ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
The Freedom to Dream: India at 70
By Rahul Kulkarni, 21 years, Chennai
To be standing at Vijay Chowk on the eve of Republic Day is a profound feeling. Something mesmerizing marches down the mildly sloped Rajpath the next day. Something that speaks of millennia of history, art, poetry, culture, religion, but more importantly of a society of lives and livelihoods that have survived a succession of trials and tribulations, pressures from within and out, these last seventy momentous years.
The life of this nation is a manifestation of the incessant march of human civilization itself. It has assimilated everything on its way, layers upon layers, weaving a rich tapestry. It is this tapestry that is on display on the Rajpath. Rajpath itself is a keeper of history, a vista of freedom and symbolic of the idea of India, for towards the west, it weaves through the two blocks of establishment. The two blocks stand for duality, the duality in every shade of the idea of India. And in spite of the all-pervasive duality, there emerges on a farther horizon a dome, not an Indian construction, possibly inspired from the Sanchi Stupa or the Roman Pantheon, that beckons each one of us to celebrate that very duality. It is a dome of our idea, our being, our endeavour to reconcile, our promise to agree on how we disagree, and most importantly, a glaring testimony that irrespective of how or who governs the modern republic that we have come to be, one of the world’s greatest civilizations shall stand unfettered, unflinching, rock-solid — just like that dome.
Seventy years ago, there was a moment of great significance in the long and arduous journey of our nation. We were unshackled from centuries of bondage and strife. Our sovereignty as the Indian nation, our political independence in the form of the Indian state, ushered us into the modern world order of a democratic comity of nations. Independence was however more than that. It was a reassertion of our ideas that we had always stood for, our value sets that had always guided us, and our fundamental belief in the promise of our people. To a large extent, it found utterance in the guiding document of our republic — our Constitution, for it is in this document that we find our steady faith in the promise of our people being nurtured by the Fundamental Rights, which place the individual at the centre of the churn.
The dreams of the nation are nothing but the dreams of our people. It is these dreams and aspirations that collectively weave us into a nation. And the first step towards nurturing and achieving these dreams is expressing them. The freedom of expression is the freedom to articulate in social, political and economic discourses our dreams and our ideas for the nation and society we want to be. The richness and vibrancy of these discourses shall determine our vision for our future. After 70 years of independence, the freedom to express must be inherent to our freedom to dream.
However, the freedom to dream requires emancipation from the struggle to survive. India is facing some profound challenges, with millions living on the threshold. In the seventieth year of our Independence, the freedom to dream must come with the responsibility of improving the lives of these people. In providing them with the protection of basic livelihood, we provide them with the mental space to aspire: the freedom to dream. It is these unheard voices that shall diversify the discourse and add vibrancy to our dreams as a nation.
If history is anything to go by, the freedom to dream — of kings and their kingdoms, of people and their enterprise, of labourers and their hard toil — is sacrosanct to the very idea of India. It is has not only got us where we are but will take us where we aim to go. Yet it is also an inherent value of our democratic society to keep to the median and shun the trappings of ideological extremism. The freedom to dream shall be well served if we create polemic centrists who exacerbate this process of pivoting towards the middle path.
After 70 years of independence, the freedom to dream needs to be strengthened, made more inclusive, and well guarded in these times. It must be staunch and yet serene, much like wheel on our national flag. For it is our dreams that will determine our tomorrow.