Competition Entry #18 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70

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ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry

 

Freedom to Dream: India at 70 
Aurodeep Mukherjee, 24 years old, Hyderabad

 

I am twenty-four and immortal. Today, a group of people who barely know me in spite of numerous enquiries into my background and my past as well as my current physical constitution, come and determine that I must be renamed, that I must be redefined with some of my limbs lopped off, and with a strict partitioning of my body. I concede, because in my eternal life, this has happened before. I was twenty-four before this ritual renaming, but before that I have been older, have had multiple — if discrete — lives. But some part of me must survive these baptisms: the eternal soul, as it were, the very part of me that can contemplate with detachment my past and current existence, and also, sometimes, the future.

What is true of me must surely be true of a nation. And my nation has lived multiple lives, as Jambudwipa, Aryavarta, Hindustan, Bharat. India is the name of its latest incarnation. It was born at the stroke of the midnight hour August 15th, 1947, when the world slept. A pledge was made then that we must yet redeem completely, an identity consciously accepted and proudly declared to the world. And this is the nation that turns seventy now, a ripe old in the life-time of a man, whose years have been declared no more ‘three-score and ten’, yet an age when a nation has yet to fulfil itself. Gone is the optimism and the vibrant desire to build anew that characterised the giddy years after Independence. Gone are the dark times of political discord within the nation and without. This age is perhaps the most difficult yet the most productive: social reform is no longer violent, but occurs steadily; literature and the arts does not inflame and disrupt, but strive for a cultural identity in sync with the world yet unique.

Yet all of this leaves answered the question of essence. What is that eternal component common to Aryavarta, Hindustan and India?

Memories, perhaps. Ghosts of past ages, of cultures and people that live on as wraiths, even though present times are sometimes intolerant of them and would rather have a clean slate on which to build, in the hopes that the edifices generated now will last. They will — but only as the past survives and colours all things to come with its spectre existence. The ruins that dot the desert sands remain the only memory of Ozymandias, King of Kings. Yet a future built on detritus alone can never attain greatness. How then to escape this double bind of a past that cannot be discarded, a future not yet conceptualised?

If memories are records of past selves, dreams are projections of future identities. My dreams of the present are formed within the bounds of the past and the restrictions of the present, born of a close confluence with the currents of time. These dreams are opportunities not yet missed. In their possible realisation lies the ever-elusive essence of a person and of a community and through these we can interpret the soul of the nation. In these dreams, can occur a reconstruction of self. In these dreams, a self synchronous with the present and simultaneously true to the eternal essence of being can be envisioned. In these dreams, every person lives his ideal and realises the best in himself, thus ultimately for the nation. In these dreams, synchronicity exists.

The freedom to dream comes from a reality that tolerates such an ‘idle’ and ‘unproductive’ activity. This reality cannot place bounds on the imagination, cannot define the domain of thought and vision. Yet without a firm grounding in the real, the imaginary generates only chimeras. This dream then has to fulfil a dual function: it must incorporate the multitudes of the present as well as the throngs of the past. It must establish an all-important synchronicity with its past selves in order to construct a cohesive future. Only then can the nation that is now called India remain the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new.

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