The Happiness of Independence

It is customary to wish your country-folk a happy independence day. I wish you a very happy independence day.

I have choice, like you do — in this beautiful country — to experience the independence we have. It must be a great experience. I say ‘must be’ because I do not know, exactly, what independence means. I believe, this word meant much more for the people who fought for the independence that we enjoy, and unfortunately, those that fought for it, didn’t enjoy it much. The independence, we speak of is quite — meta. I usually take words, devoid of context and use their dictionary meanings to make my purportedly philosophical statement. I will not do that today.

I was born in an independent country, and while the pride of independence was forcefully entrenched in my psyche by an ongoing dogma, I have come to wonder the meaning of independence at this late age.

I have, I believe, come to think of independence very differently than what I was taught it means. Over the years, the meaning has been questioned and answered several times, in several ways. The simplest way to understand independence – and the way we celebrate it – has been about how we, as people, got rid of a foreign rule a few years before I was born. There is that unmissable romantic notion of the struggle for freedom. Unfortunately, it is done and over with. Our ex-rulers have discovered new problems of their own, but we recurrently relive a single instance of how we shooed them.

I’d like to think of independence in terms of “of.” What are we independent of? The British have long gone and left us alone. What are we celebrating? What are we independent of? If I start citing instances that we aren’t independent of, this will become a very long post. Follow any well-know Indian Twitter account, and you will know — we are as dependent, if not more, on things that matter. We have journalists and bloggers willing to tell us about all that is wrong with the country and the system. Few, have answers. We have sarcasm. Oh, we learnt it so well, we are better than the Brits.

Sixty-odd years and we have no idea how to deal with micro or macro corruption. We have a loud voice; all of us do. Now, we even have Facebook and Twitter (and recently Google+) to help us amplify our voice (Read: LOUDER) — but that is all we have. We are dependent on a character. We have been relegated to being armchair activists. Apart from the few, in this country, who struggle to make a difference – we all have wonderful words and means to describe what is wrong.

On a very personal level, we have become slaves — destroying everything that means independence — to one dogma or the other (as it suits us) or to the monthly salary. We have not looked at the dictionary, for a very long time, what Independence means. We have not looked deep into ourselves, what that means to us. How it defines us? What it makes us. Who, we could become, if we knew what independence meant. We are slaves to many things. From our routine to our cynicism and our belief that nothing will change, and that nothing needs to change — because we have found a way to work in the system. It is a sophisticated form of slavery, that allows us to believe we aren’t slaves. It allows us to hold the high moral ground and yet, continue feeding the system, with the same acid that corrodes it.

In the singular timeline, we tweet about high morality in our lives and describe the means to beat the system. Independence, is a very large timeline scale that lives the very long number line. It encompasses the extreme negative and extreme positive.  We can be anything at anytime; that is what independence allows us. If you would like to put it in perspective, imagine a life under a restrictive dictatorship.

Post-dogma and text books, independence has had a new meaning for me. It is never about a collective phenomenon. It is individual. And more the individual abstracts the meaning of independence the broader it becomes for a society. Slowly and surely, anything goes. But society can never control it. Only an individual can. For romantic notions, and such, you may want to, therefore, as yourself ask what independence means to you. You can start with a dictionary, go on to read biographies of people who strived for independence. Unless the individual is independent, the society cannot be. The society can, if at all, assume independence, but the line of dependent individuals, will never allow the society to be truly independent. Eventually you will have to make your own specific meaning of that, very large and encompassing word — Independence. That word, is a philosophical synonym of happiness. But, do you know that?

It is customary to wish your country-folk a happy independence day. I wish you a very happy independence day. I’d like to ask you, however, what are you independent of.


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