freedom to own property, the freedom to sow and to reap, the freedom to manufacture, the freedom to buy and sell – has put India among the mighty nations of the world.

From a shattered economy, today India finds its name resounding along with the topic economies of the world. From widespread illiteracy to a decent 74.04% (as in 2016) of literacy of a diverse population amidst various stigmas to education, is no less a feat. The development from crippled industries and roadways to world-class industrial establishments and posh highways, is yet another achievement worth celebrating. From the years of famine and agricultural disappointments to the era of Genetic Engineering and numerous Food Revolutions, the progress sure deserves applause. Speak of Science and Technology we have the likes of Mangalyaan and the Chandrayaan to boast of.

The India echoed in the national song is truly an India witnessed today by the present generations – ‘Sujalam suphalam malayaja sheetalam Shasyashyamalam’

“Yet the turning point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes.” – said Pt. Nehru in his speech to the nation seven decades ago. 

As the star of freedom rose, Indians celebrated the independence from foreign rule. No longer were they subjects under Dominion rule. No longer were their wings clipped down. No longer were sons and daughters required to be martyrs. It was the time of self-rule. With their loins girded, the intellectual think-tanks set to give to Indians the exclusive rights of citizenship. The new found freedom was indeed a prized possession earned with much sweat and blood.

“May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed by.” – remarked Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the nation that significant night. 

The India of today, is a great example of unity in diversity. Diverse languages, religions and ethnicities have made India what it is.

But, the heart sinks as one witnesses the numerous threats to this hard-earned freedom!

The freedom that was reaped by a largely non-violent struggle is subject to vagaries of untold violence in the names of caste, sex, religion and ethnicity. The freedom of speech and expression provisioned by the Constitution has started being stifled to the extent of being silenced forever. The freedom to ‘profess, practice and preach’ the religion of one’s choice is being brought under the hammer with a heavy hand.

The unique blend that makes up India is under the threat of distortion in the pretext of Indianisation.

Social, economic and scientific development never happens overnight, and India is marching ahead in all these aspects. The future is indeed prosperous for this nation. No doubt about it!

But, what about the soul of India?

“We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.” said Nehru in his speech that night.

However, as the days go by it seems that the torch of freedom is on its way to being blown out – this time not by foreign rule, but by self-rule. The fetters that bind and the guns that shoot, the hatred that boils the blood and claims the lives of innocents, the hands that discriminate and strangle the underprivileged – belong to the high and mighty fellow citizens.

Was it for this type of a free nation that precious lives were sacrificed years ago? Where are the lofty ideals of:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation

We have so developed a ‘chalta hai’ attitude for everything that happens around us that misgivings don’t seem to be misgivings any more. Corruption? It happens every where! Domestic violence? What’s new in that! Hatred for neighbouring countries? That’s how it has always been! Dominance of the upper caste? That’s the societal norm!

The soul screams – ‘When will man respect man as man?’

Till we have fixated identities of sex, caste, religion, ethnicity, language and economic status of the people living around us, our perception will never be free. The shackles of intolerance, ignorance and apathy need to be broken down so as to be replaced with tolerance, awareness and compassion.

Not that these fetters are unique to free India alone, but the heart-cry of an emancipated soul is to see one’s nation soar high and high way – above the rest – to see the tricolour fluttering high in the breezy sky. As Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned –

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Yes, into that heaven of freedom, let India awake.

Jai Hind.

 

 

 

UNCHAIN ME

Am I shackled

Am I the one caged

Let me be free, craved my mind

untangle me from these traditions

let me enjoy the bliss of flying

unchain my wings

let it enjoy the flight

the flight of true freedom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What is True freedom? 

It is the inborn aggravations that remain in one’s heart to express what they feel is right and be oneself. In every point of life, we are either bonded by our religious traditions, family traditions, rules and regulation and what not?

In this era, even when modernization has clubbed our minds, we still are drawn to the older traditions that we grew up into. As a woman, I am only against the strong traditions that are against the women’s free will. There are still families who even though boast around modern family status still deep down considers Girls ” will ” as always a secondary opinion. Girls are still considered to be caged and tended as if they are to be tamed. They need to be well-dressed, well-mannered, obedient etc. etc. The one who deviates these basic rules laid by someone unknown but followed by every other one in the life is considered a “revolt”. 

A sense of freedom comes only when any child grows up in a healthy environment, where their interests and suggestions are inviting. Never let them hide away from people, nurture your girls to grow-up to be strong, independent and loving. Empower them to be strong enough to not to fall into the trap of “being good always”. There is no harm being bad at times. To enjoy a freedom to express, their untold emotions and desires, they need to learn to say “NO”. 

Every change to a society comes from an individual home. So let us build such an individual home, where their dreams to fly are encouraged. 

Be the mom, who show them the right path and Be the dad who can guide them to choose the right path. Be their strong foundation to let them do the right thing.

 

CANON OF TRUE FREEDOM

We are almost on the brink of celebrating the 71st Independence Day in India. We have progressed in many different areas whether its science, education, technology, agriculture and arms and ammunitions, after we got independence from the British rule. But when we sit down alone at times, do we have that sense of true freedom within us? Or do we have a sense of slavery to something that has been ruling us and ruining us?

The physical freedom is something very different and simple. But when we consider freedom in regards to our heart and mind then it makes the subject matter bit complicated. Before we see what freedom is, let’s see the opposite of it – ‘Bondage’.

Bondage is a state where a human loses the right to think and decide on his/her own. And when we realise that the things what we want to do we are not doing. but what we don’t want to do we end up doing, then we are under the slavery of some master that is controlling us for sure.

Ponder about it carefully.

I want to present THREE  views of (True) Freedom for you to understand and experience in life.

First View –

I stumbled up this quote by Karl Rahner that really stirred me:

“How often I have found that we grow to maturity not by doing what we like, but by doing what we should. How true it is that not every ‘should’ is a compulsion, and not every ‘like’ is a high morality and true freedom.”

What a quote it is! Doing good actually has no rules against it but doing wrong things have. True Freedom starts by doing the things what we ‘should’ be doing because not every ‘like’ is a high morality and true freedom.

That is why the Bible instructs and encourages us:

“Let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right.”

Because the time we become slack or weary doing what is right we tend to get into some kind of bondage.

Let me illustrate it for clear understanding:

A person likes to sleep till 10 o’clock but gets up at 7 o’clock because he needs to go to office. Here, he did what he ‘should’, not what he ‘liked’. The author says that by doing such things which we may not like, but should do… we grow. And if we do the opposite we get into a habit of laziness and after sometime we become a slave of  those habits. We lose our freedom in truest sense.

Second View –

It is said, “Education enlightens us”. And when we are enlightened we get out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition. Because of education we come to know and understand the truth around us… We get to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, what is truth and what is a lie. The same way when we educate ourselves about God and His characters we get to know the truth and right which ultimately gives us freedom. That is why the Bible says it right:

“Know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Let me give another example to validate the above quote…

When children lie to their parents, they feel guilty and keep telling lies to cover each of their previous lies. They feel culpable, they feel like in bondage till they get rid of that period or shackles soon… But when they understand the love of their parents and understand that their anger or correction are good for them (which is the truth) then they try to do the right thing from the beginning or tell the truth if they do something wrong and feel a sense of freedom.

Third View –

“In reality, if we are willing to consider it, we can distinguish between what it means for us to be free from something and to be free to do or be something. Freedom from and freedom to are two sides of the freedom coin.”

Absolutely! If we need to experience true freedom then it is important for us to know from what we need freedom and for what we need that freedom. When the children want freedom from parents and their disciplines they want that freedom for themselves to enjoy something which might not be correct for them at that stage. But instead of craving for a false freedom if they understand what the reason behind that discipline is then it will be easier for them to follow it and they enjoy obeying their parents in a sense of true freedom.

To conclude this article keeping three of my above views in mind I would like to say that, we experience true freedom when we have a change of heart knowing and understanding what is truth and right with a clear idea of the two sides of the freedom coin.

Stay Blessed!