Right from my school days, I have always been asked what freedom means to me. I never had a definition of Freedom. I never had clarity on what people actually want to know. But it was an ever present, ever pervasive- “What does freedom mean to you? Tell us na!” I always wondered why I need to tell anybody else what freedom means to me. Why should I be answerable to anyone? And more importantly, why should we bother to ask what does freedom mean?
But I had developed a definition of freedom for myself. For me freedom is like the air around me. No one should ask, “What does air mean to you? Can you feel the air? How does it feel?” Freedom should be present like air- you must not need to discuss about it. It should become so much a part of our life that we should never need to search for it. That is the true meaning of freedom for me.
We live in an age when we are robbed of our sense of freedom at multiple levels. Yes, this may sound like a clichéd statement which we all have been hearing for many years. But few questions are still unanswered and these are extremely relevant to a very large section of the society which otherwise is not very vocal. Does a large section of the country have a freedom to pursue the kind of education they want to? Do they have a freedom to lead a life without any fear? Do they enjoy the freedom to express themselves freely? What are we doing to ensure these basic rights to them?
Six decades later the situation is complex in our part of the world. At a time when we have a country which has become less sensitive and less tolerant, freedom has lost its meaning. We have lost every right to celebrate Independence Day on August 15th when the country, and a prominent segment of the population, does not care for many. Yes, we have no right to wake up early in the morning on August 15th and wish our family members “Happy Independence Day!”
At this moment a poem by Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur becomes very important to draw inspiration from and strive towards creating a beautiful tomorrow.
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.
This article first appeared in Youth Ki Awaaz on August 15, 2013