Happy Independence Day. Why day? Why happy? Most importantly why the Independence?

First and foremost, why must we celebrate an Independence DAY? Surely the massive struggle for Independence was not achieved in so insignificant and insulting a time as a day. It was a gut wrenchingly slow and dragging battle for which thousands of souls over far too many generations fought and died. It began from the first feelings of unrest among those suffering under the yoke of colonial oppression and continued till the last of the colonial overlords, wearied to the bone, finally took his leave of the land that had been to him successively a trading haven, a conquest, a property and a home.

Even if we do, in the impatience of contemporary life, choose to allot a mere day to acknowledge this monumental episode of our past, how can the complex emotions triggered by its memory be labeled by that grossly simplistic umbrella emotion: happy? It was a hard won independence, resulting as the result of a long drawn struggle, a world war, mutinies, marches and the silent protest of a nation wanting to exist. It inspired an utter cacophony of emotions. Feelings of relief, euphoria, thankfulness, bliss, bittersweet triumph and pure epiphany all swelled up when the realization dawned that this land was finally solidly ours. At the same time the joy was drenched in the sickening memories of partition, of violence which tore a country apart and the irreversible damage it wreaked. Will any amount of relief drown out the horror necessarily attached to the same historic incident? Surely the drowning cannot be so complete as to even leave behind an overall feeling of ‘happiness’ in its wake…

Finally, to tackle the issue of Independence: Why use such an uncompromising psychologically and socially relevant term to describe a historical victory? Our freedom from colonial rule was certainly a magnificent triumph leading to the re-assertion of our identity. However our country existed far before the British ever came seeking us. We have in turn been conquered and ruled by many invaders; most of whom got assimilated and became us while some were thrown back. Did we celebrate as Independence each little skirmish that led to an oppressive tribal chief, city chieftain or even king being ousted from power? However those fights won freedom too, highly valued by the victims in each case. Even today the struggle for independence is far from over. Whether it is a corrupt government, a negligent minister, an unfair law or even a tyrannical teacher, there will always be people trying to overpower us and deny us our rights. The fight against these oppressors can never cease as indeed our quest for finding new ways of defining and achieving freedom can never end.

Independence is a state of mind. It cannot be brought about unless every citizen truly feels free in our country. Perhaps when India can satisfactorily fulfill the needs of every person calling it home, protecting them and nurturing them, it will achieve that which is closest to ‘Independence with a capital I’- the selfsame one we so presumptuously celebrate each year.

However until that utopian ideal is achieved, let us be content with hoping that each one of us shall appreciate and acknowledge the multiple facets of one great historical achievement of our country, not an Independence but a more temporal albeit equally creditable struggle for freedom.

Here’s to a great victory!

What is the point of 62 years of independence if there’s no one out there to assert their liberty, to whine for their freedoms and demand their rights? Social activists, mahila mandals, politicians, actors – they’ve all had their fare share of grumbling and now it’s our turn to jump into the bandwagon. Freedom, here we come!

We want freedom in the classroom. Freedom to stand up and say “Sorry ma’am, I’m sure you think obsessing over the ramblings of dead Greek scholars spells bliss, but I beg to differ” and skip out of the class without fear of being dragged into the principal’s office by the ear. We’ve all come across teachers who angrily insist that no one is compelled to sit in his/her class and those not interested can walk out anytime but something tells me that the day we actually take them up on their offer would be the end of our budding education.

We want freedom in public. To sing our favourite song to ourselves on the metro, to do the moonwalk in the middle of the vegetable market, to try and run down the escalator going upwards. To do all this without being subjected to glares, open mouths or urgent calls to the mental ward of the nearest hospital.

We want freedom from “fashion” in all its glossy-papered, televised forms. The freedom to wear polar bear caps with little paws you can snuggle your hands into, green tees with purple salwars, slippers without the trademark PUMA or REEBOK stamped on them, peacock earrings and orange spectacles. To just get up in the morning and let your hand decide what you’re going to wear, not the thought of your stiletto-ed college-mates.

We want freedom from roadside Romeos. The freedom to walk down streets without being subjected to whistles and Govinda songs and eyes that scan with the efficiency of an x-ray machine. To not feel the necessity to burden our bags with pepper sprays and pen knives or sweat it out in Kung Fu classes. To not be forced to enquire about their ma/behen at home.

Most importantly, we want the freedom to just be. To live, and let live. To chart our own course and not be asked to fill in the footprints left behind by others. The freedom to fly, to soar, the freedom to be free.