The essence of being born free...

My great grandfather was a freedom fighter. My grandfather proudly told us this a million times as we grew up; how he actually died or whom he really fought, my grandfather never went into details as he didn’t remember much,-being just thirteen year old when my great grandfather was killed.

Sometimes I even wondered if he actually was a freedom fighter or my grandfather made up that story to make us feel proud, but even if it was just a story, it was too beautiful a lie to be questioned. He made sure every Independence Day me, my sister Poonam n younger brother Vicky, remembered that story and it charged us enough to shout through the rest of the day ‘Jai Hind’. It would be only years later when we would understand the true significance and importance of being born free!

My grandfather whom we all call Dau-ji was a farmer and till date he is passionate about farming. At the age of 81, when most would prefer to laze around, he has managed to convert half of our house in Ghaziabad( a city next to Delhi) in to a mini-farm where with his khurpi (a sharp metallic tool to dig soil) he would be busy most of the day digging or sowing.
I once noticed with utmost fascination the way he moved his hand over the soil, the way he would very gently touch the plants, removing infected leaves- cleaning the vegetables, watering them; more than work for him, it appeared to me like a prayer. He laughed when I said this to him and said “my karma is my prayer. I have come from this soil and soon one day I will go back into the same soil. That’s our mother and you must learn to respect and also fight for it, if the need be. “ I found it too filmy till I read the seriousness in his eyes.

That’s the day he made me understand that the green color in our national flag indicated our relationship with the land and the plants-on which other life forms depend. I also learnt that the saffron was for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation; the white for purity and truth. And most importantly the chakra (the wheel) in the middle was the wheel of the law of Dharma which meant there was death in stagnation and life only in movement. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.

He said the day he would stop working, he would die. He never went to school but he knew what life was all about, and what our National Flag really meant, and most of us including me, who studied all their lives, even today do not understand our own national flag, including majority of the politicians who abuse it all the time.

I can go on endlessly about the stories about Dau-ji because he has always been my hero, but the reason I remembered him all the more today was as someone asked me if there was anything really as the spirit of freedom and the relevance of mother nation in global perspective.

I paused to think about it and realized that relevance of being the son of the soil would always be there. Every land has its own energy, vibes, essence, fragrance, values n culture, which is beyond comprehension of a normal human mind. We may meet a million women in our lives, but what we feel in the comforting arms of our own mother has no substitute ever. We travel around the world, but the moment we set foot on our own soil-the feeling is inexplicable.

We love our mother, but we were also taught to respect other women, who would be mothers to our friends or neighbors…and the same sentiment has to be valued with regards to other nations-That they are the mother-nation to millions of others like us, and since we don’t disrespect our own family, we ought not to disrespect anyone else.

I remembered I had once fought my mother for some stupid reason n had shouted back up on her, telling in rude words that I won’t be answerable to her for everything and she had to respect my freedom. After 3 days to that was Independence Day and I was very excited about it, Dau-ji stared at me hard and told me, “you got no right to celebrate the Independence Day as you don’t even know its real meaning. If you cannot love and respect and love your blood-mother, you can never be true to the nation you are born in. You are just a pretender- almost a traitor.”

I almost cried but learnt my lesson. I learnt being born free doesn’t mean you got the right to do anything you want to at the cost of disrespect to your country-your mother or abandoning your own cultural-social values. We demand so much from our parents, our country, but I think we ought to take a few minutes off to think what have we actually ever given them back!
Today when I see people sending their parents to old age homes or throwing them out of their homes to live a so called comfortable life- I almost hate them –as if they are traitors to the nation- because my grandfather taught me that lesson many years back, if you can’t respect your own mother, how will you respect your nation.

You might have been born free, but before that notion of freedom comes the truth that someone gave birth to you. Our Flag is not to be held high just one day in the year …but it should forever be held high in our heart and in our lives. That’s the essence of being born free. To understand and appreciate truly what we have been given after huge sacrifices…and to uphold those values and beliefs forever and pass them on to the generation next. To become a strong arm to those who might need us and become their strength in life.

…and before I forget to tell you, I did finally ask one day about the truth behind my great grandfather’s death. Dau-ji was silent for a few minutes n finally spoke,’ he had been poisoned by some jealous villagers before India got independence’. I stared at him silently.

He smiled at me after a few moments and said, ‘I never told you before how he died or that he died fighting, so don’t look shocked! I just told you he was a freedom fighter- and yes that he was! …with patriotism in every drop of his blood and the same blood runs through your father and now you…and I know one day you will do us all proud in your own way and make a difference to a few lives in the process.’

I wish.


Pravin ur beauty is in ur words n ur pictures , m sure ur mom is very very proud of givin birth to some1 lyke u....
I go speechless when it comes to PRAVIN TALAN...
- Love,
garima said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garima said…
Hi Pravin
I am reading your blogs first time...n find out they are amazing specialy The essence of being born free is too good..You realy write well using a very simple English without any jarggans this is the best in your writing.
And your photographs are very beautiful.

Garima said…
Hi Pravin
I am reading your blogs first time...n find out they are amazing specialy The essence of being born free is too good..You realy write well using a very simple English without any jargans and thats the best thing in your writing.
And your photographs are very beautiful.

Hi Pravin,
Your heart touching narration reminded me of my Grandfather, who too was a Freedom Fighter, staunch Gandhian and a very good human being. Have great fond memories of him and whatever I am today is because of him....his values and teachings incorporated.
Please go through these two links :

Kind regards

Dr Sandeep