26 Jan 2019 18:53 IST

Republic Day and individual liberties

There’s a fine distinction between being independent and pursuing personal freedoms

India’s Republic Day, on January 26, is a public holiday. The massive parade in New Delhi is the main event that holds the attention of the majority of people. The pomp and grandeur of the processions, the display of the country’s armed might and the cultural tableaus from all regions make it an annual spectacle followed by many on television.

Interestingly, many people still do not know what this occasion is all about. While Independence Day seems to have an obvious interpretation, because of the word ‘independence’, Republic Day always seems to be bit vague to understand. Ironically, Independence Day is actually somewhat misleading because though India did get Independence, in terms of getting legislative sovereignty, the head of state continued to be King George VI.

So, in a manner of speaking, a truly free Indian state / country was born only on January 26 of 1950.

I have always found it fascinating that people often mistake freedom with independence and find that our Republic Day has an important takeaway for everyone in this regard.

Very broadly, the word Independence refers to not being dependent. However, it does not automatically mean that people can do anything that they wish. It is merely a state where another person’s (or country’s) help or support is not required. On the other hand, freedom is not controlled or limited by anything. It could translate into being able to think, say or do anything without any external constraint or control.

Although both these words are often used interchangeably, if one were to differentiate these two basis their actual meaning, it has a very important takeaway for everyone.

Individual freedom is a mirage. In absolute terms everyone is chained to various things in life that end up influencing and controlling their thought and actions. Take the simple example of final placements at management institutes. If one were truly free, there would be no pressure to appear for placement interviews, that often result in one’s accepting job offers which are not really in line with expectations.

This compromise is because of the various tangible and intangible controlling elements in a person’s life. It could be financial, parental pressure, self-induced pressures, and so on. Ultimately this means a person is not truly free unless they get out of all these controlling aspects. It is not only difficult but also near impossible to do this in a real-world context while pursuing materialistic aspirations.

Independence, on the other hand, is very possible and is also an important trait for success as also leadership. Independence in thought and action is what sets an individual apart from the crowd. When this is coupled with vision and clarity, the path to success becomes clear. Many people I meet complain of not having any freedom in their job. They do not realise that this is never going to happen. On the other hand, I have met several successful people, including entrepreneurs, who pursue independence as they have realised that freedom is a mirage.

When anyone confuses independence and freedom, frustration is usually a natural outcome. Pursuing freedom while also aspiring for monetary and societal rewards would never fructify. However, being independent in one’s personal and professional life would make that person stronger as also draw others to look up to and follow them.

This Republic Day, resolve to always be aware of this difference and work towards being independent without bothering too much about freedom.