What is it to be truly free?

Happy independence day first of all! Today’s a glorious day in the history of our country when our forefathers finally got the taste of freedom they had longed and fought for, for decades, for which they had made sacrifices we cannot even begin to fathom. For them, that freedom was of utmost importance and the nation was the utmost priority. Lives of individuals were secondary to this notion of a nation. It is truly commendable, the kind of passion that they had. The intensity of nationalism they had is seldom seen now.

Nowadays, nationalistic sentiments arise among us during cricket matches, especially against our beloved rival, Pakistan, who we ironically used to share our patriotic spirit with, way back when! Its not a bad thing, this. People, especially independence-era oldies, sometimes say that we need to put our country’s interests before our own, & that we must be ready to lay down our lives for her, etc. However, I believe that the youth of today can’t quite be blamed for not quite feeling that way.

After all, most of us have never had to taste the kind of struggle that our forefathers did, unable to be free & do what they wanted to. In fact, the only little exposure that I personally have had to the British Raj era are Bhagat Singh movies & (definitely) biased accounts of their cruelty. After all, history is scripted by the (um, eventual?) winners, right? It might sound a little offensive, but it’s just my viewpoint. I mean, it couldn’t ALL have been bad, could it?

So since my idea of freedom is a little skewed because of my ignorance about the pre-Independence condition of our nation, I’d like to elaborate on my perspective about the meaning of a few facets of the freedom rights we enjoy/misuse, based on things I actually AM aware about.

Freedom, to me, is fundamentally analogous to the notion of happiness. We are constantly in pursuit of both, knowingly or otherwise. At the risk of being branded a nerd, (that ship MIGHT have set sail long ago :D) I believe our objective function in life is to maximize happiness while adjusting all the remaining parameters that we may or may not be in control of. And when we encounter the latter variety, we realise , sadly, that our function needs to be “adjusted” accordingly so that we can at least “locally optimize” it if not globally.

I believe the same applies for freedom. We try and we try, as genetically rebellious beings, to be free of the shackles we are bound by, to be free of the pressure we are put under, to be free of our physical or mental limitations, to be free, to be free! We never are truly free though. All that happens is we hand over our reins to someone, or something, else.

I wanted to point out different principles which, if came to fruition, would make me believe that I live in a truly free country. But as I wrote them down, a common denominator came up-Society, and the pressure we face on account of it. What started out as a necessity in order to achieve our freedom, has slowly degraded into an inexplicit form of oppression.

For instance, we as a society have lost our sense of individualism. In the heat of the freedom movement, we had decided to shed our individualism and become a united force of sorts, one to be reckoned with. But once we achieved independence, we forgot to go back to our individualistic lives. We still largely remained ‘a nation’ and not quite ‘people in a nation’. Most gave up their individualism and never took it back. We decided to live as a herd, together in each step of the way. We frown upon people at times who would like to be individualistic. After all, “Log kya kahenge?!” Living in a society has its advantages, but nowadays, the cons are overpowering them. People are afraid to do anything out of the ordinary for the fear of being outcast from a society and being frowned upon constantly. We have made people lose their desire & their will to become individuals, to take the path not traversed. Being an individual is important, else one ends up being just a ‘statistic’. And, contrary to popular belief, being an individual doesn’t harm society but makes it stronger. People who do things they want to, tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives, and happy, productive people tend to make better members of society. After all, as a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious nation, unity in diversity is our motto, one we truly live by! 🙂

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