...a word that we throw around to justify bad behavior, short skirts, hurtful words, jumping signals in the night…
Every year Independence Day becomes a time to reflect on the importance of where India is as a nation today. Having grown up in urban India, I have known freedom since I was old enough to yawn. Freedom meant that I could choose to wear the kind of clothes I wished, wear my hair short or long, black or red… It meant that I could play cricket with the boys as a 12 year old. It meant I could choose the books I wanted to read, the amount of religion I wanted to practice, the languages I chose to learn or not. Freedom meant that I could choose to study a branch of engineering as the only girl in that department, and no one stopped me. Freedom means that I can proudly go to a country on the other side of the world to get an advanced degree… because I want to… at which age, my mother had already had me. Freedom means that when I marry, it will be to a man of my choice, after my mind is ready to accept him as a partner. But this is not just me; this is every urban Indian man or woman.
Freedom is what I saw in rural India this summer. It was where a woman could walk around in her community, doing door-to-door sales, unaccompanied by any male member of the family. She could be an entrepreneur… and a mother… and a cook, homemaker, a wife, a daughter-in-law. And freedom meant that she could juggle all of these roles with WonderWoman-like dexterity. Freedom is where the son of a single mother from a small time town in rural Tamil Nadu could dream of getting an MBA degree from India’s premier business school… to achieve and then go on to start his own firm.
Freedom means that we no longer have the benefit of someone else’s wisdom, that we go on to make our own mistakes to learn from them. That we fall and get up and fall again. That we chart our own course, take our own risks, with no template that we have to follow, with no comfort of knowing how it all will end. Freedom is knowing that life comes full circle, but meanders in ways unique to each of us, to the choices we make, the heartbreaks we endure, the sacrifices we make, the successes we earn. Freedom is blooming where we’re planted. Freedom is, but only, a state of mind. Freedom is… everything we want it to be.
To India, Happy Independence Day.