Independent? Yes. Free? I wonder about that.

This morning, I was talking a walk in the park. Please don’t get the wrong idea; this is not something I do on a regular basis, although I so badly want to. I am the kind of guy who gets all enthused about getting fit, works out for a few days, and then gives up, while coming up with convenient excuses, and then goes on for long periods of extremely sedentary living.

Today being the 70th Independence Day of the nation, the park had a bit of decoration put up. I noticed there were a couple of elderly gentlemen standing by the gate, ambushing walkers and pinning the national flag on to their chests. On my first circuit, they missed me as they were busy with others, but on round two, they stopped me and meted out the same treatment. I didn’t ask for this, I thought. But then, turning it down would have been downright rude, and made me look highly unpatriotic, and seeing that this caused me no harm or discomfort, I did not complain, and continued walking.

Some time later, a congregation of local government bigwigs and the park staff had gathered. This was for the flag hoisting ceremony. They called for all persons in the park to cease walking/exercising/doing whatever else they might have been doing and gather around. Knowing that the actual hoisting of the flag would be preluded by boring speeches by whomsoever deemed worthy, many people (including myself) continued on with our activities. However, some time later, I decided to stop and watch, albeit from a distance, while a few others focused on the reasons they had come to the park in the first place.

What followed were the long-winded speeches I had expected. One official actually told off the people who had not stopped walking. He spoke something along the lines of them celebrating the freedom of the country by organizing this event, and people uncaringly walking on. My friend, you droning on about social injustices, or thanking the local government and authorities for the maintenance of the park is in no way ‘celebrating’ the occasion of the Independence Day. And just because people chose to walk, rather than being part of your congregation, doesn’t make them unpatriotic, or the least bit disrespectful of the nation. I must mention that every soul present did halt and stand at attention when the flag was hoisted, and when the national anthem was played. Sure, there were a few kids running about, ignorant of the significance of the moment, but they were properly guided by their elders. Point is, if there was any disrespect, intentional or otherwise, it was not towards the flag or the country.

This got me thinking: we live in an independent country that fought for its freedom decades ago, having lost so much to fulfil this dream our ancestors had. However, are we truly free?

Do we have the freedom to follow what faith we choose, without the fear of hostility and ostracization?
Do we have the freedom to define our sexual orientation, and wear it for all the world to see, instead of cloaking it within a life of lies, lest we be harrassed , or worse, legally penalized?
Do we have the freedom to eat what we like, without ending up being killed ourselves by a mob of self-righteous vigilantes?
Do we have the freedom to speak out our minds, and not have our names dragged through the mud and our characters assassinated by the moral police? (This is one post of mine I would be happy to see not get any mileage, thank you)

About seventy years ago, at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, we threw off the yoke of imperialism and set out to etch our own glorious path as a free country. However, after all this time, I still think we have merely attained independence, and are still a long, long way from being truly free.