Competition Entry #28 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70

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ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry

 

The Freedom to Dream: India at 70
Niharika Verma, 22 years old, Delhi

 
India, our beloved Bharat Mata, our motherland, is celebrating her 70th birthday this year: the result of the love that thousands of freedom fighters had for her, a love so great that they were ready to lay down their lives for their matribhoomi. Why? So that the air we breathe would be free, the land we walk on would be ours, and the dignity of the people would be, once again, their own. Love for our country and its freedom is what motivated them.

Love: the emotion that can rile an entire nation to stand together, that turns a mother into a lioness when her child is threatened, that brings two lovers together, leaping over the walls of caste, culture and religion. Isn’t that the idea?

Then why cage it? Why define the boundaries of where love might take us? Does it have to comply by standards defined by some people?

Why then, do some of us still shudder at the idea of homosexuality? It is as natural as any other couple you might see walking down the road, holding hands, maybe even sneaking a kiss or two in the rain. These people have the same desires: to be accepted and celebrated as a mated pair. Why then label their love as unnatural and reduce them to second-class citizens when their sexual identity is revealed? They are no different than you and I. Do they deserve to be judged by something that wasn’t a choice, but a fact of life, as normal as breathing and sleeping? Do they deserve contempt and condescension?

On 2 July 2009, the Delhi High Court held section 377 to be unconstitutional if it involved consenting adults. Why then did the Supreme Court choose to overturn this ruling on 11 December 2013? How much longer does this community have to wait to be represented?

I am part of the younger generation, impatient in wanting what is rational and acceptable to be come normal. Maybe there is a concession to be made here.

And then I think about honor killing. According to a popular news website, ‘India has registered an almost 800 percent rise in the number of killings in the name of “honor” reported last year, according to figures presented in parliament’. Killing your own blood mercilessly for loving someone of a different caste or religion seems like a dreadful waste. Is your honor so fragile that it cannot afford your own child the freedom to choose their life partner? Is your honor so important that you are ready to sacrifice your own blood, the child you loved and raised into adulthood, at its alter? To practice this archaic ritual in the twenty first century seems like the height of insanity and cruelty to me.

And then, I think about female feticide and infanticide. According to the statistics provided by ‘CIA World Factbook’, India was ranked number four in in the world on skewed sex ratios at birth. The fact that someone plays God over a defenseless life that should have been cherished and nurtured infuriates me. Awarding a baby the death sentence because it made the unknowing mistake of being female is one of the biggest reasons why our society is so patriarchal. I wonder if these people, when they are about to commit murder, think about the fact that their mothers and wives are female.

And then I think about dowry. I am bewildered by the fact that my own mother is expecting to pay dowry when I get married. I tried to tell her that it wouldn’t be so in my case, for which I was chastened to be less naïve. I am bewildered by the fact it still happens, even among the educated and ‘high-class’ societies, it just doesn’t happen so explicitly anymore. And I live in the capital of India! By mid 2016, Delhi Police had already registered 92 dowry deaths, including the murders and suicides of women, tortured and harassed by their in-laws and husbands.

Dowry turns what should be a beautiful start of a new adventure in a couple’s life, into an ugly business transaction between two families. Is the groom doing the bride such a favor that he needs to be repaid through dowry? Maybe it is time the tables were turned. After all, logically, it is the woman who makes the greater sacrifice when she leaves her home and her name behind. Food for thought?

I do not discount the progress that we have achieved today, nor do I overlook the efforts of the men and women that made our country into the international power it is today. But we cannot call ourselves truly progressive when these injustices are still rampant. I think of the men and women that gave their all to get us to this point in history, and I ask only this: would they feel proud of where we are today?

Doesn’t everyone deserve the freedom to dream?

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