What Freedom Means To Me

I spent a whole hour yesterday trying to “google” the words freedom and independence. And lo! There is a long list of various meanings and connotations that these words have. Of course, the meaning and implication of these words is very subjective, and depends largely on the context it is used in, but personally have we ever tried to define it for ourselves? We read about freedom, dream about freedom, rejoice and celebrate it, even advocate it, but do we really know what freedom is?

What does freedom look like? Is it the voter’s ballot, or permission for a late-night party? Is it to be free from any debt or a person walking out of prison? We must know what freedom means to us, if we are seeking it every single moment!

We often confuse the word freedom with independence. Independence, in no way, means freedom. And freedom is not dependent on independence. Since the time we have come on this planet, we are all inter-dependent on each other for our well-being. It is practically impossible to do everything ourselves, at work or at home.

The first time I thought I was “free” was back in Junior college- a decade ago! I had my vehicle, could meet my friends whenever I wanted, and could sometimes bunk classes as well! This started to look so immature when I shifted to Mumbai for my undergrad. That is when I thought I was really, in true sense, free! No permissions, no deadlines, and my own ATM card! Also, the pride of living “independently” was unparalleled. The feeling when I earned my first ever salary was supremely incomparable. When I look back now, I wonder whom was I kidding?

I have realized that the trick is find freedom in our thoughts, while ‘life’ is happening around us. Right this moment.

We often feel trapped – sometimes by destiny or circumstances, other times by some external force or our own mistakes. In most situations, we react in an auto-pilot mode. We are not even aware that we are letting our mind make a choice at that instant, besides ultimately blaming others or situations for our misery!

Freedom, for me, is being able to choose my thoughts and actions as a response to any situation thrown at me, without getting influenced by external negativity or my internal conflict! Freedom is a state of mind. We ourselves are responsible for our freedom. No body forces us to think in one way or the other; nobody can get into our mind except ourselves.

Freedom begins with us. Our actions. Our decisions. Our choice.

On this Independence Day, let us free ourselves of our past actions, bad memories, fears, conflicts, old patterns of thinking and behaving, and let go of everything that is trapped within us or has trapped us. Why should we stay in prison when the door is wide open?

Freedom is just a thought away. Let us create the thought today!

(This is my column in Deshdoot Times, Nashik – 15 Aug, 2015)

Oxy-Morons

What I am going to write about now is a actually a paradoxical situation, but I never leave an opportunity to use a bad pun! 😉

Morons – that’s what they actually are.

With ‘they’, I mean people in authority, people who think they have a right to decide who gets what resources, and impact the lives of millions, and people who actually do, but are not responsible enough!

With the work I have chosen to do all my life, I have to visit these tiny villages, sometimes located in the most mesmerising locations! This little world of people has a world of it’s own problems. Here they are struggling to live. To live at least till the next moment, next day. When you visit them, you realise the whole futility of trying to find life somewhere else when we can’t even respect most of them here. Now. At this moment. Alive.

Last week I set out to go to a tiny place, near Kasara.

At the first glance, it was a breath-taking view! Wow. What more could one ask for! I mean people pay crazy amounts to go live in a place like this – be it only for 5 days! I was standing at one of hills surrounding Upper Vaitarna dam, and this village was right in front of me on another hill. What beauty!

But there was no road to get there. So we climbed down the hill we were standing on, and climbed up the adjacent one! No connect, no roads is the just the beginning of their miseries. It did not hit me so hard till we actually reached the village, and oh my, what I saw was what I used to think was just a sure-shot formula for a successful movie! People had no water to drink. TO DRINK. Forget spa, jacuzzi, have a bath, or even cook! Let us not even speak about water therapies! They did not have water to drink, when they were surrounded by a dam, that gives water about 200kms away! I cannot emphasize on this more!

Government is trolling them. In their face!

Can you see the little rocky trench? Can you see a little wet portion above the 3 buckets in the trench? So what actually is happening is, there a few drops of water coming out of those rocks – and this is “paani aaya” situation for them! This is how they fill water. Drop-by-drop. And can you see the queue of vessels? By the time even one fills up, we would have wasted 10 of those – just putting things in perspective!

We have heard this a lot. I mean I won’t say I haven’t seen millions of pictures (award-wining) or videos where people are struggling to fill their bucket. It doesn’t hit you so hard, till you don’t see it. For yourself. It was the saddest, the most helpless moment of my life for me. Very clichéd,  but this was like a “swades-moment” of my life.

I know for a reader like you, this will yet again be another story, heard from someone else-you will empathise with it, may be even agitate a little, but it will not make you think twice before the hot water shower bath! Still, on my end it is attempt to show the reality. And our so-very-efficient government!

You know what was worse? I came home and told about this to a few people, and the reaction I get is – “yeh toh kuch bhi nahi hai, waha toh aisa hai, yahaan toh waisa hai, aur woh toh sabse bura hai!”

Seriously?! Signing off before I can’t stop myself from adding another bad pun!