Since past some years, I have come across one question that rises up especially around days celebrating India’s freedom and independence. ‘What are we celebrating?’ people, especially young people, ask. ‘Are we really free? Aren’t we all still slaves of all sorts of ills and treacheries?’ This year, this thought seemed to ring even louder in Delhi.
Well, we may not be free of all ills, but we are free to free ourselves of their burden. We are free to raise our voice in protest. We are free to question our own leaders. We are free to assert ourselves. Isn’t that worth celebrating?
Maybe, I think, all these questions arise because we can’t feel our own freedom. And we can’t now realize what a precious gift freedom and independence is. We did not struggle for it. We were born in free India. So we always had it. It was always there for us like the sky above us, the air around us, and the ground under our feet. We may sometimes in our heart thank the air, the sky and the ground, because we can see them and feel their benefit to us. But freedom is nothing more than an idea for us now. An idea whose benefit we can’t so easily feel because there always are several other dependencies, ties, and limitations that rob us of our experience of ‘freedom.’
Although we can’t realize it now, but freedom of India is an achievement won after a long hard struggle and innumerable sacrifices. Isn’t such kind of achievement worth celebrating?
We happily celebrate Friendship Day, Valentines Day and all sorts of other days. Why wonder at days marked for paying homage to our martyrs and expressing gratefulness to all those worthy people whose wisdom, hard work and genius has built our nation, given it a history to be proud of and has paved a road towards a hopeful future?
National holidays are not just marked to celebrate our freedom. They are marked to celebrate our achievements, our strengths, our aspirations, heritage, and our hopes. They are celebrated to remind ourselves what we have, how it was achieved, and how it must be guarded and nurtured by our own efforts.
That’s what I think.
But yes, there really are far too many burdens weighing our nation down. And more and more we are feeling an urgent need to free ourselves from those ills.
On this Republic Day, here’s my list of a few things that I’d most like to see my country free from. I might have written a list of things I want my country to have. But then, I think India already has everything. We just need to free our country from the heavy burden of our own sins. And then our country would once again rise and fly high with pride.
Well, here are the things I want my India free from:
1. Illiteracy: One of the major reasons that is preventing India from fully realizing her potential is that large number of us are still deprived of proper education. Future rises on the wings of dreams and aspirations. And dreams and aspirations can rise high only when they have the light of education guiding them towards the open sky. A lack of education is as big a handicap for any person as any physical defect. I know for sure that I would have been nowhere today had I not continued my education after my health problems forced me out of school after class seventh. It is my education that powers my dreams and gives me courage and means to pursue them. But too many of us are deprived of this vital power called education. And lack of education gives boost to all sorts of ignorance, misguided ideas and vulnerabilities. I wish my country free of all these. I wish my country free of illiteracy.
2. Corruption: Enough has been said about this in the past few years. I have nothing new to add. We all know well that the wheels of India would run smoothly enough if it were not for the thorns of corruption spread over every inch of the ground here. And we really must think above the pleasant notion that’s getting very popular these days. The notion that it’s just the politicians and the people in high places that are corrupt. They only appear more corrupt because they have greater opportunity to profit from their corruption and bigger gains to get from it. From a poor milkman to the wealthiest business king, given the opportunity to earn an extra rupee, most of us won’t mind a black spot on it.
3. Misplaced tolerance and selfish Intolerance: Since long, we have been tolerating corruption, ill-treatment of poor or backward people, abuse of women, abuse of our country, of our natural resources, and a lot many other ills. But we can’t tolerate if another driver cuts our path and moves ahead of us on the road. We can tolerate piles of garbage on the road, even in front of our religious places. But we can’t tolerate one wrong word said even jokingly against our religion. These days, the cases of people killing each other over a minor squabble are on a rise. A minor incident made to appear as a disrespect to religion, or even political leaders or parties can flare up into a riot. People can tolerate seeing their women getting abused, but they can’t tolerate seeing their girls falling in love.
I wish one day my India would be free of such misplaced notion of tolerance and intolerance.
4. Lack of civic sense: This is one thing that is as common in India as the corruption. ‘Respect of public property’ is a term we don’t understand. Respecting other’s space isn’t much favoured either. And keeping surroundings clean is a thing that’s totally considered the responsibility of just the authorities. We the People are just the poor victims of the filth that other people spread and the authorities don’t clean up. To celebrate without making noise is not our custom. To be courteous to elders in public transport is not fashionable. To be respectful of other people’s right to privacy is not being neighbourly enough. When we see someone in trouble, we can’t help because we have either put ourselves at a safe distance, or are busy enjoying the show. And so on. I really wish one day we would stop giving such a royal ignore to even the basic civic sense and would accept that spoiling our surroundings or inconveniencing others for our convenience is not our birthright.
5. Abuse of Natural Resources: India is a country rich in natural resources. But we scarcely care about that and are busy depleting our own treasure at the hands of our greed and carelessness. If we don’t stop now, the results are sure going to be disastrous. We really need to free ourselves of the greed and carelessness that’s proving fatal to our natural resources.
6. Misguided Faith: India is a nation of believers. We believe everything a little too easily. Be it the doctrines preached by all and sundry religious, spiritual or other varieties of gurus, or be it any sort of propaganda being spread around. We believe without bothering to questions its dictates. We follow its rules, suggestions and dogmas. And any word spoken against them, however true, is considered an insult. There is great power in faith, I know and believe. Faith can do wonders. But in wrong hands, it can also be used as a great weapon. In India, everything happens in large numbers. And so when a faith calls, people follow it in millions. Just imagine what a million misguided people can do! Or how much of time and money goes to waste when we follow and lay over trust in people or customs or rituals that don’t really have any truth backing them. I wish my country free of such misguided faith.
7. Divisive Politics: This is one danger that I feel getting stronger and stronger. When I was in school, we were taught that India is strong because India is united. Unity in diversity is the strength of India. Now our own leaders, be they political or religious, are using this very diversity, disregarding the value of unity, to fulfill their selfish goals. Indians are no longer just Indian for our own politicians. They are vote banks labelled under various community names. All sorts of quotas are being offered, slashing without care at our vital unity. People of one state are being encouraged to resent the people of another state. All this, just for the sake of saving their political position. Divide and Rule is the policy that has already ruined us once. Now we ourselves are forcing our country in its jaws. This should stop.
So, on this Republic Day, these are the ills that I wish my country to be free from.
What would you like to see India free from?
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