The independence associated with Independence Day no longer holds value for the youth. What does freedom mean to the descendants of the freedom fighting generation?
“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practise it!”
I was reminded of this famous William Faulkner quote last weekend, and it couldn’t have been in a more opportune setting.
We were at a brunch hosted by Hoshang Verma (name changed), one of Delhi’s most loved fashion designers and his much younger, famously philandering husband. Hoshang may not have had a sold-out collection in years but he certainly hosts the most talked-about soirees in town. This one, too, was every bit as juicy and decadent as one can imagine. Except that the guest list also included one of the most admired
young politicians, belonging to the city’s ruling party.
As the bubbly flowed, so did the chatter, from one topic to another, ending right at the idea of azadi in today’s India. Everyone stood up in attention; we had gone from foursomes to freedom, after all.
“I don’t think Independence Day holds any value for the youth today. For them, it’s just another holiday, and a dry one at that!” Hearing these words from the politico was both shocking and scandalous. Wasn’t he supposed to channel all things patriotic? “Don’t shoot the messenger, will you? I’m just speaking the truth. We’re long past the desh bhakti era. The young generation is fighting for the future instead of wallowing
in the past.”
You have to admit it’s an interesting observation. Even though we pride ourselves on our great freedom struggle, unfortunately or fortunately, it doesn’t seem to resonate with the modern men and women. Yes, they studied it all in school, and yes, they definitely respect and admire the likes of Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Bose. But their interest in Independence Day ends at that.
What they do care about, instead, is how much independence they actually get to enjoy on a daily basis.
“Yes, we’re technically a free country but in this current political climate, are we really? A simple tweet can get you behind bars!” Samir Chopra (name changed), entrepreneur extraordinaire and the man behind one of India’s leading food delivery giants, certainly wasn’t in the mood to
mince his words. When we met for drinks at a popular watering hole in Delhi, he was in the mood to keep it real. “Our Constitution guarantees us our right to freedom of speech and expression, and then the powers-that-be walk all over it.”
If the men are feeling jaded, imagine how things are for the women. Nandini Behel (name changed), model of the moment from Mumbai, put it best. “Women anyway have so much more to fight for. Just walking down the street and coming home safe is a luxury. How can anyone even expect us to feel free?” If the statistics around women’s safety are to be considered, India is no country for women. “I was recently trolled
on Instagram for putting out a beach selfie—my cleavage triggered a bunch of sexist men into giving me rape threats. And this was just another day in the life of an Indian woman!”
The LGBTQIA+ community too isn’t too excited. And this despite the landmark Supreme Court judgment on Section 377, decriminalising homosexuality in 2018. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the community who isn’t thankful for the judgment. But is that all we deserve?” Kavish Kumar (name changed) isn’t just one of the country’s most prominent gay rights activists but also a leading scriptwriter, based in Goa. And
he’s always dropping truth bombs about the situation in the country regarding his community. “We can’t marry the person we love, or even open a joint bank account. This isn’t freedom, is it?”
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. A lot of young people today do feel we’re in a good place.
Sanjit Sahni (name changed) definitely knows a thing or two about the youth’s state of mind. He is, after all, forever
engaging with them, as a popular fashion influencer on social media. And when he says things aren’t as dire, one is almost tempted to believe him. “It’s become a fad to diss everything about the government of today; people conveniently ignore all the good that’s happening just because they can’t stand our PM. And that’s not fair!” And what are these good things? “We’re a much more influential country, globally, and a lot firmer in our stand on geopolitical issues. There’s also the abrogation of Article 370, vaccinating 90 percent of the population against Covid-19, etc.”
But what about personal freedom? Akansha Nigam (name changed), stylist to the stars, firmly believes things are headed in a better direction. “I’ve never felt that anyone’s freedom of speech and expression has been compromised. What else explains the name-calling I receive from men online simply for defending this government? The ‘liberals’ aren’t so liberal after all!”
That’s the thing about the young—just when you think you’ve figured them out, they make you think again. But no matter which way the tide turns, it’s certain that young people know what they want, and they won’t halt without getting it.
And isn’t the greatest freedom of all, the freedom to fight for what you believe in?
Who Am I?
(Think of me as someone who knows the minds, hearts and bedrooms of the young Indian today. I have a social life across cities that allows me access to coveted parties, people and positions (pun absolutely intended!). Through this column, I aim to keep you abreast of how the young people of India go about their personal lives. I promise to keep it honest and to-the-point. No judgements, no prudishness.)