Words fail me. This morning of 15th August 2013, I thought I’ll be filled with an overwhelming sense of patriotism and to a large extent I still am but then I read a post online. It made me re-think certain ideas of independence, freedom and liberty. I was descending down a deep abyss of questions and Yann Tiersen’s beautiful piano composition started playing on loop.
They asked, “Are we really free?”
“Happy Independence Day,” was the hashtag that flooded my TL. “Do we really know what it means?” I asked myself.
I ran to the book shelf and frantically searched for my copy of My experiments with Truth. It was sitting comfortably leaning against the Bhagvad Gita on one side flanked by N.C.E.R.T’s Macro Economics textbook. I felt it and blew away the fine layer of dust on its cover.
I wanted to open and re-read it. Even after 6 long years, those ideas and thoughts were firmly etched in my mind. "Should i read it again?" i thought to myself. Every sentence i read will be a constant reminder of my failure to keep up to the promises that i made to him. He bared his intimate thoughts and life’s learning hoping that the children of tomorrow would imbibe it. And what did we do about it?
He learned those lessons the hard way. He was mocked, humiliated and scoffed at for his grandiose ideals and uncompromising attitude. He was shunned by his own son when a whole nation considered him as their Father. He didn’t raise an arm in revolt but his voice echoed across continents. It still reverberates in a few hearts that remember. He is a symbol of our freedom struggle.
FREEDOM… was this the kind of freedom he had envisioned for us?
We are Independent today but are we really Free? Was he fighting for Freedom or was it Independence? I’d like to believe that he stood for the former while the rest were battling it out for the latter.
He wanted us to be freed of slavery not only from the Queen but from the shackles of our own minds. He wanted us to see the light. He basked in its warmth and he wanted to share that warmth with us. He used to march down streets adorning his cotton dhoti and a lathi in hand, with this inscrutable grit as if while covering those miles he was carrying with him a million little stories of the people he was fighting for. He had to reach his destination as quickly as possible to give these stories an ending they deserved.
He was not afraid to Be. He was freed a long time before we were and he wanted us to be a part of this freedom.
I wish he were alive. He’d have known that being Independent was only a step towards the freedom that he wished for us. We are still trapped in cages of deceit, corruption, greed, power and selfishness. I wish he’d known that no matter how he led us, to free a nation of its monsters was not as easy as taking a dip in the Ganges.
The truth is we are afraid of the Truth. We shy away to look into the mirror. Our reflection tells us that old rulers have been replaced by new and even after 66 years of Independence, we are still fighting tooth and nail for our freedom.
As I clutched to his autobiography, I thought about the day when I was standing at the edge of Gandhi Ashram overlooking the Sabarmati River. That place is still the same. His charkha can weave a good yarn of cotton even today. The earth smells just as sweet as it would have when he was here. He lives. He lives through his ideals that he left behind for us.
He left a plan of action for us. A route to get to the freedom that we all want… He probably knew that on 15th August 1947 we might have got our Independence but we have a lot more to fight for.
He didn’t give up even when he faced opposition from hostile rulers who were equipped with weapons of mass destruction and had an unshakeable hold on innocent lives. He didn’t give up even when his colleagues lost faith in his methods and complained about the ineffectiveness of it when results didn’t show. He didn’t give up even when he was jailed for standing up against atrocious crimes committed by others. He knew he wasn’t perfect. He knew he didn’t have enough power. He knew he was being misunderstood and misinterpreted. He never gave up. I wonder why, we did.
We gave up even though the monsters which we were fighting were the ones that lived inside us. We gave up as we were too caught up in our so-called busy lives trying to make ends meet. We gave up thinking that this is not our job. We gave up because we thought no one will hear us.
We are waiting for the world to change. We are waiting for a new Gandhi. We are waiting for someone else to ignite the fire again. We are here. We will let everything happen and watch as the truth is buried under a debris of broken dreams and aspirations.
“Are we free, yet?” if you ask me then I’ll reply, “No.”
Who have we got to blame?
As this Independence Day unfolds, i sit in the corner of my room feeling hopeful because these words strongly tide over an uprising of condescension -
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi