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All over the world, countries celebrate their independence day with great pride and gusto showcasing their strength and progress to be admired and awed by people. However, I wonder at times are we; human beings really free or liberated? Do we enjoy freedom in true sense? I’ll keep my thought process limited to India without going to the other parts of the world.

Every human being according to me is free only at the time of birth. A baby has no worries about projecting the “right public image” and is happy doing anything and everything he wants to. As we grow, we are caged, shackled in many chains by the society- Social, cultural, emotional and lately technological.

It starts when the baby (I’ll use ‘She’ as a pronoun as it encompasses ‘he’ too J!) is hardly a toddler. Parents love to show off his/her talents without any consideration for his/her moods and fancies. She has to sing or dance and entertain the relatives who are often least interested. Then there is a marathon for the best school in the city. The kid is again forced to mug up the likely questions to be asked at the interview, learn to behave in a certain manner at the age when she just wants to be left on her/his own.

   

Once at school the comparison starts with all the other children. Every parent wants the child to be the best - marvelling at studies, sports, debates and elocutions, arts, theatre, social etiquette and so on. In short she has to be a Superwoman, while the mothers sweat over every small detail like deciding what hobbies are “in”, what vitamin supplements to give the child for super-built body and extra-intelligent brain, what kind of clothes are in vogue for kids and so on. All advertisements put the pressure on parents to make a scientist/ doctor/ engineer or any professional (Please note that none off the advertisements think much of artists or farmersL! No wonders farmers have remained the most vulnerable lot in our “agrarian” economy for decades!). The harried parents, in turn pass on this frenzied madness on to their children. Every parent dreams of having a super successful child prodigy, irrespective of own talents that he has passed on in the child’s DNA at birth. We want our children to follow the career chart we have created for them taking in consideration the status, social acceptance, and money it will yield. What the child’s interests are is totally ignored.

Once the school and college marathon is over and youth gets a plum job, then the other social pressures build up. A girl must learn to be graceful, super talented at juggling home and demanding career, must be having all the socially accepted attributes like – fair, tall, slim, social yet home-loving, educated yet sacrificing, modern yet with traditional values and the list is endless.

This brings me to the fairness obsession in our country where most girls are bound to be wheat complexioned due to our geographic and climatic conditions. Having a dusky complexion is looked down upon and if you have a darker skin only God or fairness creams save you! I find the advertisements so ridiculous when a girl dreaming of a great career has to rely on fairness creams to prove her mettle! If she wants to remain single by choice then hell breaks loose. If she marries then her womanhood is not considered complete till she delivers a baby. Why I wonder, in a free country it becomes a privilege of all and sundry to barge into couple’s bedroom and discuss why are they not having kids and what could be wrong with them. Can we not let the parents decide when they want to bring in a life that is going to be their responsibility till they are alive?

Men on the other hand are forced to bring home a handsome pay package and comparisons of how much comforts and luxury a neighbour can afford to give his wife vis- a -vis the poor husband becomes a main topic of contention. Once they become parents they too merrily join the same rat race that their parents had joined to ruin them.

These are some of the socio-cultural shackles I strongly feel about. Emotional shackles too are somewhat intertwined in these as usually our Indian society loves to emotionally blackmail their loved ones to follow their commands. Log kya kahenge is the most dangerous epidemic that has been afflicted by Asian psyche. Social approval is a bug that has bitten all of us. Imagine the emotional state of a young girl when she is more than often rejected because she is NOT fair, slim or beautiful. She is most often an easy prey to depression. I wonder why we give so much importance to external attributes while totally ignoring the more important ones like nature, intelligence, compatibility etc. in a life partner. Are we shopping here for a curio to beautify home or wanting someone with whom we can share our lives! And same things go for men too - what with markets flooded with anti-balding treatments and all those fairness creams for men? He too is expected to earn well, be qualified with the most lucrative degree, have a macho figure etc. I often hear young girls asking for well sculpted men as their life partners. SO now the fire has reached even the other side of the society. At a young age he’s expected to offer all the comforts and luxuries when he’s still building his career!

Added to all these cages, the worst shackle is the technology. We think human being created technology for comforts but today it has totally backfired on us impacting every aspect of the society. Just look around and see for yourself what have smart phones done to our lives! The downfall that started with the idiot box and further fuelled with the internet has been completed by the smart phones. Phones are getting smarter and humans are getting dumber. I’ve nothing against technology and if used sensibly it can be a great boon. We can now reach the entire world in a split second. Emails have become a passé with the advent of other more powerful and faster means of communication. Often Facebook and twitter has helped in reuniting people or in sending across a useful message. Today I too am saying what I feel thanks to this technology. We can surely not ignore the good things. However, we can’t turn a blind eye to the damage it does to our most profound institutions of marriage, family and society as a whole.

 

Families are fast disintegrating today as each one is happy to be in his on anda cell created by his Laptop, smart phone, personal TV or a tablet, and is constantly in his world with his headsets on. Cheating in marriages has never been so rampant and easy with the right to privacy. Virtual affairs ruin many marriages as one doesn’t understand that virtual love is bound to appear “perfect” and it’s only when you actually start life together you need to adjust and understand. Recently, a study revealed how social skills are being affected in this generation that spends most of its time in the virtual world. Family time is unheard of with each one immersed in his on virtual world. We forget that though wired from all sides we are not robots but human beings who are bound to need emotions like warmth, love and touch to thrive. The older generation who is not very tech savvy feels the brunt the most. They are mostly treated like a piece of furniture. The youth has no connect with parents leave alone grandparents. In our desire to connect across miles we have been disconnected from our own family.

Family outings, dinners and gatherings do happen surprisingly even today but the most time and attention is hogged by these smart phones. Family time has become a joke with each member immersed in one’s cell phone- exchanging messages. Checking face book updates, updating status and so on.

The family vacations are more for clicking selfies and check-ins to let the whole world on social media know the exotic place one is heading to. There have been many stand up comedies, what’s app forwards and tongue in cheek cartoons aimed at this but I feel we are quick to ignore these warning bells and laugh it off merely as a humour. So many have lost lives clicking selfies at dangerous spots but we are too slow to understand the implications. Are we really a generation of dimwits and our cell phones smarter than us? Only God save us in such situation…!

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