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The price of freedom
Azadi ki keemat kya hain (What is the price of freedom)
Sab kuch hain maa, sab kuch (I have everything maa, everything)
Jis azadi ke liye tujhse saari umra ladta raha (The freedom for which I kept fighting you all my life)
Woh saari azadi mere paas hain (I have all of that freedom now)
Phir bhi naa jane kyun dil ki har dhadkan udaas hain (But still, for some reason, my every heartbeat is sad)
Kehta tha na tujhse ki wahi karunga jo mere jee mein aayega (Didn’t I used to tell you that I’ll do whatever I feel like doing?)
Aur aaj main wahi sab kuch karta hun jo mere jee mein aata hain (Today, I do exactly what I feel like doing)
Baat yeh nahi hain ki mujhe koi rokne wala nahi hain (The point is not that there is no one to stop me)
Baat toh itni si hain (The point is just that)
Subah der se uthu na (If I wake up late in the morning)
Toh koi tokne wala nahi hain (There is no one to scold me)
- Shailesh Lodha
The year is 2014. I’m sitting in front of my father’s laptop screen. I had to take a major life decision: picking the college I wanted to go. I did my research (i.e. glance at the average job offers), spoke to a few seniors and felt ready. I was not. Even though I didn’t have clarity about other factors, one thing was clear: my college had to be as far away from home as possible.
My college offered 2 vacations: 2-3 months during the summers, 1 month during winter. Still, after my 1st year, I hardly spent 2 weeks per year at home. I’d be off to some internship or come back to campus after showing my face for a week at home. Sure, I learnt a lot through those internships and made many memories. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I simply wanted to be away from family.
Once I got the chance to escape, I grabbed it and convinced myself that I didn’t have to be restricted to the family or home I was born with. That I could find the home where I truly belonged. The family that was truly mine.
Today, I feel guilty to admit I had these thoughts. Even ashamed. But I’ve stopped being too hard on myself. How long can one keep punishing oneself for their past? Maybe that journey was necessary. After making many friends and loosing a bunch, trusting a set of people and being betrayed by some, after taking my family for granted again and again, I’m convinced: given the kind of person I am, very few people are capable of loving me as unconditionally as my family does. As purely as my family does.
Family. Such an important aspect of one’s life. They shape our lives and dictate the kind of person we become. Some people have many families. Some have none. Others only have the elements that make up the form we call “family”, not its functions. We talk a lot about family in our society. Yet, we don’t talk enough about the things that matter.
In the last 5 years, I’ve often felt alone in every city I’ve lived in. I’ve struggled to face my loneliness and kept filling in my free time with activities. Maybe I still do. But for the first time in this prolonged phase of living away from home, I feel a sense of familiarity and comfort. The kind that one is supposed to feel around family, in Bangalore (I refuse to use Bengaluru). It is my comfort place and sometimes, I have an urge to hold on to it very tightly.
My relationship with my family is also evolving. When my mother visited me in Bangalore for the first time last week, I did something I’d never done: call my close friends over for dinner. I’ve historically kept these 2 parts separate from each other as I was anxious about feeling ashamed. I could create this bridge now only because I’ve realised how lucky I am. To have been born to my mother and to have been nurtured with her love for the past 26 years. I wanted her to meet those who matter to me and feel content that she’s raised a decent man with beautiful people in his life.
When I look around, I see others on this journey of living away from their families, their path of newfound freedom and going through similar struggles. I want to comfort them but hold myself back to avoid the risk of sounding preachy. I want to say that life is not what social media makes it out to be. We are likely to live long - a simple idea that often does not stick in our minds or guide our daily actions. It pains me when I see many young people dreading the idea of long lives but I can empathise with them. It still pains me. Yes, adulting comes at a cost. A very real cost. But that’s not the complete picture.
I’ve often struggled with asking for help. Sometimes, I still do. But whenever I’ve reached out, someone has grabbed my hands and pulled me out of the mud I was in.
Reach your hands out. Believe.
Grateful to Karn Nahata for feedback on previous versions of this post!
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