61 long years back, at the stroke of the midnight hour when the world slept, India awoke to life and Freedom. A new country; with 31 states, 1618 languages, 6400 castes and 6 main religions was ready to face the big bad world with all its (crippled) might. At the sight of all its immense resources bound together by a catchy “Unity-in-diversity” tag; world leaders couldn’t help but suppress a shudder. The unwieldy British Colony was now on its own legs, all the forces behind its centuries of oppression down on their feet. The new nation had an aura of its own, punctuated by the hopes pinned on its leaders by its people. Hopes for change. Hopes for well-being. Hopes for Freedom!
This word freedom thus found itself firmly ensconced in the Indian lexicon. It symbolized a world of aspirations and goals of a newborn nation. ‘Freedom’ singularly encapsulated aspirations of the (then) five-hundred million strong populace. It was a powerful motivator; every utterance of the word in all its 1618 forms, evoking a sense of ‘respect’ routed from the independence-struggle nostalgia; even making hardcore desis bask in goosebumps. One tribe was quick to realize its prescience. Yes it was the tribe of our ‘honourable’ elected representatives themselves. The world thus assumed an inseperable role in electoral polemics and popular discourse. Politicians (mostly the brass of India’s Grand old party) twisted, turned and added never-before-seen dimensions to the word, raising it to immortal glory. When all the promises vanished into thin air as the time for ‘deliverance’ arrived… When all these demagogues were nowhere to be seen during the multitude of calamities that gripped the nation; the angry young Indian (epitomized by Mr Bachchan in the late seventies) arrived. With his advent, the country bequeathed an entirely new F-word. It had a purely antagonistic relation with the other F-word in popular parlance, but the context of its usage resembled the former so much that it won over, in a de-facto manner, that is.
That word, surprise-surprise, is “Freedom” again.
But how would a word that bore the brunt of the collective hopes of 1.1 billion citizens stoop to such low levels?! That’s the irony. The word itself symbolizes the pinnacle of our nation’s glory. However the stark reality wherein the true implication of the word is dissed and trampled upon, has actually stooped it to such abysmal levels. All of us (myself included) would speak tirelessly on the famed ‘freedom struggle’, thanks to our descriptive history textbooks and continual exposure to the media. But how many amongst us actually do our bit for our nation? How many of us respect the lofty ideals put forth by the struggle or even show some respect for it? No, it’s not just standing up to respect the national anthem, it’s not just hoisting the flag while participating in the Independance Day parade at school/college/office. It’s about giving back to your nation. One among a hundred thousand Indians may truly do that.
Confused? Allow me to elaborate. Consider a student X in a Govt. Engineering College. He, by some wild stroke of luck, managed to scrape a seat in this prestigious college. Being of a rather downgraded tribe, he’s being offered free education and even gets a yearly stipend. He enjoys his life at the men’s hostel, regularly leading drinking binges and ragging sessions. He has an array of backpapers, but somehow he finished his degree taking an extra year and got a job with a BPO firm in Bangalore. The belaguered government, already short of funds, has spent over five lakh rupees in helping him ‘secure’ his degree. This dude goes to Bangalore, works with his MNC and leaves a carefree life. He blows up all his salary on drinks, girls and fancy shopping from Brigade road, doing no one good. Elsewhere, an academically proficient, but ‘high-class’ student takes loans amounting to thousands of rupees to get admission to a private college, and drops out in the middle, unable to stand the ragging.
Isn’t this a blatant abuse of ‘freedom’? All this guy ‘gives back’ to the nation is debt. Not just monetary debt, but debt resulting from the degeneration of a civilization. While an insouciant guy gets to enjoy at the Government’s expense, a dedicated student is deprived of his education despite having to pay a high price. The scenario, of course is hypothetical, but similar situations reciprocate all about the country. Check today’s newspapers. Amid reveries on the ‘I-day’ (“Independance day” is too uncool. I-day is hip!), you’d see snippets on fears about lowered Growth rate projections. Growth, hah! Another momentous facade!! It’s just a function of blown-up conspicuous consumption! For every Indian who sips a glass of vodka, there are three who can’t even afford a morsel of food. And there’s an entire generation of us “buying shit we really don’t need” , “raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars.”
I’m not endorsing a blanket ban on consumer goods. A movie addict myself, I’m not saying that you should stop listening to Rock music and movies. It’s just because of their hardships that we are perennially zone on to ‘Linkin Park’ and ‘Maroon 5’ in our iPods. Instead of all the romanticized patriotism induced by that run-of-the-mill movie ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ on ‘UTV Movies’ this August 15th(today), lift up your a$, stand up, speak out and act! Sponsor a child’s education. Buy food to a poor man. Give up your high-flying job and start your own company. Pay your taxes.
Be proud of your country! Answer her call and give her back what you took away from her!
मेरा भारत महान!