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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

I wrote a poem on Independence day... and it was perhaps the most spontaneous post I have ever written. It came bubbling out with all the effervescence of my particular brand of patriotism, on a date when such an emotion is thankfully allowed to just be, without carrying the tag of being out of fashion.

Yet I get this clawing feeling, that it's all a lie. We're not free. Not really.

The only people who deserve to be acknowledged as truly free, ought also to be free of themselves. Emancipation of the mind, not just the land.

As a clan, we display a disorienting lack of self respect and self discipline. Have you noticed how we tend to abuse all the laws that have been laid down for our own safety? Or that once we are caught, we will do almost anything, from bribing to stating our personal connections to higher- ups, to get out of trouble? Anytime there is any issue, or problem, our chosen mode of protest is always destruction- of lives, of other people's property, whatever. As long as it's not hurting us, it doesn't bother us. When it does hurt us, we don't fuss about finding out the cause, we blame, and then try to inflict as much damage as possible. Where else would people hurt their compatriots for living in a place different from the one in which they were born? Where else would politicians actively encourage this?

I ask you, are we really free? Shouldn't bona fide citizens of a genuinely free land abide with laws because they are proud of their homeland, and of themselves? Why do we need to be controlled, like cattle, or dogs, or slaves?

Then there's this other aspect to it. I was recently in Mumbai for a few days, and there I encountered one of the toughest challenges my will power has ever faced. We visited this shopping mall, and there was this palmist offering his services. Rs. 100 for as many questions as you wish to ask. My brother did avail of said services... but I didn't want to. I don't know why- I just had this feeling about it. Yet the pull was almost irresistible.

This guy was offering to tell me anything I wanted to know about my future, just by looking at the lines engraved on my palm. And, dear God, I don't know how I managed to keep away. Isn't this also a kind of slavery? There were many things I would have liked to know. Yet I also knew that the lines on my palms change every 3- 4 months, or so. I didn't want to go because I felt it would be psychologically damning. I didn't know if I wanted to know. I thought that once he said whatever it was that he would have said after reading my hand, I would subconsciously take a similar path in life. I didn't want that. My mother told me that I needed to decide on my own, and Dad said I should go.

Well, I eventually didn't go. I told my parents that it's my future, and that I'll make it myself. But it was so damn hard.
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.

- Rabindranath Tagore