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 Britishers left us and we rose like the 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 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 be still existing in this world, India has a vast cultural history, which has evolved over centuries and nurtured generations. But at some point of time we stopped evolving, or rather were terrified of the rapid changes happening around us. And so, like the ostrich dug our head 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 were the product of the social conditions of those times, a social requirement to deal with the changing equations in the society. Then why are we still following it? Can’t we evolve with the transforming dynamics of our current social conditions and revolutionize the 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 presently, be it social, economic or medical. While the Chinese continue to be an irritant like a festering wound, the Covid 19 coronavirus – another Chinese by product – has metamorphosised into a formidable enemy which has brought the complete globe to its knees. 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 an 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 make changes in our thought processes. Our education system needed more than three decades to wake up and realise how far behind it has been left behind. To be self-reliant, the first thing we need to be able to do is 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 people who for generations have been told to mug up what was there in the books and regurgitate the same in the exam papers year after year? Free thinking and creativity were squashed at a very early stage. It’s not impossible but it will need time. The enthusiasm of our young generation needs to be encouraged to experiment. Our red tape-ism also needs to undergo major overhauling to embolden our entrepreneurs.  Laws and regulations need some renovation.

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 forward thinking. They can see their hold on the uneducated, ignorant masses slipping out of their hands. And that’s why they are the ones who create the maximum obstacles. 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. It’s truly the need of the hour if they want to free the nation from this oppressive pandemic.

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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