As 15 Aug approaches, the patriotic fever starts spreading among the enthusiastic populations of India, irrespective of their understanding of that feeling. Each year we gather to celebrate our independence from the last of our oppressors – the Britishers. But is it truly that, that we are celebrating today?

The British left us and we rose like a phoenix to reclaim our position in the world. We have conquered and captured every possible sphere and made our mark – be it academics or corporates or health, yoga, sports or even social work. But we need to stop and ask ourselves what are we celebrating independence from now?

As one of the oldest civilisations to still exist in this world, India has a vast cultural history, which has evolved over centuries and nurtured generations. But at some point in time we stopped growing, or rather were terrified of the rapid rate of changes happening around us. And so, like the proverbial ostrich dug our heads in the sands of time.

In the name of culture and traditions, we still follow some beliefs which are shouting for attention, asking to be freed from the shackles that have held them back. Discrimination against the girl child, dowry, caste system, reservations – none of these existed in their present forms in our glorious past. These practices are the product of the social conditions of those oppressive times, a social requirement to deal with the changing equations in society. Then why are we still following it? Can’t we evolve with the transforming dynamics of our current social conditions and reconstruct a more modern society? We need to celebrate independence from these redundant and obsolete practices if we truly want to be an independent nation.

We are fighting on many fronts, whether social, economic, political, ideological or medical. From an already struggling economy, what we see before us is a crumbling infrastructure, burgeoning populations of the jobless and an uncertain future. Can we celebrate Independence Day with all this?

Our PM had made the clarion call and asked us to pool our resources to make ourselves, as a nation, self-reliant or atma-nirbhar. An uphill task if you ask me since we are not the kind of people who embrace any change easily, especially if it requires us to move out of our comfort zone.

We may have been the land of Aryabhatta or where shunya was discovered but our education system needed more than half a century to wake up and realise how far behind it has been left. To be self-reliant, the first thing we need to be able to do is to think freely, and in the most innovative and out-of-the-box way. For this, the mind has to be trained to think differently.

How can we expect generations who have been told to mug up what was there in the books and regurgitate the same in the exam papers year after year to think freely? Free thinking and creativity need to be nurtured from a very early stage. The enthusiasm of our young generation needs to be encouraged to experiment with new ideas. Laws and regulations need to undergo major overhauling to embolden our entrepreneurs.

And the people who need the maximum encouragement and education about being progressive are our political class. They fear change the most. They feel threatened by any kind of progressive thinking. They see their hold on the uneducated, ignorant masses slipping out of their hands. Their feral sense of self-preservation comes into play in full force. Instead, they can be the torchbearers in this movement of change and progress. By leading from the front, they can be the leaders they aspire to be.

In times like this, two minds are better than one. And we have more than a million brilliant minds waiting for just a little opportunity to help our nation get back on track. If we are able to rise above our petty mindsets, restricted by caste, class and regional identities, we can get back the glorious days that we like to talk about so much. Let’s give it a try. Let us promise ourselves a better future, with truly independent thoughts and actions.

Jai Hind

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