As India celebrates yet another Independence Day I do wonder what it means to me..does it mean anything? I mean, am I happy that we are Independent? Are we really independent in every sense of the word?
To most people who were born in free India, 15 August is a holiday. One day that everyone gets off from work. One day when we bring out the flags and wave them, and then put them away till February approaches, when we bring them out for Republic Day celebrations.
To people who watched freedom being granted, like my grandad, it meant something more. He used to listen to the Prime Ministers speech from the Red Fort. He used to stand up, despite his really bad knees, for the National Anthem. For him independence came at a high price. In leaving Lahore, where many generations of my family had lived, he lost more than just property and wealth. He lost frieds, he lost his ability to move amongst a mutli religous group of people, and his roots, his culture which was steeped in Urdu poetry and walks around Lahore, family traditions which had been kept in place at the Haveli he lived in, he never thought we would not go back to his house, his friends. The finality of the Partition and Independence that came along with it, was something that took many people, a long time to get used to. He had to redefine his own identity. The price of freedom was high.
For me, a free India defines identity for me. Yes we have progressed and moved ahead in many many, many ways. Yes we have now a definition of whats Indian and whats not. yes we as a nation have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice.
India is homeland, its the country where I walk in with a passport and sail past immigration. Hindi is the language I speak. Freedom to make choices is something that cost us a lot, personally and as a nation. Yet at times, when I watch whats happening in India..politically, economically and socially...I do wonder if we forget at times, that we became free to be able to self determine our futures.
Tagore wrote a poem, Where the Mind is Without Fear, which I learnt in school, but which means a lot more every time I go to India. And now I think, his work, is still being ambitious. For a lot of us, freedom has arrived, for many more people freedom was something that came and went. A country of paradoxes, of extremes, of every possibility being likely is how I see India. For every poor person, a ridiculously rich one, for every illiterate - well educated qualified one, for every nice person - a terrible counterpart, for eery hovel, jhuggi and shack - a large mansion with the landscaped garden.
There are indignities, unhappiness, disappoinments on a daily basis. But..but we have, well, some of us have moved on to say, yes we can make a change,no we wont accept anything that is given to us, yes we shall question decisions and issues, we have rights and we shall use them. Some of us have stopped blaming the 'system' and looked inwards. That is something I am proud of.
I know I cant change everything, no one can. But I am glad to see that there are a lot more people who think the same way and make a difference in which ever way possible, a difference to a person, a community, a location or a concept. We are redefining things..and I think, though we have not awoken to Tagores aims in totality, I think we are awake enough to know where we are going, and make our own paths.
Happy Independence Day to all Indians, lets keep at it, and keep going. And someday this poem might come true in totality.
Where The Mind is Without Fear
Rabindra Nath Tagore
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
from Rabindra Nath Tagore's Geetanjali