What is freedom? To be very fair, I will not be able to define freedom in a single sentence as it means several different things to several different people. Even for me, it means a myriad of things. But I can describe what roots mean to me, a little better. Roots are important. They steady us. They give us an identity. They remind us of our strengths and often give us a home, a sense of belonging; and more often than not, a direction when there is none. As somebody who is preparing to leave behind the comforts of home, I can only hope that I will never forget my roots while chasing freedom. And, for this reason, I would attempt to describe how the two have shaped me so far and how I hope they continue to do.
At the age of 15, I tried moving out of the safe space and comfort of my home to unknown surroundings in pursuit of self-discovery under the guise of higher education. I searched for independence as the stereotypical teenager who wants to run away from home and the eyes of her parents to get a taste of ‘life’. But, I search for my roots in the little things everywhere, every day.
I come to realise that chasing freedom and staying true to your roots don’t have to be mutually exclusive. My perception of freedom has changed from the fictional world showcasing the ability to stay up all night at a party to the bittersweet realisation of being on your own. Freedom, for me, is the ability to make my own decisions, choose my own path and liberation from my own demons; a world where no form of emotional or societal enslavement would hold me down. And that sense of liberation comes from broadening my horizons and understanding different cultures while holding on to my heritage and sharing with the world, the rich history and culture of the land that I come from. The world is a global village now. And the only way of acceptance and appreciation is to learn and understand each other’s cultures and celebrate them all.
Freedom comes in a myriad of ways for me. The first and most important being independence. Being able to pay your own bills someday, booking your own appointments- the shift from homemade Rotis to seeing to your own well-being. It also brings out the point that this freedom comes with its own set of responsibilities, that will only increase from this point on. It is the first step into adult life when we move from everything being given to us in our school to struggling and shaping ourselves as to-be adults and understanding how the world works. This freedom is not just limited to getting a driver’s license, it comes with the responsibility of deciding where to drive to. It is the time to understand the world around us- politics, finance, science, art- and explore everything the world has to offer. It is time to recognise or acknowledge our skills and hone them and celebrate it with everyone around us. This is a very powerful and, at the same time, a very vulnerable sense of freedom. It is very easy to get swayed away by whims and it is during times like these, our roots give us the direction to achieve all that we want to.
In the World Report on Violence and Health by the World Health Organisation, there exists a chapter entirely dedicated to child abuse and neglect caused by parents and caregivers. It is a global problem and a significant percentage of testimonies come from teenagers in India. Now, as we make the transition to adulthood, our freedom comes to us truly only on the day we have shed all the trauma that we have undergone or may have seen someone undergo. Freedom comes when we decide to not let the past chain us down, as we embark on the steppingstones to the new life as its navigators. In this aspect, our roots teach us forgiveness. They provide us with the strength to differentiate between the values to hold on to and teaches us to let go of anger. Being rooted to what is right, gives us the ultimate liberation, which is nothing but the ability to be like a lotus- wake up to the sun every morning, break free from harsh conditions and bloom untouched by the mud. Fully grounded to its roots, blooming from within.
The last but most important form of freedom to me is freedom from my own demons. These comprise of my insecurities and imposter syndrome, all stemming from self-doubt. At the age of 15, as I still struggle to fight these off by practising the things I am already good at, by taking out time for myself no matter how busy the day gets, I feel myself shedding a little more of this every day; slowly leading to the day this becomes a thing of the past or perhaps even a memory that I can chuckle to myself about. In the end, I can say that freedom is an essential and integral part of every human being, especially at this stage of life. And freedom is what every person should aspire for, however they may choose to define their freedom. As long as one stays true to his or her roots, this process becomes much more holistic and secure.
Author: Chitsa Khosla, from Summer Fields School, Delhi
(IGenPlus is joint initiative between Soumya Aggarwal and Indic Academy.)