Is this what freedom tastes like? Slightly bitter, don’t you think?

August 15- a happy and proud day for us Indians. 67 years ago, our country received independence from a 90 year rule under the British Raj. Our freedom fighters, soldiers and several other men and women laid down their lives, so India and her future children could be free from oppression and foreign rule. And every year on August 15, we remember their sacrifice and their valiant effort. We stride about the streets like proud lions, holding our heads high, with the national anthem in our hearts and the tri-colored flag in our hands. We hoist our flag and even don the colors. We change our profile pictures to something patriotic, with a caption along the lines of, ‘Let’s see how many show love for the country on this day’. But we forget that there are 364 other days in a year. These are the days when we crawl back into our shells. These are the days when we let ourselves be oppressed; not by foreign rule, but by something much worse. Our mindset.

We are a nation trapped in a problem. This problem is not hidden; it roams around, day and night, rearing its ugly head high. It has friends, which are equally hideous and dangerous – Poverty, Casteism, Corruption, Religious Bigotry. We know they exist, we can sense them, see them. We hear about them and even experience them. But we pretend that they don’t exist, that we can’t see them. We want to believe that everything is perfect and affairs couldn’t be better. It’s easier that way isn’t it? To ignore a problem as though it were never there, hoping it would go away on its own? If you have a heart condition, do you ignore it, thinking “Oh, this will go away like it came. Meanwhile, I’ll watch some One Tree Hill”? (or Dance India Dance for all English series haters). Why then, do we ignore the diseases that plague our country? We do this because accepting it would mean taking responsibility. It would mean stepping up and leading a change, and in the process, possibly being ridiculed for trying to bring about a change in a country where beliefs and views are trampled upon with as much ease as walking on dead leaves.

Charitable organizations call and ask for monetary and volunteer assistance so that slum children, destitute girls, orphans, and challenged kids can receive a decent education. “All scams man! And I’m only earning peanuts here, what can I contribute? No time also to volunteer”, is what I was told by an acquaintance, followed by “Bro this country is going for a toss. No one does anything only! All talk, no work. At every turn there’s a beggar saying ‘Anna, solpa kaas’. That’s why I’m escaping to Germany.” 

”I got caught last weekend for drinking and driving. Gave the cop 100 bucks and shared a smoke. Heeheehee.” The next day – “I am going to Freedom Park to support Anna Hazare. Come off. I’m gonna wear orange, white and green. Full anti-corruption support from me. By the way, I saw the same cop yesterday. Gave him a salute. Ha!”

“Tum log in sab praablems mein math pado; tumhara maamla nahin hain”, said a traffic cop’s pal when I was trying to convince the cop to give my friend a ticket for pavement parking and collect the fine, instead of a bribe. Of course it is my maamla. I am a citizen of this country, and bribing is one of my praablems, as it is the nation’s.

Post the numerous rape cases, we heard ‘opinions’ such as “These girls don’t know how to dress only. One decent salwar-kameez they can’t wear? And who’s asking them to roam at night? They should be given a strict curfew. All this rape happens because of this only”. Riiiight. Because rapes happen due of dressing sense and nightlife. Not because certain men can’t control their sexual urges or because they want to ‘teach’ open-minded women a lesson.

“Arrey? Leave your footwear outside ya. Raani just swept the house. Don’t dirty it otherwise mummy will shout” followed by “Just throw the garbage on the opposite lane man. Who cares? No one is watching.” Seriously, do we need a ‘mummy’ to keep an eye on how we litter our neighborhoods too? Aren’t we mature enough to know that our country is as sacred as our home?

India is a beautiful nation with beautiful people from different cultural backgrounds. Ours is the only nation with such diversity. Our geography, our ethnicity, our languages, our occupations and our history are simply magnificent, and scholars throughout the ages have been trying to learn about what makes India the jewel she is. But the jewel is losing its shine and lustre. Who is going to polish it?

I love my country and I know you do too. August 15 is a beloved day for all of us. But let us not forget the other 364 days. We are the youth. We have the strength and the spirit to change the course, to eradicate the diseases that plague our motherland. We have the ability to change the mindset of our people. But first, we must be willing to change our mindset. Let us take positive action. So that tomorrow, we can say “All talk, and even more work.”

Jai Hind, boys and girls.