"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

It was one of the busiest traffic signals in the city and I stood in a corner, watching it. I was just following orders - they said it was the best way to keep my year old nephew quiet and occupied. For the next 30 mins or so, both uncle and nephew watched the same scenes, but with totally different attitudes. 

I watched over the junction with disdain - my respect for human nicety dropping every minute. There wasn't a single sight to behold and cherish out there. The way motorists piled up at the zebra crossing, tripping on pedestrians, honking incessantly looked like hungry dogs on a leash. Eunuchs picked on the couples, Beggars were just happy to add to the mayhem. Hawkers made a market place shouting their wares, Traffic police always looking to make a quick buck. While I wondered how such a world could even exist, my nephew saw it all with excited curiosity. Nothing could distract him away from it. He watched it like a grand stage show was unfurling in front of him, the noise of the horns tickled his ears, he clapped everytime the signal lights changed and a new wave of vehicles rushed out, he even tried to shake hands with one of the beggar kids.

I can say my knowledge made me a better judge of the situation while the kid was just an indifferent observer. I was judging, evaluating, while he was just enjoying it. The toddler was not aware of the misery of being a beggar, of the selfish motives of the traffic police, of the rude impatience of the motorists. I had preset notions on the way of life, while the kid was just a blank slate. I was creating opinions and weighing the world around me, while the toddler was just accepting things the way they are. From the very same thing, one was getting depressed while the other was getting inspired.

A philosopher sees waste in everything, while a poet sees everything even in waste.

"Be like a Child, Look at the world with innocence, Always live in the present moment"
..the stuff they tell you at a weekend Art of Living course. They vouch for it too. Nevertheless, It does seem quite true that a childlike innocence creates a fertile ground for sowing seeds of a broad mind, which watered with curiosity and pure goodwill shall eventually bear fruit of an enthusiastic positive attitude. We all are (fortunately) born as kids and, hence, we do start our lives in the cradle of the same innocence that draws inspiration from all aspects of God's creations; but then our life shifts gears shortly thereafter. Our very own folks taint our minds, pollute our intellect and misdirect our lives. It happens right within our inner circles.. 

Did you get an A-grade in school today? why are other kids getting more than you?... Don't let anybody get ahead, you should always stay at the top... Its an age of competition, only the best survive
Never trust anyone in this world... All politicians are corrupt
Its a bad world out there, everyone is after your money... If you offer more money to God, he will bless you more
Our neighbor has a car, we should have one too... First think of your family, the rest of the world comes later
Stay away from the poor, they are dirty and sick
Dont ask so many questions. Just do what the priest says..
Poets, Philosophers and Artists are begging on the streets today.. Mera beta engineer banega!
... are just some sample words/advices that children heads are filled with. The same home that is supposed to teach charity, teaches the art of war (and the first casualty of war is Innocence). Home, today, is the first place where natural instincts are curbed, new and fresh thoughts are suppressed. The outside world just continues the decay process further. A child is forced to follow the train of thought whose rails lead to the world of the traffic junction that I was still sadly watching. A bud that was meant to blossom into a flower with its own uniqueness in God's garden would be hopelessly turned to a showpiece in the vase of the world.

When I turned to walk back from the traffic signal, my nephew started crying; made me wonder why all us adults were not crying - whose childhood was lost in the woods of this big bad world. A world where we ended as narrow projections of the broad dreams we saw as children. A world where we started off asking so many questions, and finally ended with a question mark stamped on our identity itself. The same world that has made our lives so hopeless, that we have even forgotten to cry for the right things..
Read a bunch of articles related to Independence... all appraisals bearing similar shades of cautious optimism inter-mixed with lamenting reproach. One applauded a robust economy weathering the storms of global recession and moving on to consistently produce armies of young billionaires, another lauded the achievement in literary and other arts which makes us academically among the most competitive in the world. Then came the mourns of a fractured democracy, of increasingly unstable governments, of ever-widening rich-poor divide, of scores still devoid of basic amenities, of corruption growing its tentatcles into all facets of civic life. Some in the light of historic assessments while some in the light of current 'hot' events, they all argued on similar tenets and mostly touched upon similar perspectives. The only difference - some end with a 'thumbs-up' while some beat our accomplishments down to a pulp..

A healthy man retires from active duty at the age of 60, what should a democracy do when it is 64?

My friends have chosen an interesting topic to debate on - "what is the difference between freedom and independence". I couldn't be party to their arguments but I am sure most of us would treat them synonymously, yet when one has to sit and nit-pick on the two, subtle differences may arise. Dictionary calls Freedom as the core concept of liberty while Independence is just a freedom from extenal/foreign control. Independence seems more a material relief while freedom is an innate feeling of boundlessness (or more appropriately - bondlessness). So in this respect, India secured her Independence in 1947 but is she enjoying her freedom too? In retrospect, looking at the rich cultural heritage that we have carried from time immemorial, could India have always enjoyed her freedom irrespective of whether she was independent or not?

This takes me to a subtle angle - Can freedom exist unrelated to independence - like say, a man could be jailed but isn't he still free to hold on to this attitude? Or the same person be left independent to roam about but may start feeling he is trapped unfree within a human body of limited abilities?

I dare say freedom is what you make it out to be. Independence or bondage is merely a chain that is enforced upon you by a non-innate agent. The agent could be a another person, norms of the society, repressive rules of law, restrictive situations of life and family, your own fears and inhibitions. There may never be a truly independent state of life. For instance, India got her independence from the British but she will never be truly free because she is forever 'in dependent': Dependent on the monsoons to feed her people, on global trade to keep her economy running, on the flow of foreign investment to keep her currency in good health, on the import of steel and oil to energize her growth. In an intricately woven and interconnected world like ours, true independence only comes with death. Its freedom that is the true light of the living.

As an Indian one may just feel independent, but its more important to feel free.. as a human being. Victor Frankl, the famed doctor who came up with the Logotherapy concept, survived on this very basis of freedom during his days at the Nazi concentration camp. Even in the middle of mind-numbing horror of camp tragedy, freedom of thought sparked the rays of belief in Victor which illuminated the light of hope in him and as a result kept him alive. Life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it - and a sincere feeling of freedom forms the basis of it. Freedom, the kingdom of the free, can transform drab existence to delightful living. Feel it!

In case you wanna leave a comment... feel Free! :-)