Remembering Madiba and some personal notes on Freedom

mandela“Mandela! Mandela! Nelson Mandela!…… Mandela! Mandela! Nelson Mandela!… Free… Free… Nelson Mandela! Free… Free… Nelson Mandela!” as we shouted slogans and walked through the college verandah showing solidarity to the international community demanding the release of Madiba.. we were being part of an international outcry….

The year was 1988 the Pre-degree years and initial years of my political baptism….. As we walk through the corridors we come face to face with one of our lecturers walking towards us from the opposite side… he looks at me shows a sign of discomfort and walks away… This was during one of the recess and apparently the next hour was the same lecturer’s class…. He was never quite favorable to my political inclinations… I always suspected that it had to do with his own political leaning… because in Kerala my home town, politics was always in the air Left or Right… but now I guess a center politics and other side politics also prevail…

When the lecturer entered the classroom he asked me to stand and asked “So you want to go on the path of Neldon Mandela…is it?” I was not bad in studies but the political activities did not always put me in the good books always…

Well I never really disrespected my teachers but always had ideological differences and disagreements and moreover I liked the lecturer’s classes… but the answer I had was not going to amuse him any more…. So I stood up and smiled….. But I said to him in my mind

“Sir I am not sure what life has ahead for me… but I know that the aim of classrooms and schools should not be to confine students but be a tool to open their minds and free them for life…. And the problem is we take a lot for granted… but when we step out of these classes and look beyond our village, town, country and beyond we will realize that having the freedom that we take so much for granted is the single most important thing that makes us part of the privileged few in the large scheme of things…. yes I am not sure if I will walk on the same path…. But I will never lose my empathy for the path that the likes of Mandela fearlessly walk on”

It was not the lecturer’s fault… I was probably a wrong student sitting in a science class thinking of politics, Arts and humanities…. Again you never know where life takes you….

But a thing did happen when college ended and life started its different course… I realized that freedom is much beyond what we could express in words…. we cannot truly talk about it unless we have experienced not having it….

As you travel around another thing that happens to you is that you meet with people who did not connect to you based on who you were or if they know you, but as a total stranger, because sometimes they speak to you openly just because you are a total stranger.. they seem to think that strangers understand each other better…

So my travels made me that stranger to many people from different walks of life… everyone had a different story of freedom… the real estate agent who once spent years in the Pol Pot’s Killing fields and escaped at the age of 19… the Malayali laborer who has been living in a middle eastern country for years he cant count anymore with no way to go back to his hometown…. Someone who had been confined to the cell and looked at freedom walk outside their window… The brother and sister duo who wanted to work outside china for their ideological differences…. old parents who have to take the backseat strapped to seat belts when their kids drive their life or leave them astray on the roadside for a lift…

So what I learned is that you don’t have to be on the path of a huge freedom struggle to understand the lack of it in the people we daily meet… Freedom is key… some can’t live without it and are suffocated… but there are even many who don’t understand that freedom is being questioned and think it is a norm of life.. so it is a whole different idea and much more than what I foolishly commented in my mind to my lecturer…. A realization that made me look at the ideologies I felt close to and shape it in my mind in order to knock off and wipe off any walls or boundaries that the continuous following would have built around me….

And again Mandela was at a time what freedom and lack of it meant to me …. I still remember the day when Mandela was released from prison… even in my town had people talking and a sense of relief and happiness… the news was in the front page of the news papers…. South Africa in another way felt closer because before embarking on his freedom struggle in India Gandhi was active in the fight against apartheid in South Africa….But then it made me wonder how come it took so long for things to change in South Africa…

Growing up in India sadly I never saw Gandhi as the icon of Freedom struggles… he had become more of a symbol of a political sect….  I had to leave India to really discover Gandhi and his relevance….

So living in a country where the small swift remarkable man in a loincloth marched a whole nation towards freedom, for me Madiba was the epitome of freedom struggle where I raised my voice first so someone could gain their freedom…. May be also because we lived during the same time… Gandhi was History, read in books and seen in newsreels before movies… but Mandela was happening now… he was the present and the Future…. And now sadly he is in the past….

There is a truly a sense of loss… beyond this post….

Categories: Articles, Articles & Opinions

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