A day for independence – Independence Day

Indian flag photographic collage

A confession. I am not particularly patriotic. I have always had trouble defining my motherland. Is it the home I was born into, the family I was raised in, the locality, city, state, country, continent, planet…. who am I really, to draw a line and say, “ok, this is mine”. What is not mine about the remaining? From that point it gets very confusing and I haven’t quite figured it out.

A day for independence - Independence Day 1
Indian flag created out of a collage of photographs by Dinesh Cyanam, based on his work with India – A multitude of people and cultures.

The closest I can describe it is P L Deshpande quoting Keshavsut in a speech at the Kanadi Sahitya Mandal, which translates roughly to “Wherever I go, I find siblings. Everywhere I find signs of home”. That whole speech has to be one of my most treasured gifts ever, and I just heard a recording. Just for those thoughts to exist is a gift (it sounds considerably nicer in Marathi than my ad hoc translation). Another thought from that speech compares the difference between Karnataka and Maharashtra – states; and Kanadi (Kannada) and Marathi – languages. He remarks that states have boundary lines dividing them, but the languages have meeting lines where they mix with each other. My view of the world I inhabit is somewhat along this theme.

In fact, ever since I lived as a nomad and called wherever I landed up my home, I have a vague unease with the idea of owning land itself. That belonging to nowhere and being at home everywhere.

That said, I have never inhabited parts of the world outside India. I haven’t inhabited all of India. But somewhere, I have tasted enough of the diversity of our country to experience it as home. To see echoes of me in the most varied people, to see them as companions in this narrative over a billion people weave. I appreciate India for them enriching my life.

And I hold independence very dear. To me Independence Day is a day of new beginnings, and if we celebrate it every year, it is a good enough reason to keep reinventing ourselves as a country. To find better ways of existing as a country.

As we stand on the crossroads of emotions as Indians, where our sense of Indianness is under severe challenge from overwhelming frustrations, I want to admit there are rays of hope. There are people  who care. There are good things happening. There is more that can happen.

Potential excites me. Frustrations bore me. This national situation of limited choices irritates me. What do you mean limited choice? Why can’t we do all we want to? Why should one answer be chosen out of two opposite ones, so that someone always loses? Why does empowering one have to mean disempowering another? Why does one view have to be right and another wrong? I have no answers to these whys and no patience for them either. My imagination is caught on doing it all. How?

I think unless we start asking ourselves questions like that, we will never be able to get our laundry list of wishes complete fast enough in a lifetime, let alone enjoy the results. This is unacceptable.

I think what we should be doing this time around is not dismissing any need as “regrettable”. Live with no regrets. Do it all. Let all religions find joy and freedom. Let us figure out ways we can feed, clothe, shelter all. Let us start insisting on the rule of laws we have let slide out of little more than laziness. Let us start being nosy, asking questions, getting things done.

Most importantly, let us start finding solutions that work for all, or growing together so that all interests can be accommodated. Let no tribal be sacrificed for the greater good, abandoned to die in insulting neglect. Let no child be lost for opportunities. Let women fly free to reach wherever they want. Let us just stop living in instalments and start LIVING.

Lack is a state of being far more than it is a limit on real possibilities. Let us stop being lazy and thinking there are only two lousy options and we must choose the less worse, and instead dream of having it all, and not making a choice till we find the option we can pick without regrets.

And then let us do this every year.

In my view, it is pointless to celebrate an event from 65 years ago just because the date matches. To make soldiers march around, fly a few planes, make a few speeches, stare at flags till our eyes cross and get a day off that we really hate for not really being off with the flag hoisting and thing. It must have meaning beyond tokenism. If we must celebrate Independence Day, and I do think it is a great idea, then it is worthwhile to do it in a way that magnifies the value of our independence and keeps expanding it with each year. People have to feel free, you know, we have to be free, experience freedom. That is what independence is about, not the color of the skin of people collecting taxes and making decisions.

Today is independence day. We should start living free. Not holding back, living to our highest vision. It will be creaky – we are fairly lousy at most things from utter neglect. But we must go at it as if it works, be surprised when it doesn’t and fix it as we find it. We MUST trust the system to work, even if it betrays us over and over. Power isn’t in cynicism, it is in generosity. Just listen to the sound of the words. It isn’t gullible to keep trusting, it is a symptom of a large heart. We are people. We learn from experience. We fail, and we can learn better. We have to aim right, though. Aiming low is a guarantee for a mediocre life.

It is true the system sucks. That society can be really retarded. But we don’t have to be retarded. And we could start using what is working and fixing what isn’t. The more space we occupy, the more space starts getting organized for use. One factor we can most definitely change is us and that is considerably under our control. Let us do it. Let us be more. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that we can, if we want, fulfil many wishes and every need of everyone if we put our minds to it, instead of being cynical, as if it somehow makes us superior.

India got political freedom sixty five years ago. The next struggle for independence is going to be one of freeing minds. Of exiting this limited, limited kind of being and go at it like we mean it. Today is independence day. Might as well get started without delay. I am planning to up a gear in living as I dream and get started today.

Wish you a purposeful Independence Day, year, life!

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