The recent incident where a young student bravely spoke out for her right to a seat in a prestigious university reflects a refreshing independent boldness to take on established institutions. However, in a society which is very close-nit and one that thrives on family ties or other common denominators like tribe, village etc, are we ever truly free to act independently or voice out our true feelings?
Nagaland had just celebrated its 68th Independence Day on 15th Aug along with the rest of India, with fervor, ironically making it compulsory for the Government servants to attend the function. They were supposed to be celebrating Independence Day, so why weren’t they given a choice to decide independently whether to attend or not to. Anyways, to answer that or to comprehend it is beyond me. The question here is what is Independence?
The Oxford Dictionary defines Independence as ‘the state of being independent’ and the word independent is defined as ‘free from outside control or influence’. Are we truly independent?
Recently, I came across an article in Nagaland Post with the title ‘The Voice of the people, the strongest voice in the universe’. What is the voice of the people or do we even have a voice as such? Isn’t it true that today our voices are determined by many factors? Let us look at the present scenario. We dread to raise our voices or be different. It is almost next to impossible to stand out in the crowd, independently. Either we are too concerned with the public opinion or we are too scared of forces unseen that we prefer to remain complacent with what comes our way. It is always easier to follow the crowd then to lead a multitude. Now, can we confidently say that we are independent?
When I asked a group of about 90 students to give me their opinions on whether the poor get justice, their participation was quite dismal. Sad but true, a group of matured individuals, who were supposed to have had 12 or more years of education behind them, turned out to be individuals who could not think for themselves independently. So why do we celebrate Independence Day when we don’t even think or try to live independently? What does independence mean to you and to me? I believe that an independent person is one who is wise enough to take the right counsel and make the right decision based on his own wisdom without any outside influence.
The essence of life is lost on us, many a times, because we are too dependent on somebody else’s experience and knowledge. Maybe it is because of the fear of the unknown. But we will never comprehend the beauty of life unless we overcome that fear and explore life for ourselves. Take for instance, we are dependent on others opinion on how we dress. We restrict ourselves to a dress code and in the process we lose our identity and compromise our personality. We behave in a certain manner based on someone’s mood, we dress in a certain way based on someone’s opinion, we eat certain food based on someone’s taste buds or research, and sometimes we choose a career based on our parents dreams, and it goes on.
In an educational system, students are too dependent on the teachers and the notes since they fear getting fewer marks. Parents are too dependent on teachers to produce an Einstein out of their child. Teachers are increasingly becoming too dependent on technology, guidebooks, etc. what has happened to originality and creativity? What has happened to experiments and explorations? I believe it will be right to say that we are churning out robots in terms of thousands, every year. The most important factor of our examinations today is to produce students with the highest pass percentage. Are numbers more important than the quality of individuals? Is the next generation going to prosper only through numbers? What has happened to the values, principles and to right thinking, free individuals? If we have to bring about change in the society, than numbers should certainly be undervalued.
As an educator I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting individuals and it has given me immense pleasure. Individuals who were not scared to speak out their minds and explore their talents, but too few, nonetheless, there are brave minds out there. Since when has the world been kind to a beautiful mind? It is up to us whether we forego that kindness and live our dreams or be conformed to the expected norms of the world and be satisfied with a mediocre life. A matured, exemplary citizen is one who has the courage to seek the truth and live by it.
Of course, it is not possible to say that we can be totally independent; physically, emotionally or financially. We are intertwined in a complex phenomenon of relationships of one kind or the other. But our spirits can always be independent if we choose to be. We are on our way to becoming an independent person when we learn to live wisely and responsibly, taking into account our lives and living fearlessly without any quilt. Ultimately, at the end, we are alone, answerable only to God and nobody else