The Water Cooler

Chasing Independence

The only thing about our independence I know is the struggle for it. Since I was born much after the Chinese occupation of Tibet, to be a citizen of an independent country is a feeling I'm not very familiar with.

When we were younger, the small Tibetan community evoked patriotism by watching street plays that illustrated the hardships our fathers and their fathers suffered, crossing the Himalayas barefoot and fleeing the Chinese brutality. So to me, Independence equaled suffering, violence, deprivation. Worse still, it made us "identity-less", gave us the tags of exiles.

During teenage years, my idea of Independence Day was the function at school, before classes — the day we dressed in our (or borrowed) Indian best. It was a day when we acknowledged the importance of the maintenance staff in our lives- in a residential school. Instead of the Principal, the Indian flag was always hoisted by a watchman, a cook or a sweeper.

In my early twenties, Independence Day was just another working day. It was producing television shows on freedom in general, and specifically on the progress India has made in its sixty odd years as a free nation.  15th August  meant yet another late night at office. It also meant the fruition of weeks of labour.

Now, the idea of independence has taken a whole new meaning. It's not only a struggle, or a "function", or a holiday or a just another working day. It's all that and more.

My idea of independence is in its spirit. The first time I "felt" free was back in Mumbai, when I'd just started working. Post 9pm, the local trains are relatively empty so I loved taking the train after work. Despite there being seats empty, I loved standing by the door, all the way from Lower Parel to Andheri. Watching the various stations and slums pass by, I'd feel liberated, living on my own in a city like Mumbai, paying my bills and going out shopping without the guilt of spending parents' money.

Since I don't have an Independence Day to celebrate, this 15th August I celebrate freedom from negativity and hate. Sometimes it's just simpler to believe that whatever happens, happens for a reason. Instead of being a pessimist, I'll start looking at the glass as half-full.

Hate has not got us anywhere in the past, nor is it ever going to get us to a better place. Instead of all that animosity and bitterness, if we detach ourselves from the sources of anger, we'd be happier.

Finally the most important aspect of independence is our freedom of choice. It's time we respect and appreciate democracy because it has come to India after a long hard struggle. We Tibetans have as much to celebrate Indian independence as India does because this is where we Tibetans practice equal freedom of speech and mind.

So here's wishing every Indian a happy Independence Day!

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