What is freedom

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Celebrating our country’s freedom should go beyond just rituals…

 

The apartment where I reside had outsourced the August 15th, Independence Day celebrations for the year 2017 to an event management company.  During the event, the host asked a question to all the residents – what does freedom mean to them?  Each of them gave their interpretation of freedom.  I too got my turn to voice my opinion.  Given below is the gist of my opinion on freedom.

Freedom, as I view it, is ‘a responsibility’.  A soldier has the freedom to possess a gun unlike other citizens.  The media has the freedom to use their pen.  A child may have the freedom to use any electronic gadget of his or her choice.  All these freedoms, if not exercised responsibly, will soon cease to exist.  For instance, a soldier pulling the trigger at his will would end up being court marshalled; when a child uses his electronic gadgets even during the days when he has exams will soon learn to be without them as his parents, in the interest of the child, would withdraw the freedom of possessing an electronic gadget.  Similarly, we as Indians believe freedom means the right to enjoy.  We are more conscious of our rights and less conscious of our duties.  Ironically, unless we are duty conscious and more aware of what is happening around us, I am afraid we may lose the freedom which we gained after so many years of struggle.

We as Indians believe freedom means the right to enjoy.  We are more conscious of our rights and less conscious of our duties.  Ironically, unless we are duty conscious and more aware of what is happening around us, I am afraid we may lose the freedom which we gained after so many years of struggle.

It is said in sports that a captain is only as good as his team.  Similarly, a country is only as good as his countrymen.  How can a country be great, when after 70 years of independence, its countrymen need a government-sponsored movement to keep their surroundings clean?  Isn’t it a matter of shame that we do not take pride in being an Indian?  When we do not take pride in the country where we are born and brought up, how do we expect to be respected on a foreign soil?  It is no wonder that we are treated as second class citizens in the West.  Their logic is simple.  When a person does not have pride in his own country, what kind of integrity can one expect from him on a foreign soil?  Every country has its own set of problems.  There are many who, amidst all adversities, rise to the occasion.

Take the case of Subhasini Mistry, a poor lady from Bengal who toiled for over 20 years as a housemaid.  She even did daily labour in paddy fields and sold vegetables to build a hospital for the poor in Hanspukar, West Bengal.  This hospital began as a clinic in a small hut, but today it has a capacity of 45 beds and an additional 10 beds for the intensive care unit (ICU).  This poor lady was forced to marry a daily wage labourer at the age of 12 and became a widow at the age of 23.  She could not save her sick husband owing to her inability to afford medical care for him.  This was the driving force behind her decision to build a hospital for the poor in her community.  She sent her only son to an orphanage; he studied hard to become a doctor.  He treats patients in the same hospital set up by his mother, who is 75 years old now.  There are many like Subhasini who have a strong cause which propels them to rise above their problems and make a mark in society.  There are others who keep blaming the country, while others just leave the country.  As I said earlier, a country or a leader who represents the country can only be as good as its countrymen.  I wish to share an interesting incident in this regard.

On one occasion, the Israeli PM received a gift from Khaled Mashal, the leader of HAMAS – one of the Palestinian terrorist organizations.  After a routine security check, the gift was opened for Mr. Netanyahu (the PM of Israel).  It contained a box with a letter addressed to the PM.  It said, “For you and the proud people of the Zionist entity.”  The box was filled with cow dung.  The PM, who incidentally was literate in Arabic, responded immediately with a return gift for Khaled.

Khaled’s security personnel also did routine checks before opening the gift; they found a note along with the gift.  The gift was a tiny computer chip which was chargeable with solar energy, had 1.8 TB memory and could output a 3D hologram display capable of functioning in any type of cellular phone, tablet or laptop.  It was one of the most advanced technological gadgets with a tiny label stating that this item was ‘invented and produced in Israel’.  Mr. Netanyahu’s personally handwritten note stated very courteously, “Every leader can only give the best his people can produce.”

To sum up, hoisting the national flag, distributing sweets, flying kites and singing patriotic songs are not all there is to celebrate Independence Day.  It is time we raise the bar of our thought process beyond these rituals; we need to introspect.  Please do not get me wrong; mere Independence Day rituals alone is not going to lift our country.  Along with all the usual celebrations, can we also introspect and do something more meaningful?

Let us plan and celebrate this year’s Independence Day with more duty-conscious approach in every walk of our lives.  Let us begin from where we can begin; we have four months to plan and execute our plan.  I am sure that when each one of us adopts this approach, we can certainly shape an India that our freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had dreamt of.  Jai Hind!

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