Friday, August 12, 2005

The Freedom Special Post

This post (or rather, a part of it) is scheduled to appear in the Deccan Chronicle on the 15th of August.

It’s that time of the year again, when we push carnations into our buttonholes, pin a flag to our chests and run out into the sunshine and sing the national anthem – while in the bargain getting baked to a crisp listening to a (usually fat), middle-aged man wax eloquent on how we were once a jewel in the British crown, and how the British ruined it all.

But, do not get me wrong, brand me a traitor, and set the NSG, RAW, IB, CBI (and for good measure, the CIA) on me. I love Independence day as much as anyone of you do – not counting a few maniacs in Srinagar who cheer hardest when Miandad sends a particularly juicy full toss crashing into the stands.

Of all my life, it is this year that I realize completely the value of freedom. The simple pleasures of democracy and freedom of expression that we take for granted in India; pleasures which I began to notice only when I was deprived of it for the short period I spent outside my country.

I am proud of my country. Why, the skeptic bean may ask. An equally skeptic crumpet may smirk, as a cynical egg asks me this. Well, that’s because:

• Because India is a free society, but is definitely not a fine society unlike some of these South East Asian tigers. I am yet to be fined for spitting on the roads or urinating on that (illegally pasted) poster of the latest porno playing in the Pilot Theatre.
• Because the Indian police work to the best of their abilities to reduce paperwork – the cop doesn’t issue you tickets or ask you to come to court. Getting fines paid and transgressions done with is a quick, easy process involving the cop and yourself. Now if only the cops would allow the use of debit cards when bribing them; we could cut the paperwork down even further
• Because we can engage in mass murder with a smile playing on our lips and a song in our heart, and still become a mantri.
• Because I can switch lanes with impunity. (Just watch out for that idiot switching from the other lane to the lane you are on)
• Because I can crib about corrupt cops, murderous ministers and inefficient bureaucrats. Not that it does any good, but I can crib, can’t I? :D

More seriously, it’s

• Because years spent fighting terror hasn’t resulted in India being turned over to all powerful Junta. Because our army does its job, but doesn’t assault us with ridiculous posters of our soldiers in jungles.
• Because a Veermati can grab a policeman’s beret and try to set a new shotput record with it, in front of fifteen television cameras.
• Because a Nanavati can pop up from nowhere and provide hope to thousands that the deaths shall not be forgotten with the bodies.
• Because I can say ‘No! I don’t want to join the Army!’ if I want to. And fight for my country if I want to.
• Because my news media doesn’t believe in embedded reportage.
• Because I hear not just of the valour of the soldiers who fight to save my country, but their wretched cowardice as well.
• Because I am allowed to hold my own views on things, and disagree with the powers that be.
• Because India is human, with all the frailties that characterize a human. And we are not ashamed of being wrong.
• Because, when I set foot on the ‘free world’ as they call it, I can hold my head up high and tell them that my country is as free as theirs.
• Because I was born here.


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