Who is free, what is independence ?

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Invite to the ride

For Bangalorians, as the summer dies and the rains are ruling, it is time for 15th Aug. A fateful midnight India became free, independent 68 years ago and set things in motion that brought the country Nehruian socialism, Manmohan’s liberalisation and now online retail. Which gave license to every initiative – commercial, social or whatever to use the words free and independence freely, liberally independent of their intended meaning. It gave the shops, real and nearly real, a way to sell and make people dependent on materials.

It also gave groups like BAC and the bikers all around a cause for planning rides to hilly places. So dragged by the weight of history and the enticement to meet old mates and make new friends I accepted the invite, from the BAC, for a ride to Nandi hill to celebrate our independence day.

Are we free and who is free

As the day approached I started to think what is freedom what it means to be independent. Who is free and can live on her own ? It is only in the wild that any one is free as nature gives to each one all the survival tools and motivation. Millions of years back we were in the wild trying to survive and continue. Hard but free. Or were we ? Even in jungle the laws of physics and nature need to be obeyed. The instinct and the need to survive, the need to thrive and continue the species binds us and we cannot do as we please. Yes were close to nature, no country or cultural boundaries. Only the laws of nature. I guess we were as free as a man could be. Wide new worlds open up for adventure and exploration, bound by the instincts of survival and continuation.

Planning for the ride

As the day for ride approached there were instructions on Facebook and WhatsApp and plans were made. People living near my house wanted to start together and reach the meet up point for all of the Bangalore riders. These  days of continuous connectivity and working with professional companies, with MNCs and IT makes us slaves of time and slaves of planning. Thus even on the independence day we set the mandatory start time, considering enough buffer, to meet near IIM and start OUR ride.

Agriculture, Culture

As humans as we progressed in our lives and our brains grew we started to think it is way too much of work to hunt and look for food. Why not make food where we live and so agriculture started. Seemed convenient enough. The tomato that is grown does not run away, nor we have to cross streams and bounce off boulders looking for it. For that matter rice, wheat, maize, potato or chili. But to grow things well, people have to collaborate, work together.

That compulsion to come together and work together perhaps made culture possible. Language, beliefs and even religion with spirituality. So we started growing food, making merry in a group and form villages. In the process lost the freedom to roam at will. One needed to be there at that place to till and care for the land. Village, society, civilisations formed and tightened the chains around us a bit more.

Now we have laws of physics, laws of nature, instinct and laws of society to make us lead a good life. We seem happy enough. Interdependent. Yet life was simple, to be happy one could wander around and seek adventures. There were lot of forests for a more primeval life if one wanted. Still we were bound by culture and the land.

Start of ride till meeting point

Before the dawn could crack four of us hardened souls met near IIM of B and started to the meeting place. The group instills its own culture so we silently fell into a single file formation and passed back any hazard signal. As we rode I noticed that the only other users of the roads were those with early morning flights or may be BPO shifters. Low traffic made for good speed and soonish enough we parked in front of Columbia Asia hospital.

Kingdoms, Democracy

The march of humanity went along too with no jams. Villages flourished and food grew. That gave us time to get bored. Earlier, life and creativity were spent on looking for food, gathering it or planning to hunt something down and that too with no weapons or very crude ones. We only had our wits to use and what a brain it was. Now with provisioning and availability of food becoming little predictable, the society giving us shelter and semblance of security, brain had less to do. It got bored. We invented Art, music, dance, theater. Then trade. Why not exchange things and get little efficient ? Within the village and outside of it.

Along with the trade and travels ambitions too grew and few brave blokes wanted to control the villages and towns and build kingdoms. Smart kings expanded, gave so called better life to people and got marked in history. Killed the free spirit a bit further. Along with kingdoms religions rose.Every region thought of itself as the whole owner of humanity, world, universe and everything else. So fought with others in the area and managed few great achievements too. Greek, Egypt, Indus, etc. etc.

Yet I feel the spirit rebelled. It wanted its unfettered access to all things natural. And here we were building civilisations, laying down laws, etiquette. So perhaps Gods were our escape pods. They could do what they wanted. Not even bound by Physics or nature’s law. What’s more they do not even die. When they wanted they could become human and then go back to being divine.

Now only tribes in the jungles, outlaws and traders were roaming. Others got bound by Kings ,royalty or god.

Wait for start

Once we reached the meeting point we were in for a long wait. You see we were trying for Limca book of records, of max bikes in one place. So all the bike groups in the city were pumped up and a record number of people turned up. We being the cruisers
with formation riding and all that disciplined jazz preferred to go at the end. To have little more breathing space while riding. So the long wait.

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Dark ages, Nation state

Humanity too took a breather of its owns on its march. Kingdoms rose and fell, India got invaded . Greeks gave democracy. Europe fell into dark ages. In general we were just waiting. But the pace picked up post renaissance. Concept of kingdom made way to the concept of nation. As nations formed and gave security to their people, science progressed and few nations ended up with the industrial revolution. Agriculture gave us society and culture, nation hood and industrialisation gave birth to colonisation. India moved from its Rajas to Mughal Nawabs, to a trading company to British Raj, with French and Portuguese having a little say too.

 

Ride to hills

As the late morning sun peeped amidst clouds our doubts too cleared and we started the ride. Two file formation of the cruisers formed and presently hit the signal ,a deluge of other bikes and other usual road users so we broke formation. Time to park again. A few more minutes of wait and we were on the way once more.

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Left the National Highway turned to the narrow roads to Nandi hills. It was a carnival out there on the road. Lots of cameras, movie takers, colourful bikes, varied gear and attire , few pretty pillion riders and a hint of elegant she dare devils defying stereotypes. All coming as free spirits, to celebrate the independence day on their bikes and create a record on the side.

Colonialism

The march of foreign rule in India faced no hurdles. It spread across the nation. No there was no illusions of freedom for the natives then. It was the rule of the offshore hand. But nothing is permanent so the rule gave rise to rebels ,weak at first but massive as the time went by. External wars like the world war II helped. Internal non cooperation pushed. The rebels won to become the rulers.

Top of the hill

Our convoy too triumphantly climbed up the Nandi hill. The merry bikers all but we choked the roads. Inch by Inch we made the way to parking. Sun was out with all its glory. We were wondering if this is a celebration or what. Yet there was the sense of shared accomplishment. We were there with others to wear our patriotism on the glove. We were one group and I was one rider with three thousand others to make a mark. Be the biggest gathering of Bikers in India, if that give one a kick. I meanwhile parked , stuck a colourful sticker to front mud guard and cribbed a bit. Heard lofty speeches, had food. Shook hands. Not bad for a morning actually to meet friends and made history.

Independence and consumerism

Yes Indian rebels too triumphed 15 Aug 1947. As the world slept we awoke the nation became free, independent and self-ruled. As the initial euphoria died the massiveness of nation building started. We tried few experiments with socialism, liberalisation and now on the current day we are free, commercial and can buy things online. Write blogs from armchairs and publish them too.

Conclusion

So are we free ? Are we independent ? Man is born free but I see him in chains of culture, society, commercialism. My own biker community swears by freedom. We feel owning the roads and not having a fixed plan for a ride gives freedom. But are bound by rules in group rides and we say we like them. The chains are our own and we love them so much. But they are chains. Even at the very onset of humanity we were bound. Jungle laws, our own fears, instincts, intellect, ambition, visions bound us. So back to the question who is free, independent ?

May be the saints and spiritual guys were right. We need to look  for it within and look for uniting with the void and vastness of the universe. If we look outside and look for freedom, we stare at laws of things (Nature, Physical, social …) So one needs to be free in the mind and IF there is life beyond life , the soul can figure itself out and we will.be.free. The main word here is the IF.

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