How free are we?

On the face of it, yes, we are a free nation. We are free of the imperialistic era. We are free to cast our votes and choose our own government. We have the freedom to speak out against any injustice for we have an impartial judicial system on which we can place our faith.
We enjoy free press,which gives us unbiased report on the running of our nation,on the happenings around the world,right at our doorstep. Yes we are free.
Free to breathe, free to talk. Free to walk, as we wish. Why, we are free to spit and even pee as,when and where we please.

But is that all there is to freedom. Are we really free?

  • Do I, as a woman, have the freedom to go out at night alone without the fear of being molested, raped or assaulted?
  • Why just night, can I walk on an empty street in broad daylight without a backward glance for any possible threat to my safety?
  • Can I walk upto a packet lying in one corner of a shop and pick it up without experiencing a chill run down my spine at the prospect of it ‘exploding’
  • Or for that matter can I have an absolute stranger come up to me for a harmless conversation and not eye him with suspicion? Why, he maybe a terrorist for all you know!
  • Do I have the freedom to feel safe in my own city, my own country?
  • Would a person from a ‘supposedly’ lower race, caste or creed feel free to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone from a higher strata WITHOUT any discriminatory glance from the latter?
  • Can a man visit a temple wearing jeans or a woman in salwar-kameez WITHOUT being disallowed for not wearing a mundu or saree instead?
  • Can a girl wear jeans or any ‘western outfits’ WITHOUT the risk of being blamed for ‘inviting eve-teasers or molesters?
  • Do we have the freedom to wear what we want to with ‘NO DRESS-CODES ATTACHED’?

  • Do filmmakers have the freedom to release a movie WITHOUT kowtowing to the ridiculous demands of our political fascists?
  • Do we have the freedom to go to a pub without the fear of getting beaten up by religious fanatics?
  • Do we have the freedom to choose who we marry without the fear of being castigated or even killed by our own family for endangering their ‘honour’?

The day I get an answer to all of these questions, in affirmative, I’ll understand the meaning of freedom in its truest sense.

Story-telling, the Grandparents’ way!

Pallavi had put up a status on facebook, a couple of days back wherein she mentioned how she couldn’t remember who Rama’s father was while narrating Ramayana to her son.

The status made me laugh out loud thinking about how well I could relate with her situation. I’ve had moments where, while reading out stories to Namnam, I have felt completely lost about certain characters and instances. So much so that I’ve even left them mid-way and tucked the books back in her shelf. * Shamefaced*.

But what Pal’s status also made me do was reminisce about my own story telling sessions with my grand parents. About the wonderful memories that are still so much a part of me.

The formative years of my childhood were spent at my maternal grandparents’ house. As both my parents were working and did not feel very comfortable having babysitters or Nannies around, it was only natural that they left me and my brother in our grandparents’ care, who lived just a few blocks away.

Story-telling sessions were an integral part of our stay at my grandparents. Especially stories from our Indian Mythology. The sessions were a wonderful way of bonding with our grandparents. We learned about the vastness of our culture and tradition from the different stories that they told us. They helped us widen our imagination ad infinitum.

Whenever I wanted to hear a story the first person I ran to, be it day or night was my grandmother,my Ammamma. She had some of the most precious pearls in her kitty. Her innate way of narrating stories made me want to live in those mythical eras. It was as though the characters sprang to life every time I pictured them in my mind.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

To give an instance which is still so vivid, when she told us about Jatayu, while narrating Ramayana, I remember forming a very ferocious and huge image, in my mind, of a vulture fighting it out with the giant Ravana. And then the image would transform into a very meek, broken,beaten bird lying on floor hoping desperately that Rama would come by just in time to be informed about his wife’s abduction. I remember feeling desperate myself at that point of the story, no matter how many times I would have heard it from her. Each time Ammamma reached that point I could feel that sadness and desperation creeping inside me.

Image courtesy Google Images

Another instance that I can give is when Ammamma narrated the story of Mohini, the only female avatar of Lord Vishnu, who tricked the Asuras by her enchanting ways, into handing her the Amrit, the nectar of immortality, and distributed it among the Devas. I remember having an image of a vast ocean with hundreds of Devas standing ashore to drink the Amrit. And for some strange inexplicable reason I imagined the Devas standing in a line, like school children waiting to get their candies!! Even the ocean that the Devas stood in front of, had the power to churn out Amrit, in my imagination!

One can find a lot of information about Mohini and the different versions and legends of her exploits in Wikipedia

While still on Devas or Suras, to this day I cant approve of them as genuine or godly as they are made out to be. I always felt they were a selfish, opportunist bunch who took advantage of their appearance and proximity to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, to get the better of their infamous brothers, the Asuras. Thats my perception though.

Even Achachan, my grandfather had an engaging way of reading Bhagwat-Geeta, Adhyatma Ramayanam or any book for that matter. Hearing him and then having him explain it made us understand the essence of Indian Mythology in a far better way than we could if we had read them ourselves.

Stories begin to look and sound so much better when narrated by grandparents, dont they? I’ve observed how engrossed Namnam looks when her grandparents tell or read stories to her. I do read stories to her from Amar Chitra Katha, Panchatantra and other books but I know its so not the same as being narrated by the grandparents. They are a true blessing!

Being away from home, I still feel though, that Namnam is missing out on a huge chunk of fun moments and learning from her grandparents. But I’m glad whenever she gets to be with them, she makes the most of her time.