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What does freedom mean, really?

india Updated: Aug 14, 2010 18:17 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Mohan Agashe, Theatre Actor


He is from a generation that came into being in the most important year in the history of independent India. “My generation got freedom absolutely free. So we had to think about what it really meant,” says the theatre actor who was born in 1947.



He adds, “To me, freedom is definitely more than the liberty to choose between a Honda Civic and a Toyota. Freedom is responsibility.” However, Mohan Agashe adds, sadly, not too many people feel the same way.



According to Agashe, 63 years is a long time for a country to mature. “Individuals can, so why can’t a nation?” he asks. “How long are we going to be a young democracy? We should have done much better than we are doing now.”



Rana

Agashe feels a lack of coordination and mistaken priorities are to blame. He says, “We forgot to concentrate on individual needs and requirements. Basic needs like food and education could not be distributed equally, while the country’s population could not be controlled.

And with time, everybody was struggling so hard to meet their basic requirements that they forgot about the country’s need to grow.” He adds, “In their bid to keep the opposition out, the ruling parties forgot to run the country.”

Although Agashe feels that the present generation shows some willingness to move in the right direction, he insists a lot more needs to be done. “I am happy that some things seem to be changing, but attitudes need to change overall,” he says. “We have to learn from the past, think of the future and live for the present. Only then can India function as a progressive country.”

Ajit Pal Singh, Former Indian Hockey captain
Obviously, I have no real recollection of the year I was born,” says former Indian hockey captain, Ajit Pal Singh. “For the longest time, it was just my birth year. It was only when I was perhaps five or six years old that I began to understand that 1947 was bigger than just being my birth year.

It was also the year my independent country was born.” Singh grew up hearing stories about all the struggles India was facing. And as the country moved forward, so did he. In fact he even contributed to the young nation’s success by captaining the team that won the Hockey World Cup in 1975. Singh’s Arjuna award and Padmashree honour brought him great acclaim.

Says Singh, “I saw India growing up, and remember life being very simple in the early days. There were absolutely no luxuries available. In fact, often even basic amenities were not in place. We struggled to get electricity and education. And progress was slow.”

According to Singh, it’s only after the ’80s that things “began to move”. “Initially, the pace of progress was very slow,” recalls Singh. “But no one can really be blamed for it. Everything needed to get in order – the politics, economy or the social fabric. Besides we had many issues to deal with.

The vastness, population, and the intrinsic divisions and differences between Indians
all had to be taken care of before we could move on.” Ask him if the present generation is doing the needful and he has a practical take. “Every generation has people who work for just themselves and those who work for the nation. That was how it was in my generation. This generation is a mix too,” he says.

Rana Daggubati , Film Actor
As he sees it, 26-year-old Rana Daggubati has just about begun to enjoy freedom. “According to me, freedom is when you are able to live just the way you wish to. I am free – to do what I want to, to live the way I wish to. I am getting to do that, and that is a great feeling,” says Daggubati.

The actor made his debut in the Southern film industry with the Telugu hit Leader and will soon debut in Bollywood with Rohan Sippy’s Dum Maro Dum. A quintessential Gen X boy, Daggubati says that though he has grown up on stories of India’s
freedom struggle, he can never imagine what people went through at that time.

“To even imagine that I would not be allowed in a restaurant or that I would have to fight to speak my mind is unthinkable. I guess that since we were born with liberty, we can’t think of a life minus it,” he says. Daggubati’s conscious recollection of the country’s development has been only of the last 20 years, in which, he says, India has made tremendous progress.

“But unfortunately this has not been organised,” says Daggubati. “That is why it isn’t reflected in most spheres. But over the next few years, with more and more younger guys taking the baton in their hands, there is surely going to be a change.”

But it’s also time for us to grow up, he adds. “As a nation, we have called ourselves young for far too long. It is time to mature. We have to make that difference and make growth more organised, better conceptualised, scientific and well distributed.”

Though Daggubati is very optimistic about the country’s future, he also insists that the next few generations need to be made better aware of India’s cultural heritage. He says, “In countries like the US, there are villages that are 200 years old. But here we have a heritage that dates back to thousands of years. We are a very rich nation culturally.

We need to preserve this and make future generations aware of the country that was and is, and at the same time, make sure that we do not forget the past and also look to the future.”

Ira Dubey, film and theatre actress
Freedom is a big word to this 26-year-old actress. “It actually means a lot, especially since there is a tendency to take it for granted,” says Dubey. The actress who made her film debut with the just-released Aisha says her idea of freedom is the liberty we have at different levels.

“At a holistic, worldly level, we have made great progress in terms of globalisation, the economy, political systems, etc. At a cultural level, there is great deal of exposure. For artists like us, that is the medium we thrive in. And thankfully, we have the liberty to express ourselves now.

That is a very big thing. And the third ideal of liberty is responsibility – the responsibility to hold all that is given to you with care and help make it better rather than taking things for granted,” explains Dubey.

But that is exactly where Dubey feels we seem to slip a little. “My grandfather was a part of the freedom struggle and I have grown up on stories about how the world was then. So I feel it is imperative to take care of our heritage,” she says. “ Yes, we have come a long way, but we need to end the divisions and discrepancies that exist in society.

From caste politics to problems in the education system to economic disparities, we need to get over all of it.” Dubey also feels that the present and future generations need a lot more than history textbooks to connect with the past. “History is a subject that most of us have mugged up, vomited out on to a page and forgotten. Textbook knowledge about anything is never enough,” she asserts.

“We need to have an upbringing that instills fervour and the national spirit that existed before. Thanks to my upbringing with strict parental values, theatre workshops, etc., I learnt a lot about the real struggle and began to appreciate it,” says Dubey.

A die-hard optimist, Dubey insists that India is a resilient nation. So it is only a matter of time, together with the right people in the right places, before it will be a real force. “We are warm, enterprising and almost in every corner of the world. And with young people taking the reins in the political and social spheres, we will soon be right on top,” she says.