The dictionary defines freedom as liberty, emancipation , independence – words which carry the sweep and majesty of a great power but words which are meaningless when most of us attempt to apply them in our own life . For if you have one form of freedom , you sacrifice another - in real terms or virtual , it doesn’t matter really .
I admire P’s integrity with herself . It demanded a high level of courage to walk out on a neurotic husband with OCD and a sick daughter and go away with a man she really knew nothing about , except for the fact that he was new and exciting- not even middling good looking or well off . Of course she attracted a lot of flak – her very act of rejecting her daughter made her an unnatural mother but then at that point of time one guesses that preserving her sanity was uppermost on her mind together with liberating herself from what she perceived as bondage - the gateway through which she could escape was the man she went away with . In the end it was just a matter of exercising her personal choices , which she did .
J did it a little differently . To start with, she came from Bihar , was fairly conservative and married into an equally conservative joint family with a dominating mother in law at the helm of affairs . Her husband was the spoilt and dissolute younger son of a very wealthy tax lawyer addicted to all the imaginable vices about which her family was totally unaware . She put up with being sat upon and condescended to by all the others , put up with her rogue of a husband who embezzled his way out of quite a few jobs and resisted all attempts to cure him of his alcoholism and drug dependence .Therefore, deciding she had had enough of jibes,hand outs and hand me downs , she got herself a job .
I admire the route she took – while she could have continued being put down upon for the rest of her life , like countless women in similar situations ,she took a bold and decisive step and walked out of a hapless marriage into freedom , which ,given her background , took sheer effort and courage akin to a non swimmer diving off the deep end .
For B , the age long habit of scrimping and ferreting away amounts from the household money persists –old habits die hard and she cannot get used to her new found financial freedom and the choice to do what she wants with her own money – no matter how wisely the funds are invested – it is the fear of not having enough that corrodes her psyche and she is till saving one rupee and five rupee coins madly , hoarding them for that great rainy day, which God forbid should never descend on her .
And there’s the freedom song that my maidservants sing – lusty , loud women who commute daily on local trains from great distances , getting up at the crack of dawn , cooking and then leaving their houses so that they can clock in at 6 am ,drinking a cup of tea here and eating a chapatti there – lucky if they can get a job where lunch is thrown in. They smoke bidis ( if emancipation is about that ) one has a guy on the side ( if emancipation is about that ), people are afraid of them because they have sharp biting tongues and vitriolic tempers .However , one of them , the most vociferous one, has a husband who beats her and abuses her – she buys the rice , cooks and pays the rent – he only loafs , nevertheless , she pinches our cigarettes and matches , wants to buy him a cellphone , pays for his liquor – and is afraid to walk out on him because after all her liberty is drawn by the red sindoor in the parting of her hair , again the bondage that binds so many in our sorority.
I was discussing what freedom means, with a friend . Ultimately we could not stick to a particular definition for the simple reason that the lines kept blurring . One might be financially independent and mistress of her own soul , body and house but could be in bondage to a man – so what price freedom ?
To me , in an ordinary way , it means the right of choice which may be a luxury for many , but luckily one that I can afford – rights that I exerted in choosing my partner , when we should start a family , voicing my opinions and also being financially sound , but then I am a slave to disease – I am bound by my limitations which prevent me from being a free eater .Although I may think and act with full faith in my actions , I am also in bondage to societal norms ,orthodoxy and a fear of disturbing equilibriums and I will definitely think thrice before I do something unconventional.