If I were a bird, I would use my wings and fly
Just to know that freedom isn’t a lie
History has rendered many meanings of the word ‘freedom’. Even in the recent past as well as present, we hear about people struggling to be free from rules of other nations, bonded labour, child labour, prosecution of women. People working for multinational companies also have their own version of freedom. They sell their freedom for the money they get. Life is a bond which we sign in return of the comforts or whatever we desire. Even when we ask god for something we exchange something in return. Indirectly we are signing a contract with Him too.
For months whenever I closed my eyes, I would see myself as a free roaming wild horse or racing down a hillock, arms stretched, carefree like a child, wind blowing on my face and my hair flying in all directions. In real life, doing this at my age, can have catastrophic consequences, but the feeling I got from these visions exalted me and somewhere inside I felt a trapped soul seeking freedom. What this meant wasn’t clear to me, till covid happened.
Life came to an abrupt halt. No one was free to do what they wanted. An invisible threat even took away the right to sneeze freely. You could not meet friends and family. Children couldn’t play freely or go to school. No one was free any longer. But as time passed this became a norm and this very life style we had adopted became normal. It was simply life became slow, wants became few.
Somewhere I still felt something amiss. My son who has been working from home all this while was feeling restrained and frustrated by these sudden changes. We decided to take a chance and visit the hills. Interstate travel had just started and hotels had opened up in Uttarakhand. We booked our tickets to Dehradun and our ultimate destination was Kanatal, a place two hours from the airport. Not very sure of how things would turn for us we reached Kanatal on the designated day. The owner of the hotel was really a wonderful person. He had practically kept the second floor of the hotel for us. The reason being internet facility was better on that floor (since my son was working) and the long corridor had huge bay windows from where you could see panoramic view of the valley.
As we had reached early, we thought of exploring the place. Before we could do that, we realized we really had to explore our own body. The legs seemed to have forgotten how to walk. Months of sitting at home with virtually no physical exercise, had taken its toll. After a kilometre or so the legs seemed to respond to the command of ‘walk’. Being without a mask and breathing normally seemed a luxury. After being cramped in a flat for months the expanse of the valley seemed surreal. It took us a couple of days to get used to this freedom of mind and body. Freedom took on a new meaning.
The fresh unpolluted air bought with it the realization that freedom is a state of mind. You are what you want to be. On one of my walks one afternoon I saw a kid on his dad’s shoulders plucking some vegetables which were a little higher than his father’s reach. As the kid plucked them he passed them on to his mom. This whole process was executed with mirth and happiness. They also extended an open invitation to me to have supper with them. An invitation to a person they didn’t know from Adam. Something in me made me realise the meaning of my vision.
I remembered the words I had read somewhere, ‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion’. The very act of being able to grow what you want to eat and pluck it with your own hands is a kind of freedom. An inner solace which we forget exists in the world. We have bound ourselves to a world which is unreal and mechanical. Our existence is of total dependence. Our relationships, work, friendships, love even pain, are dependent on someone or something. We have forgotten to hone our instincts or inner self to provide us the lasting happiness we keep seeking outside. Life has become a never-ending search for something which is within. The vastness of the mountains, the cool fresh air, the fluttering grass, smiling vibrant flowers, are all reminders of the shackles we have put around us and we have forgotten the simple ways to be happy.
Doing what you love is freedom.
Loving what you do is happiness.
Lana Dei Rey
Our ancestors struggled to make ends meet. They led simple lives. Ate simple food. Had few belongings, but the happiness quotient those days was definitely higher than what it is today. People were free within as wants were limited and they would only take from nature what was required. Even today, countries like Bhutan believe in GNH, Gross National Happiness, whereby they have put happiness before economic growth and set world standards for environmental preservation. Blending a simple lifestyle with present times and being true to our nature will give our future generation the freedom to think and act freely and make the world a better place to live in.
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