Here’s something I penned and read (I hesitate to call it a performance because of the lack of polish or practice) at The Hive’s ‘Celebrating Faiz’ event this Independence Day. I’ve only gotten around to posting it now because I’m not as embarrassed by how amateurish it sounds.

And this is the unedited script of what I read:

Yesterday we talked about independence
About British Raj and the freedom struggle
Of martyrs and sacrifices
We watched Karma and Rang de Basanti
Shahid Bhagat Singh (both versions)
We listen to the radio play

Ma Tujhe salaam
Ae mere watan ke logon
Mere desh ki dharti
Tamizha Tamizha un nalum nam nalen

Because this is what it means to be Indian on Independence Day

I wonder what the people whose work we celebrate thought of it
What was it like to be Indian before August 15th, 1947
They were politicians, activists, writers, soldiers, freedom fighters
Driven by their own personal politics
And one common ideal

Of being their own people
In their own land
Of owning their lives,
Their rights

My independence is not that
I was born into a country that was already a democracy
I was never restricted entry because of my nationality or skin colour
I don’t need permission to meet in public spaces
To say what I think
To buy, sell, work, live

These challenges and victories over them
This is my history
But history, as glorious as it may be
Is just legacy,
stories from the past

Independence, on the other hand is a living, breathing thing
It’s personal
And it’s a prickly, uncomfortable creature
A monster living inside the head
It refuses to be confined to history textbooks
It’s not hanging on the wall in fading photographs of people no one has ever met
It has moved from Shahid Bhagat Singh
It is struggling to solve today’s problems with both Gandhigiri and Rang de Basanti
It’s chanting a battle cry against internal and international prejudice
Chak de, India
It’s working quietly to bring light to one remote village using a water pump

Independence is what refuses to let you settle into complacency

We celebrate freedom
And that means, to redefine what free means, constantly
Otherwise, we’re just raising a glass
Of non-alcoholic drink (because it’s a dry day)
To our ancestors’ achievements

As life changes with every person who lives it
Every personal boundary we encounter
Every no, every restriction that we face
And choose to push against
Is an assertion of our freedom
Our own fight for independence

I don’t want to accept the reality of today
Anymore than the people before me did
I want to reinvent what it means to be free
Freedom to love who i will,
caste, age, sex, geography regardless
Freedom to study what I want, to follow my passion
Freedom to speak, to dress, to act, to sleep, to eat
as I choose

Freedom is a dream without a horizon
And I’m chasing my own boundaries
This independence day, I’m celebrating that restless monster
That tells me,
You dare to find your own freedom.

One thought on “Independence Poetry: Feature @ Celebrating Faiz”

Leave a Reply