#8. Azaadi

Dissent and Freedom

Dear Reader,

Technically speaking, this newsletter wasn’t supposed to be political. I am aware that now and again my politics have crept in, but I was keen on limiting it to an occasionality. I don’t wish to make this a bouncing board for my hot takes, as there is more than enough space for that on Twitter and Instagram. 

So then why is this edition in a very clickbait-y fashion titled Azaadi? Because I’m making an exception. Not surprising. I expected this to happen. As a horribly vague, inconsistent, sometimes dense person, it’s next to impossible to imagine my self actually sticking by plans I may or may not have specifically written down in my notebook. I mean, to dive into a nonsensical angle, I almost enjoyed Tashan because of one Kareena Kapoor song. I even rewatched it — almost enjoyed it twice. So you can go figure if you want to trust me here on. 

Cutting to the chase, I am making a small exception. I say ‘small,’ because this isn’t a rant or a hot take per se. But a lot of the writers and thinkers I will explore here are firmly based on my political leanings. (No, I’m not reviewing the Communist Manifesto)

This exception exists because I don’t know what to think or feel this Independence day. The mood is hardly celebratory. There is a pungent unease — many things I believe in are slowly slipping away from this country. For better or for worse, my faith in these things, these ideals only solidifies. I know that this is good for my conscience, but the strengthening of my own personal morality happens to be littered with a grim, lawless, brazenly divided backdrop. 

For many young people, like me, this has been a time for political awakening. Apathy has stopped being an option, there’s an urgent need to counter the politics we’re presented with. I know that as we hold on to values of secularism and freedom, we fully realise that we’re going to have to live through dark and dreadful times. That things are only going to get worse. 

So somehow, swimming in collective angst, I’m trying to piece together these ideas in order to galvanize hope — for myself. 

To begin with, I rewatched a short 11-minute documentary by Vice Asia on activist Umar Khalid. About halfway through, perched on a terrace in New Delhi, he says, “a new opposition must arise.”

He speaks in a cynical tone, which is obvious considering that he continues to be subjected to a brutal media trial based on his religious identity. His skepticism is familiar. I know multiple people who in the past few years have gradually given up on what they believe in. Maybe they still hold it close to themselves in closed quarters, but they’ve stopped publicly fighting for it. 

For many of us, this formula for a living doesn’t sit well. We’re not willing to make that compromise — of living a principle-free, conscience-free, practical, and considerably less risky life. Umar aired this urge. His skepticism is only natural, but he isn’t completely hopeless yet, he says. He is still on the streets, not giving up on the fight — even if the chances of winning seem bleak. 

It is somewhat similar to what Anne Frank said in honest-to-goodness words, “It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them…”

Shockingly true. Currently, holding on to secular values is not the most practical way to give. It’s going against the tide. But the world is incomplete without the impractical people, the one’s who won’t adjust to dictators. As few as they may be, they do exist — quietly, subtly, boisterously, rebelliously. 

The unease is cascading through, each one of us can feel it. For a country that was built on the premise of azaadi from the British, the word now has tragically become synonyms to sedition cases and FIR’s. If I were to trust James Baldwin who wrote, “It is said that [Shakespeare's] time was easier than ours, but I doubt it—no time can be easy if one is living through it,” it brings perspective. But honestly, I’m still pretty bummed about having to witness this impunity filled, door to door delivery of injustice and hate. I have sparkling idealistic moments, where I am a hundred percent foolishly convinced that a tweet will solve the problem — but those are far, few and last not more than three seconds. 

Courtesy habit, my way of trying to piece things together is re-reading and re-watching old treasured things. This week they happened to be James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son and George Orwell’s essay Why I Write. 

I’m no expert on fascism or trying times, but I find some peace in holding on to George Orwell’s words. He writes, in the context of the Spanish War and some other events of 1936-37, “It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another.” In a day, or maybe two, there will be another piece of sickening news that’ll make us all feel nauseated. Out of sheer addiction, I’ll crawl up to this essay again. I know it. 

We’re all fetuses, craving to be out of the society’s womb, have our conditioned umbilical cords cut off, and be free. Resistance, in everyone’s life, at some point (I hope) stops becoming an optional event. After all, freedom is a compelling, irresistible idea and no one can ever completely give up on it. Unless you’re Kim Kardashian stuck in a marriage with Kanye West and his religious beliefs. Even if you are, you’ve got a shit ton of money to bury your sorrows in. Plus your sister owns a makeup line and I’m sure that means free makeup stock from time to time.   

I have to say, a frustrated Kim K hoarding Kylie’s makeup is a pretty amazing visual to end with. If you’ve managed to reach this far through the newsletter (which seriously runs the risk of turning into a diary) — then, thank you. I’m grateful that you could bear my non-book, non-reader thoughts. Next time, I promise will be more about yum words.

For whatever it’s worth, Happy Independence day!

Thank you for reading.

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