The True Meaning of Independence

Indians were deprived of their basic rights during the reign of the British and remained as their slaves for many centuries! Finally, 1947 marked a new beginning where a democratic India surfaced. India: An emerging superpower. A rich country, having sustained all the powerful invasions for its precious nature and resources and termed as a developing country. 15th August 1947, the day India gained its freedom from the prolonged British Rule, but even after 75 years of independence, we wonder, are we an independent country in a true sense? Are we still democratic and free? 

Over the last few years, the false notion of Independence Day is valued where Indians gather together in a flag hoisting ceremony, wear tri-coloured clothes, and with a patriotic song playing behind, upload videos on social media showing their superficial love towards their nation. But Independence Day is not just a day of nationalist pride, it means a commitment to serve the nation in a truly inclusive way where we salute the brave hearts and heroes who fought in the freedom struggle and dreamt of a nation of peace and harmony where people prospered. 

India is an emerging and developing country and we are on our path to fighting all the social evils that we have faced since independence. Breaking the shackles of poverty with the stepping stones of equal opportunities for all, the caste system by providing liberty to all castes to practice their religion freely and, beating the child labour and child marriage by standing firmly against it. I know it’s easier said than done and India still has a long way to go but comparing the statistics from then to now and seeing the exponential reduction, let us take a moment and appreciate ourselves for breaking through these barriers. 

Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India had a vision for India in 2020 associated with India’s missile program as well as the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, co-authored a book in 1998 titled India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium. The book carries a simple message of India becoming a superpower within the next two decades (by 2020). The year 1998 for India looked poor, unable to reach even average global standards of human development. Then how would it suddenly leapfrog to being of a superpower status? Sounded impossible, right? However, instead of being greeted with skepticism by the general public, Kalam’s extreme optimism was met largely with adulation.

Well, there is no denying of India’s difficult journey from independence and its future potentials, but great world powers must have sufficient economic and military clout, not just a large population and a sense of historical greatness. We know that the path of success is long and difficult but that is not synonymous with impossible. It is famously said that “Everything begins with you”. Every action that we take happens with the intention of bettering ourselves, whether we tend to think of it that way or not. No matter how we slice it, everybody operates within a closed system of self-centeredness, and the ripples of these actions taken toward bettering the self can extend outward to affect others in the process. All the opportunities, initiatives, and hurdles, it is you who has to choose your path and cross all the difficult roads. Like our Prime Minister Narendra Modi preaches, “Atmanibharta” (meaning to be self-reliant.) Interestingly, there’s no single sentence, not even from Emerson himself (referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American transcendentalist philosopher who wrote the 1841 essay on Self-Reliance) that captures all the aspects of self-reliance in one pop. Merriam Webster defines self-reliance simply as ‘reliance on one’s own efforts and abilities’, which doesn’t quite do the concept much justice, either.

It is the 21st century and with the freedom of expression, every (positive) opinion matters. Everyone has a different outlook on life. So, I decided to ask some individuals to pen down their thoughts and views on “What does Freedom and Independence mean to me today?” Below are the responses that they shared giving us an experience of a unique and fresh perspective while expressing their views on the above question. 

“I know that the abstracts of complete peace and harmony are utopian ideas! But true freedom is a sense of responsibility of being conscious enough to understand the difference of what is right and what is wrong, and an evaluation of the grey spaces of life.”

~ Kamiya Arya, BFM

“I think freedom to me is a bit more on the personal side. By that, I mean finally being able to prioritize myself and not be influenced by other people’s opinions of me.”

~ Bhumika Singh, BBI

“Freedom and independence in its true sense for me mean the ability to act according to one’s own free will. Freedom tends to be an extremely subjective concept. The ambiguity of this concept often leads to people behaving the way they wish even if it is inappropriate or disrespectful. That is where I draw a line for freedom and independence.”

~ Purva Dafle, BBI

“I think freedom is allowing people to express their views and opinions without any repercussions. Having the ability to live their life how they see fit, is freedom for me.”

~ Mohit Ganpule, BAF

“I think freedom is not being crushed by someone else’s judgment towards us. Freedom from the fear of “Kuch toh log kahenge” is one of the crucial steps towards overcoming one’s insecurities. To live in fear of judgments is similar to imprisoning one’s thoughts and actions. Lastly, I would like to quote Guru Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “freedom” 

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.”

~ Rashi Chheda, BFM

“I think freedom is having the liberty to express your opinion without any hesitation.”

~ Kiran Malukani, BAF

“Freedom to me is having the privilege to make my own choices without inviting scorn from society, but rather praise for leading my life on my own terms.”

~ Khushi Khatter, BBI

This got me thinking about all of the variables that impact someone’s view on freedom. While the list is never ending,  there may be an infinite number of factors that go into this equation. Regardless of where you have been or where you are going, your outlook on life can change for the better if you allow it to. You can let go of insecurities and grow to like yourself, if you give yourself the chance.

We do not realise but there is so much we take for granted and the very first thing is independence. On that note, this independence day, let us be grateful for all we have and thank the Divine Almighty for giving us a country like India, for keeping us safe and giving us the right to live life in the way we decide, which isn’t a possibility in many other countries even today. 

As India celebrates its 75th year of independence, let us take a moment and promise ourselves just two things to see ourselves mentally and physically independent, breaking the shackles of other people’s school of thoughts on us and our self judgement too. The two promises that I am taking for myself are:

  1. To give my Mental Stability a Priority. To encourage myself to take some time to focus on my mental health religiously; reflect on how I am feeling and what I can do to look after myself now and in the future as well. Believing in my inner happiness and that no one can break me down without my consent. Choosing to be proactive rather than reactive, and grow from my challenges. Well, you can never bloom with only water, right? You need the glare of the sunlight as well.
  1. Build Healthy Habits to be Financially Independent: Financial literacy is one of the most important lessons that a person should have. Achieving financial freedom is no rocket science. It requires consistent dedication, punctuality, continuity, and proper planning and implementation. Never being dependent on others and being financially flexible is the future.

So, this Independence Day, I promise myself to take these small steps by providing clarity and confidence to what I feel is right and has the power to positively change the way I experience life.

Let’s honor the valiant heroes who made us the proudest of all humans and the mightiest of all nations. May the glory of this day be your inspiration for tomorrow!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

By Akriti Karnany

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