Freedom songs

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 .

Being an efficient young woman , she did failry well and after some time had a showdown with her husband who showed no signs of improving himself .She moved out of the family house with her son and cut off all ties with her husband and his family . Not being privy to all the details , I could imagine the snide comments she had had to put up with , the pity , the commiserations , the constant put downs . I remember , there was quite a stir from the mother in law and the other 2 sisters in law , when she had bought some sarees with her first salary – about J decking herself out ,accompanied by a lot of laughter . Funny , when a little positive support would have worked wonders .Of course ,none of her in laws had a good word to say about her because for them it was easier to accuse her of leaving her husband in the lurch .

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.

And there’s the freedom song that my children sing yaddayadda yadda all day – someone’s past the legal age and no thank you they don’t want a drink when you very kindly offer them one but they want to try life on their own – I ask you – give up home comforts , meals and laundry on time , fully paid up internet on dial 24 hrs , running water , meals out once a month , take aways and Mom’s gourmet cuisine more than that – I ask you again – but yes hard as it is for me to let go eventually I will have to let go so that they have their first heady taste of freedom .... to make mistakes , face hardships and learn from life.



hillgrandmom said...

Just been reading some Tagore which had a lovely take on freedom.


How do you do… freedom

Feeling trapped?
Are those handcuffs?
Oh no, they’re not mind locked?


Freedom, free e dom, fr-eee-dom, FREEDOM! What actually is it? A concept, a reality, a belief, a fiction, a paradox, the meaning of life, the great invention, an unattainable ideal… just for starters. Getting to the bottom of it involves firstly climbing the mountain that it is. Makes you feel like a bookish Bear Grylls.

...more at

iz said...

I think freedom is to feel no fear. The day I feel that, I will be free.

Jane Turley said...

True freedom is perhaps only a fantasy. Maybe that's why I spend so much time dreaming.

Anonymous said...

Freedom is to have the courage to take responsibility for the choices we make every moment of our life....I don't buy the line people often use..."I had no choice"

Mama - Mia said...

i dont know what freedom means really. but i do know it doesnt mean doing everything we want, even if we can, without knowing the effects it has on people around me!

freedom to me is being able to make sensible and sensitive choices which i then live with. it also means that i have the strength to accept that my choice was wrong and start afresh and not be made feel guilty about it...

total freedom in its most absolute term is another word for anarchy!

lovely post EL!



dipali said...

Freedom- so precious, so elusive, and so relative!
In the old Peggy Lee song-'freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose......'
That sounds like a really tough freedom.

Mallika said...

Namesake here! I don't think you can ever be truly free. Oh those heady days of youth. Would you believe I was a fussy eater until I left home for uni. After that, I'd eat anything with no fuss whatsoever...

Spin said...

Freedom is having anarchy as an option and rejecting it. Been there, done that, got the tshirt.

Thinking Cramps said...

All these women are people to learn from. And it makes me question what I'd call oppression and how I'd define freedom.

Unknown said...

Sus - which poem was that ?
Jolly Roger - Freedom is an ambiguous term - it may mean something for you, yet something else to me
Iz - in a way ma'am , maybe
Jane , Bulbul and Abha - Yes , so true - but Jane not always a fantasy
Dipali - this is an outcome of our first conversation at Barista
Mallika - You're telling me - I had to eat jhinge posto forst day in hostel , something I would never touch at home - talk of divine retribution
Opaline - I know and not betraying the trust others have in you .
Ana - I admire these 2 women immensely - if not for anything for the way they broke out of the oppressive confines of their homes .It takes blind courage to do that .

Dotm said...

Freedom, we all have the freedom to do what we think is right but we must have the courage to do it- often against strong opposition and sometimes even with a fear of the outcome.

Usha said...

Hey why do my comments keep disappearing from so many blogs.
I was saying something about how much I enjoyed the post and how many times I have similar thoughts but you have expressed them more beautifully and soulfully.
Freedom is not just about having choices but having the courage to live the consequences, society be damned.

Jane Turley said...

Your comments don't disappear from my blog Usha. However, if you ever capture Mr Pierce Brosnan's heart they will disappear overnight.(I'm big on nucleur weapons)

Sorry about that Mrs G..sometimes I can't help myself....

Unknown said...

Usha - lol - its been nice having so many thoughts on freedom . We're really all saying the same thing,na?

Mrs T - There,there, I know you cant help youself where Pierce B is concerned . Im sure Mrs V and I understand . Have a choc instead - its dark and intense !

La delirante said...

Great post about the definition of freedom. I loved the way you wrote it and the stories too! I think I have a lot in common with "P" :) I decided to be "free" when I left my parents house (24 years old) and decided to live on my own. I couldn't leave with them any more. Immediately afterwards I rented a flat and shared it with two girls and well...those were some of the happiest days of my life. I felt free :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful beautiful post!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

My daughter would perhaps say that Freedom is all about asking any question you want.

I would perhaps say that freedom is not having to come up with the right answers all the time.

Age changes our perspective on eveything, so maybe freedom is just that - the liberty to choose and change your perspective on life and such-like?

NWRMK said...

This is a wonderful post on so many levels. Poignant, strong, a voice of reason and right. I enjoyed it very much after my absence from these pages.

~nm said...

Wonderful wonderful post Eve!

This is something that we all think of so many times in our day to day life! its such an integral part of us and our thoughts.

Why I say day to day life is because I think whatever we do every moment is related to the word freedom. Don't you think so?

I guess everyone has a different perception to the word 'Freedom' and it is bound quite by the state of mind at a particular point.

Anyways..don't wanna make this comment a post so shall stop here.

BTW, about your trip, pls don't plan it on the aug 15 wala weekend as I'm not in town and I HAVE to meet ya!
I guess everyone

Nefariousoutlook said...

as long as you are part of this society and live within its norms ..i dont believe that you can ever be truly free :) conformity always exists in every individual at some level or the other freedom is a notion ..which can never be completely explored :)

Thought Room said...

Great post. I guess to me freedom means responsibility that is dynamic, but a constant at its core.

Rohan said...

I don't know any of the women you mentioned by their initials, but I'd like to point out something I felt while reading about P. Maybe it was her husband's OCD which broke the camel's back, but well, I can't really feel for her. I wouldn't classify myself as a neurotic (some would suggest that that very statement proves I'm one) but P's marriage would seem to be inherently false if it broke up due to one half not being able to accept the other. She followed her dreams, yes, that's always commendable, but I can't help but feel sorry for the man she left behind. He might be a jerk, but men do hurt. Trust me on this.
As far as the younger generation goes, well. Not all of them are like that. Some choose to read Thomas Pynchon instead, and pursue dreams of staggering consequence. :)
Freedom, I should say, is being able to dream of something and not be ashamed of whatever it is.