Celebrating freedom

Independence Day is almost upon us. Since we all have different interpretations of what freedom means, the Mumbai Police apparently decided that it does not mean that couples can canoodle in hotels. Or the Mumbai Police decided to flex its own freedom muscles by doing what it wanted. Or, there were no more dangerous criminals to catch so that left them free to check whether people were being appropriately moral or not.

There is also a case for accusing Radhe Maa of being outrageously and garishly overdressed (when not in short skirt and boots) but that’s just me trying to save my eyesight. Freedom from bling, as it were. Pic/PTI
There is also a case for accusing Radhe Maa of being outrageously and garishly overdressed (when not in short skirt and boots) but that’s just me trying to save my eyesight. Freedom from bling, as it were. Pic/PTI

Freedom is all kinds of things for us. For the newly famous (or infamous for some of you overly-moralistic types) Radhe Maa, it was the freedom to get into a short skirt and boots and to dance to Bollywood songs. What has outraged people is that Radhe Maa is a “godwoman”, and godpeople, gurus and such are supposed to behave in a particular manner which does not include short skirts, boots and Bollywood songs. Dancing is allowed but in a devout and spiritual manner. This is exercising your freedom to be judgmental.

It is perhaps more outrageous that a woman has named the Borivli-based Radhe Maa in a police complaint, claiming the godwoman instigated her in-laws to demand dowry for her. But the short skirt is more fun. There is also a case for accusing Radhe Maa of being outrageously and garishly overdressed (when not in short skirt and boots) but that’s just me trying to save my eyesight. Freedom from bling, as it were.

Meanwhile, in the Land of The Serious — okay, I’m joking — I mean Parliament, everyone is demonstrating their own concept of freedom. The Opposition to demonstrate against the government; the government to sulk and suspend. When the last government was in power, almost exactly the same thing happened except that party was here and this party was here. Parliament takes continuity more seriously than film editors so the bills to be discussed and/or opposed are the same as before. This is freedom in status quo.

The Prime Minister as we know will demonstrate with consummate skill his freedom to say what he wants and ignore what you want to hear him say from the clichéd ramparts of Red Fort on August 15. This is the freedom you deserve after promising and expecting Good Days to arrive via Miracle. (Note: Next time, you can also refer to Radhe Maa.)

Meanwhile in Delhi, the Lieutenant Governor has the most freedom of all: to make the life of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and that of his elected government as difficult as possible.

But to get back to where we started: Mumbai. The city already displayed its freedom to ignore by forgetting all about August 9, when the Quit India movement was launched from August Kranti Maidan, near Gowalia Tank, in 1942. The grounds, which had been cleaned up a decade and a half ago, have now been forgotten once again. And Mumbai, which is so good at conserving some of its heritage, has abandoned spaces where we fought the biggest battles of our freedom movement. Like Mani Bhavan, which is round the corner from August Kranti Maidan. For those who pride their freedom to forget, this is where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when he was in the city and it is now a museum worth cherishing and nurturing.

The freedom to forget though is something to be lauded at times. Like how low Mumbai, the now forgotten urbs primus Indus, scored on that clean city survey. Or like how somebody (I forget who) wanted to create a copy of Times Square at Kala Ghoda. Because as my freedom to connect shows, that takes me neatly back to the beginning and our wonderful moralistic police. And all the freedom to harass a New York like Times Square would give them.

In advance then, Happy Independence Day. For free.

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

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