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A Discourse On Freedom

Friday, August 14, 2015

What does freedom mean to you? You’d think that the word would have a simple, straightforward meaning for most of us. But, as the 48hrs Team found out, people from across Mumbai have varied opinions and ideas about independence and freedom!

It’s ironic that Independence Day this year comes close on the heels of various bans in the country — some sadly effective, others half-hearted, and one that many believe to be an attempt by the authorities to invade our privacy. But, instead of getting into a heated debate, we’re going to take a moment to find out what freedom means to people in the city. It’s been 69 years since we achieved independence; have we started to take our freedom for granted? And, are we truly even free? Read on to find out what people have to say about independence and freedom.      

It’s addictive!
Whether it’s the independence of a country or simply being a strong, independent individual, no can argue with its heady appeal. This is something that Archana Kumari Singh, the president of Frazer and Haws, believes. She tells us, “I share Maya Angelou’s sentiments on independence. She writes, ‘Independence is a heady draught, and if you drink it in your youth, it can have the same effect on the brain as young wine does. It does not matter that it does not always taste appealing. It is addictive, and with each drink you want more.’”

Remembering the sacrifices
Aniruddha Karanjekar, director of SevenFriday India, believes that it is important to remember the roots of our independence. He tells us, “Independence Day for me is to delve deeper into the story of our nation and remember the sacrifices that our freedom fighters made, so that we can express our rights. We should unite and celebrate this day with patriotic, peaceful celebrations.”

The freedom to be independent 
Designer Jyoti Sachdev Iyer sees freedom intertwined with independence. She tells us, “Independence to me is walking out in beautifully draped muslin, ready to conquer the world with no bounds of colours, trends, fabrics or imagination. A girl transforms into a woman when she can earn a living and pay her own bills. Nothing can compare to this sense of independence and security for me.”

Reminder of the history
Just like Aniruddha, Leshan Shah, founder and creative director of Aurelle, also thinks that remembering the struggles of the independence movement is important. She says, “Independence Day is a reminder of the struggles our leaders went through to achieve one basic and very important right — freedom. As a woman, that right is important to me and I strongly believe that people should be allowed to be themselves. They should have the freedom to express and to choose without fear.”

The magic of choice
It’s not easy to understand how magical freedom is when you have been given all the liberty to experience it. And this is something Eliana Koalas, director of Luxus Retail, La Martina, thinks we need to consider. “Nelson Mandela remained free in a prison. Yet, many of us are walking prisoners even in the open spaces of our lives. For me, independence means choosing what you want to be and letting the magic happen,” she tells us.

Freedom, literally
Kaveeta Rai, who works as PR manager at Hotel Marine Plaza, tells us, “For me, independence means the freedom to share your thoughts, the freedom to decide what you want, the freedom to express yourself, the freedom to fight for your rights and, the freedom to be different.” She says that people are pushy when it comes to their ideas, but she believes everybody deserves space to understand and accept these ideas, calling it a freedom of acceptance.

“Independence is happiness!”
We love the sentiment that Prem Dewan, retail head for OSL Luxury Collection Pvt. Ltd. – Corneliani, expresses. He tells us, “Independence means having a voice; it means that my opinions matter. Independence means embracing the idea of nonconformity. With independence comes a great deal of responsibility to champion for change, tolerance and acceptance Nothing is more difficult and more precious than to be able to decide. Independence is happiness!”

“As necessary as oxygen”
Another person we spoke to who underlines how freedom is an unalienable right, Mira Gulati, founder and principal designer of Mirari, says, “Independence is the freedom of soul, mind and heart. It is the perception and feeling of liberation, self-dependence and freedom to achieve what you want in life. I believe that freedom is just as necessary as oxygen is.”

Freedom to achieve
Theatre personality Divya Palat has a simple, but perfect take on independence. She tells us, “Independence for me means the freedom to believe, to achieve, to succeed and to live my life to the best of my ability. For me, freedom of thought, expression and choice is true freedom.”

Equality and responsibility
Masumi R Mewawalla, fashion designer and owner of Pink Peacock Couture, tells us that independence is only achieved when people from all castes, of all races and creeds, and whether rich or poor, are treated with the same respect. She says, “Independence to me means equality, power of freedom, a sense of taking responsibility and the right to make my own decisions. Independence gives an individual the freedom to take advantage of the authority that comes with it and to take action and credit for it.”

“Freedom is safety”
We love the simple manner with which actress Antara Banerjee ties freedom to safety. She says, “For me, freedom is safety — where a girl can travel alone late at night. As we celebrate our Independence Day, we should also reflect on the hurdles that we still have to overcome. These obstacles come in the way of making India a truly great nation and one of them is the lack of safety for women. I am a proud Indian and I love my country, but if we take measures to wipe out social stigmas, we will truly have made our forefathers proud.”

Freedom that values life
It isn’t often that we come across a sentiment that makes us stop and ponder over the wider implications of a concept like freedom. But, what Abdur Rub, founder and chief scientific officer of Xcode Life Sciences, has to tell us makes us do just that. He says, “For me, independence especially means living in a world without disease and living in our prime health, whatever our age may be. It means living in a world that values human life above and beyond race, religion or any other difference.”

Governing our own lives
Aakash Barmecha, CEO of Yoube Jewellery Ltd., says that to him independence means freedom, power, opportunity and responsibility. “It’s about the freedom to do your own thing, live your life the way you want to,” he tells us. He is concise in his thought. He says, “It is the power to govern our own lives and to take care of ourselves. It means that we have the opportunity to pursue our happiness and to define it.” But this line of thinking doesn’t just end there. According to Aakash, we must give back. He says, “Consequently we must carry the burden of the responsibility of exercising our freedom on behalf of others — in a constructive and meaningful way. When I think about independence, I think about how fortunate I am to live in a country where we have plenty of choices. I love being in control of my life.”

Living without fear
Fashion designer Babita Malkani tells us, “Independence to me does not mean chauvinism and narrow nationalism, but to live without fear and with the free will to think without bothering about social norms. In a nutshell, it is to think about oneself with dignity, respect and fearlessness.”

It empowers you
Vandana Luthra, founder of the VLCC Group, ties independence to empowerment. She tells us, “Empowerment can be achieved through equal opportunity at the workplace, in politics, in self-employment, in social and financial aspects and through respect and dignity. This will allow women to be the sole architects of their future — the heroes of their story.”

Love & peace
Fashion designer, Amy Billimoria, tells us, “Independence to me means love, peace and harmony above anything else.” According to her, only once this is achieved in different aspects of our lives can independence — in its true sense — be attained. “A society with equality, safety and education together with the qualities of love, peace and harmony is what makes it independent in the authentic sense!” she adds.

“A long way to go”
Counselling psychologist Kinjal Pandya believes that it’s important that we don’t let the rhetoric of being independent cloud our perspective and distract us. She says, “We are independent in the form that majorities are allowed to be independent, but minorities and castes are still not there yet. I’m glad to be a part of this country. Compared to our past, where we were pushed down and suppressed, today we are opening our insights and making way for more open ideas, but we still have a long way to go.”

Freedom of thought
Vaidehi Misra, an advocate at the Supreme Court of India, tells us, “Independence is being able to think, communicate and act without the fear of being reprimanded for it. It is not the absence of consequences, but the presence of coercive sanctions that prohibits certain behaviour.”

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