72 Voices Question the Meaning of Independence

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Meena Mishra, a school teacher, and an award-winning author, launched an anthology of poems, articles and stories aptly named “Are We Mere Spectators?” The book, that brings together powerful voices of dissent, uniting 72 individuals from across the globe, is a thought-provoking read, questioning the ideals, value systems, laws, ethical and moral dimensions of a society we all are a part of. Samrudhi reports the , exclusively for Different Truths.

This , a thought provoking anthology, “Are We Mere Spectators?” pays a tribute to the nation.

While the world’s largest democracy erupted in cheers of jubilation, reliving the midnight of 15th August, when Jawaharlal Nehru’s historic speech of our “tryst with destiny” spelled the first fragrance of freedom, unfurling the Tricolor, at the tiny Tea Villa Cafe amidst the scenic beauty of Mumbai’s Juhu Beach, a small gathering of around a hundred people celebrated the true spirit of freedom in a different, but spectacular manner. At 12:30pm IST, The Impish Lass Publishing House, a pet project of Meena Mishra, a school teacher and an award winning author, launched an anthology of poems, articles and stories aptly named “Are We Mere Spectators?” The book, that brings together powerful voices of dissent, uniting 72 individuals from across the globe, is a thought provoking read, questioning the ideals, value systems, laws, ethical and moral dimensions of a society we all are a part of. A must read, the anthology, meticulously edited by an editorial board of seven – S. Krishna Kumar, Shubah Sagar, Nilakanta Siva, Samrudhi Dash, Anwesha Ghosh, Madhu Jaiswal and Ashok Kumar Dagga has gone on to sell over 300 copies after it was put up online on Amazon.com.

The event began with the rendition of the National Anthem and a welcome address by the publisher Meena, the backbone behind the entire idea of coming up with a book that forces every individual to question his/her inner self – is one actually speaking up against the injustice in society or taking one small step, even if it means raising a voice against social evils? The basic question that arises is, if independence means freedom, are the citizens of the nation which proudly proclaims itself as the largest democracy in the world and has the words, “justice, liberty, equality and fraternity”, emblemed in its Preamble, truly free, from the manacles of judgements, patriarchy and stereotypes?

The prominent ghazal singer Zeeshan Khan enthralled the gathering with a voice filled with patriotic fervor. Shubah Sagar questions the notions of the society that is still steeped in dogma after 71 years of freedom from colonial chains. A prolific writer Bhina Pillai talks about “Rape”, a sensitive social issue which always makes the victim stand in the witness box, at the mercy of ruthless lawyers asking her to prove her stance, the media making her a scapegoat, while the offender walks free on the streets. Mir Khurshid Ali, an entrepreneur based in the U.S. highlights the issue of “Me Too” in his power filled verse.

Ajit Kumar, a young corporate talks about the ideals of harmony and equality and the long way we still have to go to achieve those ideals. Samrudhi Dash in her piece “Cowards – We or They?” asks blatant questions as to why the distressed are driven to suicide and later termed “cowards”, even while a recent Supreme Court verdict extended the Fundamental Right to Life to include the Right to Life With Dignity and the Right to Die with Dignity and the New Mental Health Act, 2017, decriminalises attempt to suicide and offers the victims medical assistance and counselling, putting an end to a draconian clause in Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

The guest Editor, Retd. Nuclear Physyicst Nilakanta Siva has penned an apt Epilogue for the anthology. The book, which collates many such questioning voices is sure to make an impact on every reader, rekindling the human spirit and making us “act” instead of being “mere spectators”.

A unique initiative, “Are We Mere Spectators?” is sure to ring many bells in every mind that takes a peek into its pages. Real independence, a day when we can celebrate freedom in communion with Gandhian and Nehruvian ideals, is indeed a long way to come. Just singing the National Anthem or unfurling the Tricolor atop every building and every other corner of the street adds little meaning to the idea of an “India or Bharat” that was envisioned by the framers of our constitution.

A nation which promotes the ideals of unity in diversity, Sarvadhrma Sambhava and Atithi Devo Bhava expects much more from its citizens, who have the privilege of enjoying a diverse range of Fundamental Rights. Freedom in its essence, comes with liberation from the evils deeply rooted in society and it can be possible only when every citizen of this nation begins with one small step – being more than a “mere spectator”.

©Samrudhi Dash

Photos sourced by the author

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Samrudhi Dash, hailing from Odisha, is a twenty-six year old writer, with a Masters Degree in English Literature from JNU, New Delhi. Her published works include four poetry anthologies, and her debut novel “Beyond the Horizon” (2017), by AuthorsPress, New Delhi. She has contributed poems and articles in many journals and anthologies of international repute. She believes in a life by design and an equalitarian world order where men and women have a balanced status.