Are we free this I-Day?

As India celebrates its 72nd Independence Day, there is much fanfare on social media, a heightened security on the streets and the lure of that special holiday for a working person. August 15 does not pass off as a conventional festival, so there are no overtly decked shops selling nationalistic knick-knacks.

An old man who sells plastic tricolor flags reminds me of the impending day. As he roams amid people waiting at traffic lights, he catches attention and a few flags are bought and fixed on bikes and cars or given to children. Apart from the flags and the flamboyant speech of the prime minister, there is nothing much to remind us about the specialty of the day. Independence is symbolic. It’s a day which reminds us that we are free when for the rest of the days we are slaves to our deep-rooted habits. One I-Day is not enough to shake them away.

We are driving behind a car. At frequent intervals, an empty water bottle or a packet of chips emerges from the window. They are trying to keep the car clean but littering the road. We grumble at their lack of civic sense. If the car belongs to them, the road belongs to all of us. But we are free people and you cannot question any one’s freedom even if it does not align with your sensibilities. 

While driving to school, my daughter spots a man urinating in the open. She giggles and I get uncomfortable. She questions me if people do the same in other countries. I sigh and answer that we are a free nation and we cannot question their actions and pass judgements even if it creates an environment of exemplary bad behaviour in front of kids.

On the way to the market, a group of youngsters shamelessly gawk at a young girl. The teenager gets conscious and when she makes a deft move past them, they treat her with some filthy comments about her dress which she chooses to ignore. I wonder what kind of licentious freedom this is where your words transgress the boundaries of respect and inflict a subtle damage on someone else who guards her own freedom with a steadfixed resolve by asserting her right to wear anything. 

Indeed, we are free but we do not act with a free will and a free mind. We emulate each other. Unfortunately, we do not set new precincts, new benchmarks for ourselves that can redefine the independence that has been granted to us in a nation where democracy is the hallmark. 

Let us be free this Independence Day from the boorish mentality that tells us that it’s okay to act in the same repetitive way. For a change, let us be independent of our old mindsets and bring a fresh whiff of change. Let us act and assert our freedom in positive ways. Real independence lies in being your own person and drawing your own boundaries. 

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Are we free this I-Day?

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