Saturday, August 15, 2009

Freedom is...

...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.


'Smee! said...

"Freedom is knowing that life comes full circle, but meanders in ways unique to each of us"

Yeah baby!


mekie said...

Bravo! Well said.

Kavitha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kavitha said...

Beautifully written!

Being someone who worked in India in the recent years, I always bring up these changes when I argue for India with desis whose view of India is still a stunted one of the 90's when they left India.

Looks like the internship did you good :-)

MechaniGal said...

@Kavitha: Thanks :)

I wish the scene in desh was that simple... there are still communities that aren't free from age-old rituals, that are unwilling to accept the freedom to choose. To them, freedom is being able to practice their tradition, good or bad, with no one to question or challenge them.

MechaniGal said...

@Mekie: thanks :)

@'Smee: Thanks for coming back :)

Madhu said...

Wonderfully written. I can relate myself with most of the things which find the mention in this post. Freedom is still unequally distributed among people in India, but we are fortunate among the rest. I remembered one of my favorite quotes while reading this post.
Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them -- and then, the opportunity to choose.


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