Saturday, May 29, 2010

F for Freedom

When the Free Software Foundation tagline read “Free as in Freedom, not Free beer” it struck me for the creative genius which worked behind this. But now sitting at home which I had left three years back for my education and then my studies, I can very well understand the huge difference between the ‘free’ in free beer and freedom.

When I was a young boy of 8 and went to Junior school wearing shorts freedom meant writing with a pen, if possible a red ink or a green ink one since that is what teachers used, or swinging on the play ground or on the merry-go-round for as long as you wished. After that when graduated to senior school but still wearing shorts...playing as much as I liked, staying back for the second trip and coming back home an hour later than usual, having food from the canteen and not carrying it from home was freedom, at the pinnacle of it! It is quite amusing to notice how friends are everything for us, whatsoever it is for a certain period of time. For me it started by my matriculation and stretched into late degree years. Ah, freedom then was hanging out with them, going for movies with them, wasting money on insane pasta’s as one of my friends put it. Freedom also meant staying out late till night. There was a complete disregard for whatever parents said. Denial for everything else except friends was freedom.

Now to me, freedom doesn’t mean the old trivial yet great things during those times. Freedom is what makes a man. Freedom as in not hanging out with friends or not having beer and listening to Floyd on a terrace. Freedom to think, to act, to react. It is only when you have that freedom can you be a better individual. You become an individual when you start to live alone and when to start to think by yourself. I stayed alone in Hyderabad and I feel that has made me a better individual. The only time I had company was when my friend came over for dinner, that too for an hour or so at the max. I had the, if I can call it...the freedom to read what I wanted, to see what I liked, to eat what I liked, to wear what I wished, to speak to whom I liked, to invite home without consulting anyone else, to sleep when I pleased, to bathe when I willed and to go out at leisure. Now all these might be very trivial things...but for me, I believe I am a better individual because of all these factors. But... Freedom is dangerous too; it makes you responsible for yourself. I consider privileged for having my freedom though. Now when I am at home and I am denied certain parts of the above mentioned freedom’s I realise how much they meant to me.

Bono of U2 said “The theory of procrastination is thus- do not put off till tomorrow what you can for the day after, unless of course it is freedom”. I guess we can survive without anything, but not without freedom. Freedom of thought, of expression, of vision, of action, of reaction...
Freedom maketh a man.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Of the Kumbh and my country

If looked from above, from a high pedestal, you wouldn’t see six kilometres of the black road. But you’ll find a crowd, a huge multi coloured mass moving in one direction chanting names of Ram and Ganga Mayya. I consider myself lucky to have witnessed the largest mass gathering for a festival in the world- The Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh for me beheld no religious excitement and the prospect of bathing in the Ganges held no thrill. But witnessing the mass was. The main bathing ghat called Har ki Pauri where the Ganges is widest at Haridwar witnesses each year a cross section of the Indian population and foreigners too, only this year I was also part of that gathering. It was indeed quite wondrous for a city bred lad who considers himself modern in the purity of the word to see a chunk of the Indian society of which he is also a part of want to wash away their sins in the holy river which is the life blood of the Indian subcontinent.

Less that 3 days before the Maha Kumbh, I was in Delhi where globalisation and what not has taken its toll. We were put up in a small room which they claim is an International guest house for Rs 3000 a night for 4 people. Not more than 230 kilometres further north is Rishikesh where we had to stay for 2 nights since accommodation at Haridwar was almost impossible unless u wanted one of those fine river cooled banks. A room for 3 came for 600 bucks a night. It gave me hope. The people were much more friendly and simple unlike a metropolitan where selfishness was the order of the day. The average man who doesn’t have five star education and latest technological gadgets seemed much better individuals. On the flip side, they’re the most gullible people around and that explained the existence of so many godmen and fake swamis around the area.

I walked around the whole of Rishikesh and Haridwar with my friends who were new to North India, their excitement at seeing a new part of the country was infectious. Each place had a uniqueness, be it cuisine, people, landscape...I can’t put my finger on one and say, yes this is what I like the best. It is a mixture of various factors. We were in Dehradun at a waterfalls named Sahastrdhara. After having our fair share of fun in the icy water we came up and sat on a restaurant overlooking the waterfall having bread pakoda and chai...I couldn’t help think for a minute, what all could I experience if I could be there for a day more...but alas time was against me.

The great place, India my country is...It surprises me every day. I was having a small chai-samosa chat with one of my ex teachers a couple of days ago. She was telling me that she wants to travel abroad, at which instance I narrated my experience of this recent trip. Her reply to why she doesn’t want to travel much in India was quite amusing... “At my age I can’t travel in India, there is so much to see...if I want to see at least one state, I need to spend at least a month there and then start to unravel the place. Whereas if I go to some foreign country like Singapore or Maldives, it is all over in a weeks’ time. I would’ve finished seeing the country in a short span” This is the expanse of the country we live in. My mission now is to see my country in all its beauty and mystifying glamour before I even venture out to see other places.

I am not a patriot only when there is a cricket match or a hockey tournament. I have always regarded my patriotism as something born out of the physical beauty and the glamour the country holds. One walk from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to the India Gate, was enough for me to salute the great nation I live in.

So true are our text books. As a child I also grew up reading the drab text books saying, India is a multi lingual, multi ethnic, multi...what not country. But to truly understand it and be part of a huge culture, you need to feel it, experience it, be with the people, talk their language, have their food, their drinks and dance and sing with them...thank god my journey has just started...