I’m not sure what freedom means to me. I may be free, technically, but there are signs that seem to indicate otherwise. I recognize them only while trying to plot an escape from drudgery. The hair follicles on my neck stand up. My throat is parched. My knees feel weak. Sweat trickles down the bridge of my nose. It’s a tense situation.
It’s as though a gun is pointed at the back of my head. I can hear its cold metallic mouth breathing. It whispers into my ears, like lovers on their way out, that all resistance is useless. That non-compliance will be dealt with – swiftly, harshly and permanently. To make matters worse, the gun sounds like Werner Herzog.
Freedom is more than a state of mind. It isn’t even in the heart. It’s in the feathers of birds. I realize it whenever I hear the sound of their wings flapping away from me.
Unfortunately, many species of birds are shackled by human interference. Unethical developmental plans continue to torment them. We behave in ways unbecoming of the dominant species. We destroy their homes to build fancy apartments. Kidnap fledglings for profit.
Deny them the freedom to do as they must, to exist with dignity and direction.
Yet, I can’t help but gaze at birds in flight. I feel overwhelmed by how free they seem to be.
And I wonder, what they will think of us if ever they observe the way we lead our lives. The mess we make of the freedom to align development measures with eco-friendly ideas. The eagerness with which we accept technology to carry out personal agendas or support pointless propaganda. We are free to break the Internet anytime. We can fight oppression. Promote indigenous art. All we need to do is come together for a few seconds. Yet we won’t unless it involves Kim Kardashian’s buttocks.
We are probably the most entitled species on this planet. I doubt if there exists another, on a distant star, with more innocuous First World problems.
We must be the galaxy’s spoiled children. Given that we are ruining everything we lay our hands on, we ought to be the stepchildren locked in a basement. Denied the luxuries. Left with nothing but food, shelter and clothing. Allowed an hour of music once in a week. That too, live jazz only.
Three months later –things should go back to normal. But this time, we must be left with two clear choices. Either plant more trees. Or click on videos of cute kittens.
Based on our cumulative response, the world ought to take a decision.
Wipe us out
or let us be
until it’s time to
bury the last one
and throw away
(Photographs: Chennai, Vedanthangal, Kodaikanal, Valparai)