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Freedom outstretched

Liberty and social duty are like the two lines of the railway track that are indispensable to make the train run. If individual freedom is not restricted then social order will be disturbed.
Hindustan Times | By Ruchi Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 10, 2008 05:14 PM IST

The other day I entered a shoe shop and found a middle-aged woman venting her outrage in no uncertain terms on the doorman. She had an ice cream in one hand and coffee in a Styrofoam cup in the other.

She was shouting that our country became free in 1947 but we have yet to taste freedom in our everyday life. One cannot do as one pleases. I looked at her curiously. She was a well-dressed woman. She was ranting and raving.

I surmised that may be she had made some purchase and unhappy with it had come to return it. Perhaps, the salesman had refused to take back the shoes and that was the reason for her outburst. She continued pouring venom.

All activity in the shop had come to a standstill and everyone was watching the woman frothing in anger. She then went on to say that India had not benefited from the freedom it had gained. I thought that was taking things too far.

Failing to elicit any response from the salesmen she left the shop huffing and puffing. After her departure, the salesmen started talking to each other. I overheard one of them saying that they cannot permit customers to carry eatables and drinks inside the showroom because there were chances of them spilling or dropping something on the shoes or the carpet.

The management had made the policy. The doorman had insisted on this and the woman got infuriated considering it an affront. Our Constitution secures to all its citizens liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.

But also enshrined in it are the fundamental duties binding on all citizens. In personal matters, we tend to do as we please. However, when our pleasure affects other people, we need to draw a line.

A traffic policeman may stop you at the intersection. It is not high-handedness that makes him act. If he did not stop you, he would not stop anyone and that would lead to chaos on the road.

Instead of criticising others we should introspect our won actions. Often, motorists honk asking their right of way. Little do they realise that the road belongs to them as also to other motorists. It is like your neighbour learning the harmonium in the middle of the night.

You may not get sleep even if you plug your ears with cotton wool. But his lack of civic sense holds true for you too. Now, a new trend has started. People on various occasions have a huge marquee put, hire a DJ along with party and the resultant din keeps the neighbours awake, not to say the plight of the elderly, the sick and students preparing for exams.

Here too, people are taking their freedom too far. What about stopping people who drive at breakneck speed even in streets and lanes of residential colonies throwing all safety norms to winds? In the same vein, the seats reserved for the old and physically handicapped in the buses and Metro are invariably occupied by youngsters who do not have the courtesy to vacate their seats for whom they are reserved.

The lady seemed to be inebriated with her individual liberty and was blind to the rights and wrongs of civilised society. We can live our lives according to our whims and fancies only in matters that do not concern others.

To enable to enjoy freedom, everyone’s freedom must be curbed. Liberty and social duty are like the two lines of the railway track that are indispensable to make the train run.

If individual freedom is not restricted then social order will be disturbed. Our conscience is conscious of the rules of social behaviour but the need of the hour is to hearken to it.

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