The first time I tasted real independence was when I left home and moved to Mumbai alone, at the age of 17. A career in modelling had come calling while I was still in 11th standard, and my assignments kept bringing me to the city. I decided to move permanently, to try my luck in the city of dreams. My decision has served me well all these years. When my parents heard about my choice, they never held me back. They dropped me to the airport with one simple piece of advice — if I was leaving their house, I was responsible for my own decisions, and if I messed up, I couldn't come running back, asking them to fix everything. I realised that with independence comes great responsibility.
Having celebrated 63 years of independence as a nation recently, I took the time to evaluate what my years of independence have meant to me. I’ve lived fearlessly, and held my own in a demanding, male dominated industry without having to compromise on my morals. I have bought and owned property, been able to have a live-in relationship with dignity (which was not favourably looked upon until a few years ago), been able to not give in to societal pressure and decide for myself, who and when I will marry.
On a larger scale, women in this nation have fought hard for rights that have changed our lives irrevocably. The right to have access to, and use contraception to decide when we would want to bear children, the right to enforce the PCPNDT Act to prevent the detection of the sex of a foetus so that we can protect the girl child. The right to be elected to office and have a fair voice in government. The right to be able to inherit ancestral property… the list goes on.
When I read articles like the recent cover story in TIME magazine, about a young Afghan bride whose nose and ears were cut off, I give thanks for the nation I was born in, and the freedom I have. Yet, it doesn't stop me from thinking about the millions of fellow women in my own country, who still do not have access to education, basic health care, sanitary conditions of living, safe deliveries — things I take for granted.
So with the passing of this Independence Day, I renew in myself my oath of being proud of my country, but everyday, remembering my responsibility towards it and making sure that I work to see the India I imagine, a country free of corruption, economically sound, with equal opportunity for men and women and a truly great nation that becomes an example for the world.