“I – ME AND MY LIFE” – IS IT ABUSING FREEDOM!

Uff… How annoying are my Mom and Dad! I don’t like anyone interfering in my personal matter it’s I – Me and My life. Do I need to check with them before making friendship! I wish I could be away from home, somewhere in a big metro city, having my own space, having as much money as I can in my wallet, there will be no one to question on my lifestyle.    

Any middle-class Indian teen can easily relate to my teenage wish. It was 2016, I had recently moved to Kolkata. I came to know one guy from my hometown, who is known to me also lives in Kolkata. Several times, I tried to connect with him but always found him making some excuses for the busy schedule. Later on, one of his friends revealed me, it would be better for me to ignore him and stay away from his mess. His flat was not in the condition that any gentleman can stick there for a few minutes. After a few months, I came to know that he lost his job and had moved to our hometown.

During his college days, he was one of the most handsome looking guys in his group, financially quite sound and had studied from one of most prestigious schools But Now has lost health, unemployed and running out of money. He is a drug addict and lives an absconding life.   

“Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse” – Dr. Ravi Zacharias

Freedom of will is indispensable and gives worth to every individual but it doesn’t give us the license of absoluteness. Freedom is always within the fence. But as we ignore the fence we misinterpret the definition freedom as “ABSOLUTE”. By doing it we abuse our freedom, considering it as an approval for anything and everything.

The Bible says,

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – BUT NOT everything is good for you.

You say, “I am allowed to do anything” – BUT NOT everything is beneficial”.

One of the common slogans of our generation is “Speed thrills but never kills”. Gearing beyond the speed limit is a thrilling experience and a smart work of hitting destination before time. Speed is freedom to enjoy the ride but gearing beyond the speed limit is jeopardizing our own life and our co-riders life. We can never deny the truth that, our life is not only hooked to our individualism. Our family’s life – our friend’s life – our community’s life is keenly weaved to the strands of our lifestyle.

An extramarital affair will not only devastate an individual’s personal life but moreover, it devastates his spouse’s life, it risks his family reputation and corrupts his community’s morality. Abusing freedom by understanding it as absolute is jeopardizing the sacred right of self and others.

The Bible says,

“No one should seek his own good, but the good of others”

By abusing freedom I traverse the moral and ethical boundaries of mine and others as well. As the end product of this violation, the enmity is created and we are tagged with all kinds of disgraceful identities and our life becomes a burden for self and to others.

God has created every individual for a unique purpose and a reflective splendor of him but by abusing freedom we create enmity with God and others.

The Bible says,

“It is because of your debauched life you are alienated from God and become the enemies of God in your mind.”

Let’s not abuse our freedom but fear God and shun evil!

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DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM

What’s Freedom? Probably not setting up the alarm in the night and not worrying about the clock ticking in the morning; stuffing up your favourite dishes without giving a damn to calories or pounds; spending without having to think twice about the bank balance and so on. But these things are too trivial, in fact, insignificant to define a deep and profound concept of “Freedom”.  My dear friends Chiradeep, Aastha, Prerna Aditi have beautifully given their insights on the same.  To be precise this week is about “Misuse Of Freedom”. Let’s see if I can bring something new to the plate, fingers crossed.

I hail from India, the largest democratic country in the world, where people have a say, rather “The Say”. It’s the public that elects their leaders to lead from the front.  To say the least, everyone knows what democracy means.  Our constitution makers after freedom decided to award a democratic setup to the generations to come because they precisely know what slavery means. And antonym to slavery is free, isn’t it? In my opinion, it won’t be wrong to say that “Freedom” is an unmistakably characteristic trait of democracy.

Freedom to choose and elect, freedom to practice the preferred religion, freedom to speak, freedom to contest (elections), freedom to form associations and so on so forth.  We really are a free nation. Really? That’s worth a point for a good debate.  Well, I am not up for that at this point.  Let’s focus on “Misuse” of freedom in a democracy.

Just as freedom (trust), when breached in a relationship, leads to disturbed bonds and emotional shutdown freedom in democracy when misused gives birth to disharmony in the country.  The bricks of democracy are laid on the foundation of trust – on its public and the government, trust that they will work in tandem with the interests of the country.  But alas there is no dearth of examples where this grant of trust/freedom is not only breached but murdered brutally.

Let me list a few examples:

  • A stand-up comedy show and a certain gentleman cracking up the most distasteful / under the belt jokes about a particular section of people in the society.  And when questioned it was all tucked under the carpet in the name of comedy. And freedom of speech card used effectively.  How appropriate is that?
  • A group of people shouting out anti-national slogans or instigating and poisoning minds  – again freedom of speech is highlighted.  Doesn’t it amount to being a traitor? Questioning the government on its policies is exercising freedom to question but conspiring against the country is treason, case closed!
  • A public servant or a politician misappropriating public funds for their personal purposes, amassing illegal wealth is a classic example of misuse of many things per se power, trust, freedom to build future.
  • Electing an unsuitable candidate as a leader purely based on false propaganda without a fact check is a misuse of freedom to elect which can only result in damaging the future of the country in an irrevocable manner.
  • Freedom to Express themselves is often misused as a right to abuse on social media and people often forget that if they have freedom to express themselves others also have freedom to disagree.

That was a handful and of course a very vague view of how “Freedom” could be and is misused in a democracy.  Freedom is a precious gift that must be cared for because of freedom exercised with responsibility no matter in what capacity paves a way for a better future, period! Freedom doesn’t mean to encroach other rights. And when freedom in a democracy is misused that’s what exactly happens – abuse of others freedom and rights. A small example: you have are free to celebrate your success at your home with your near and dear ones and in that process you break all the rules pertaining to the decibel levels thereby disturbing your neighbour’s sleep. On questioning you say “that’s my choice how to celebrate”.  Fair enough but what about the other party’s right of having a peaceful environment.  This happens.

We must value our democratic set up as much as we do our freedom as it demanded so many sacrifices, remember it.

Have you ever wondered why we need policing, rules and laws? Simple – to instill fear (respect is a minority, unfortunately) of consequences if your rights or freedom as a human or citizen are misappropriated.   They are to give everyone a fair chance of exercising their “freedom” and to curb misuse of it.

FIGHT FOR RIGHT!

Freedom of speech is under peril and suppression is on the rise. This has been a constant fabrication for centuries. But today’s risk is not only being incited by tyrants and sovereigns, as was the case in the past. Rather, it is being stoked up by the very people who are thought to protect this principle: democratically elected bureaucrats, artists, and journalists.

Article 19 of Human Rights declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. Yet, this right is unquestionably not certain because of the basic components of language.

Words, sentences and passages release impacts. They provoke sentiments in audiences and users. Language is never unbiased.

But far too often it is the case that analysts and diplomats give rise to unrealistic and absurd social aspects through the means of their platforms. They post, tweet and share to turn the tide of public opinion in or against sensitive matters, using inception and inducement to their personal cause.

Grievously, these radical viewpoints are not just limited to the boundaries of society. Rather, they are part of the game for governments in the mainstreams. At times of elections, these governmental bodies themselves hints that the right to freedom of speech is being used for worthless, adverse and evil purposes. This leaves us with a bigger problem, how to make sure there’s no obvious abuse of one’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Owing to the heedless exercising of our right to freedom of speech, the decree to reduce the liberty of viewpoint and effect is, regrettably, growing powerful. It is an extremely saddening reality that general theory of common man infers that the circumstances are worse enough that they want their governments to resolve to forbid such speeches and therefore propose degrees of censorship.

Though the aim of forbidding people from making an attacking comment is good, it nevertheless serves as a catch-22 situation because it would deliver the governments with way too much authority in selecting what is or isn’t offensive. With power comes duties – and in this singular context, one’s duty includes not invoking disorder, chaos and mayhem. It is hence obvious why people would want to back governmental impose of censorship upon the manipulation of freedom of speech.

Only and only by using language for the right causes can we secure the liberal right to freedom of speech. However, like I always say, this isn’t a one-way road. Well-known figures, shouldn’t use blasphemy or profanity in a manner that justifies extensive monitoring and restrictions of our speech.

To sum it up I would like to recite Voltaire’s famous quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

ABUSING THE POWER OF FREEDOM

I was wondering, what are in the world that gives us the power of freedom which we ultimately abuse or manipulate or misuse. And I found quite a number of things that allow us this Power of Freedom. And tonight, I would love to talk about them one after the other.

LEFT ALL ALONE

Have you ever stayed all alone at home? What do you do when you are all alone? Do you do things which are not allowable or permissible when your family members are around? Do you just freak out? Do you roam around naked (nothing to care about) in the house? Do you wait for that time when you can be left alone in the house so that you can accomplish your mischievous acts?

But why do we do like that?

I have stayed many times, all alone in my house. And that is the time I feel I have all the powers of this earth. That is the time when I feel, I can do everything that I want to as there’s no one to watch me or instruct me or interfere in my matter or obstruct me. I feel I have all the freedom I can ever have at that particular moment of aloneness. But that is the time I was put to test – The Test of Utilizing my Freedom.

No elders or parents would leave a kid alone in the house because they know that they are not matured enough to utilize their freedom. They can even put themselves to great danger. So, they were not given that liberty or freedom to stay alone at home.

My uncle who is also the founder of the organization I work in, always says one thing: “I don’t like tying you up with rules and regulations or police around you, but allow you the freedom to grow and explore yourself within this organization with diligence and sincerity.”

But somewhere we lack to handle that power of freedom bestowed on or entrusted to us. I have failed in it many times, I won’t lie. And I know we all fail at this or that point of time in our life when we were left all alone.

The Bible says – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

DARKNESS

By darkness, I mean the opportunity of not being caught or seen. This is actually quite similar to being left all alone but there’s a difference here which I will explain.

Suppose, in a hall where many are celebrating an occasion and the parents of a boy barred him not to tease the small girl of another couple. But unfortunately, there is a power cut and the hall became pitched dark for two minutes. And that darkness gave the boy the power of freedom and he went and pinched the cheeks of that little girl, to which she started squealing aloud. The boy would not have been punished severely by his parents if he would have obeyed his parents and would not have misused that momentary freedom he got because of darkness.

Thieves get that power of freedom when it is night or dark. Trust me, things that are done in darkness or undercover are never a righteous or pious one. Bribes are always given under the table.

Are we waiting for the lights to switch off so that we can misuse the power of freedom we get because of that darkness? Keep pondering.

The Bible says – “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

MONEY/WEALTH

Money gives the purchasing power as well as the power of freedom to its owner. And mostly, they misuse it.

I remember, when I used to get a small salary, my monthly budget was small obviously and above that my desire to acquire things were lesser. But when I got a good amount of money at the beginning of the month, I felt that power of freedom to buy this, that and many other things which I never used to think of. Don’t think that I am talking about necessary items needed at home. I am talking about useless things which I buy sometimes and regret later on.

In most of the lower-middle-class family, you would find them struggling after 25th of every month. Why? Because they used up their money lavishly using their power of freedom in the beginning and have nothing or very less money to buy the essentials for the last fourth or five days.

Hilarious??? But that’s the truth.

The Bible says very interestingly – Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?

If I go on like this, I can find many such things that allow us complete freedom, either for some time or forever. Like the gift of FREEWILL, Power of Freedom is also attached with a series of responsibilities to it which are needed to be carried out in a better way and not to misuse it.

Whether it is in our home among all the family members, whether it is within the marital boundary, whether it is at our workplace, we do get that power of freedom in our hand to exercise it. Do we use them wisely or misuse it for our selfish desires and addictions?

Remember: “The abuse of liberty leads to bondage, the bondage of sin.”

Keep reading, keep pondering…

Stay Blessed!

EXPLOITING THE FREEDOM

Sia (distant relative) and Nikhil have married two years ago. First few months went so well. But gradually, Sia realized Nikhil was controlling her. He wouldn’t allow Sia to talk to anyone, including her parents. If she talked to her parents, Nikhil would abuse her for this. Also, he would ask her to wear only the clothes approved by him and eat what he likes. At first, Sia thought her husband was caring for her but then it became suffocating for her. She would forgive him every time but Nikhil would never change. Now, they live separately and are on the verge of getting divorced.

I have a friend who was in a relationship with a girl long ago. Like every other guy, he too was smitten on his girl. For him, the girl was perfect and so he loved her a lot. He made sure not to control his love. The girl had many guy friends. Whenever my friend would ask about those guys, she would say they were just her friends. However, the girl was cheating on him and was dating many guys. After knowing the reality, my friend ended the relationship but she would call him every other day and would say, she doesn’t want to leave him. Also, she was not willing to leave other guys as well.

Reema was dating a guy and both of them were in a long distance relationship. The girl was of liberal thinking and so, she never minded her boyfriend befriending other girls. The boy, however on the other end was having some other plans and so, he cheated on Reema. The guy started dating one of his friends and when Reema came to know this, he denied and accused her of suspecting him.

The above incidents tell about how people misuse the freedom given to them by their partners and how they don’t realize the value of their other half.

When it comes to a relationship, we preach so much about “space” and “freedom”. We say every human should have freedom irrespective of whatever relationship they are into. But do we actually retain its meaning? At times, we start taking this freedom for granted. Or, maybe we don’t understand the true meaning of freedom in a relationship.

If your partner gives you freedom, then this doesn’t mean you can have a relationship with other people at the same time or you don’t have to be in limits. When you get into a relationship with a person, that person becomes special. But if you exploit the space, no one is as evil as you. Misusing the rights allowed to you doesn’t make you great. This shows, you have no respect for your partner and you do not value him/her.

Concluding, I can only say that – when you value the space given by your partner, the relationship becomes a fairy-tale but when you become controlling or crossing the limits, you ruin the relationship.

USE FREEDOM IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY

One day I was deeply drowned at work when my cellphone rang flashing her name… I paused for a second, answered the phone. Before I could even utter a word she said, “Aastha, listen, just listen.. If I need shelter for a couple of months along with my daughter at your place, would you be fine with that? My sister is getting married this May and I want to leave my husband after that. I am done handling this marriage. I want to get out of it”, “That’s not a problem, but are you ok? Where are you now?” I was worried about her. She said she is doing fine, disconnected the call saying she would call later.

Her name is Ujwala. I met her on a group trip to Goa. We were standing besides the bus waiting for a lady to join us. She is a married woman with a small kid (2 years then), travelling solo.. It makes me happy when I see women, especially married and who have kids travel. It can be relaxing and liberating at the same time. A white color Swift stopped besides us. Ujwala got out of the car holding her little girl. A few mins later, we heard loud shouting followed by Ujwala throwing her phone on the road, crashing it into pieces. Her husband took the baby from her, brought her to us, bid her good bye and he left. I sat beside her in the bus, the whole night she was very silent. She wasn’t crying either. I did not make any attempt to talk with her except for exchange of names. The next morning, we were on our way out to the beaches nearby, when she slowly made her first attempt to talk.. , “I think you saw what happened last night. I am sorry, it was embarrassing for me too. That’s my husband. He can be very irritating at times so much that I cannot take it“. I told her that’s fine and not to worry about that getting noticed.

It was a three day trip to Goa. Ujwala enjoyed her time during the trip though she was moody at times. She drank, smoked weed for the first time. (I neither drink or smoke, so I get to enjoy all the scenes that happen after one is drunk :p) Ujwala had a hint of childishness in her which everyone of us noticed. It is hard to guess she is a mother if one hasn’t known that. On our way back to Bangalore she told me most of her story. She was crying, I was holding her hand consoling her. She said her husband is very controlling, abusive and doesn’t like it if she wants some space. By the end of the story she asked me,”Aastha, tell me what should I do? I don’t want my daughter to have an abusive father. She has all the right to have a free life unlike me who is bound by so many rules. If it was you in my situation, what would you do?“. I was taken aback by the sharpness in her eyes and the intensity with which she demanded an answer from me.. “Ujwala, I am no one to tell you what you should do. You have a little girl whose future is in your hands if at all you decide to part ways with him. I don’t know if your husband is going to agree to give her to you. It would be a battle in which you would be subjected to a lot of stress but you should ensure you little one is happy. Think about the consequences and the level of preparation needed mentally to handle all that. You should make a choice of what you can handle, me or no one else is entitled to make that decision for you..

I met her on one more trip. Later on she said that she has been abroad for a week long trip and enjoyed it. Out of curiosity, I asked her, how often does she gets time to go on trips. She said once a month, internationally one or two an year and she travels alone while her husband and mother-in-law take care of her daughter. She complains that her husband watches cricket at home and that makes her feel bad as he isn’t spending time with her. I have heard a series of complaints from her about her husband over time about not giving enough freedom and was very confused.

I could not understand if I was overthinking about her. I wondered if I was judging her. What is freedom? Is it not going on solo trips as often as we like? Is it not getting time to spend with one self when our significant other is watching TV or doing whatever they like. Unless TV is what he/she does all day long, once in a while watching a series isn’t a problem. If we can enjoy watching that match we can join them or do something that makes us feel good. Holding a grudge on them for this and blaming is like victim blaming.

Ujwala is a trained dancer, she could have opted to teach dance to kids in her apartment, let alone teaching she could have participated in events that happen in her apartment complex. She sings so well, I would just love to hear her singing all day. She is a writer and writes her own blog. She has a full time job and a little kid. I think she is getting ample amount of time for herself. May she is just unable to define what freedom means to her?

Many of us do not define what makes us happy and find it convenient to blame on others for not giving us space. While this is one part of the problem, the second part could be that we are not respecting the time we are getting for ourselves. If we while away the time we have on social media and chit-chatting with others, then that is what makes us happy. Asking for more and more time while not utilizing the time properly is our problem than it is a problem with freedom in any relationship. Defining how much time we would need and what are we going to do with that time is an open dialogue we can have with the other person in the relationship. If the partner feels it is more than what they can handle, this should be the time we discuss than blame each other later. Me time and privacy are as important as being open for adjustments. If you always feel that you are the one sacrificing the me time, there are only three possibilities, either you are trying to fix your partner always or not getting the time or misusing it. What exactly is causing this would lead you to a solution… Just remember, freedom has limits too…

MARRIAGE A CONTRACT OR COVENANT?

(In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Happily Ever After.”)

Marriage is a wonderful relationship, which according to general opinion is made in heaven. It is partially true because marriage is a union instituted by God, but also the partners have to play vital role to keep the fire of love burning on earth. It involves the active participation of both the partners in working out a good, healthy and everlasting marriage.

hand-861275_1920In the present generation with modern ideas about freedom and self- centeredness creeping in, marriage is viewed as a Contract between two persons. Two people make a deal to experience “live in” relationship as long as it suits them. With the appearance of suffocation and boredom, the partners split with mutual understanding. These relationships are not based on love but selfishness and ambitions, which can be easily broken. Sometimes marriage is treated like a business deal. Faithfulness until the work is done.

The correct perspective of marriage is that it is a Covenant between two people along with the presence and witness of a third party (actually the first) i.e. God. The seriousness of the Covenant relationship can be understood when we look at the unfailing and ongoing relationship of God with human beings. Though we fail time and again to keep our promises of faithfulness and love towards God, yet God remains faithful and never gives up on us.

A Covenant signifies an eternal relationship. It cannot break with the storms and tempests of life. Rather it grows stronger and sweeter with each passing hurdles. When two people commit themselves to each other for a lifetime, it demands undivided devotion, unflinching love, and unwavering faithfulness towards each other. This is possible only with God as the strong Foundation. If He is the chief corner stone, friend, philosopher and guide of both the partners, there is 100% guaranty that any marriage, no matter how miserably mismatched according to the worldly standard will never hit the rocks but will always have a safe landing in spite of rough weather.

Swapna Nanda