What does freedom mean to young Indians?https://indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/what-does-freedom-mean-to-young-indians-5890963/

What does freedom mean to young Indians?

A new generation, aged between 12 and 18, from across the country, tell us what the ideas of freedom and patriotism mean to them.

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What does the youth think of India?

‘Pakistan will have people like us only’: Priyanka Punem, 16, Bastar

A Class XI student at the Girls Higher Secondary School in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh, Priyanka lives in its hostel. Her home is Cherpal village, Bastar district. She was born in Cherpal but moved to Bijapur early on for studies. Her parents are farmers and she has four brothers and three sisters.

Priyanka Punem.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I have been a badminton player for three years and that is my passion. I wish that I was allowed to do only two things: study and play badminton. Everything else is unnecessary.

Where were you born? How much of the country have you seen?
I was born in Cherpal in 2003. I haven’t seen much of the country. I travel to other parts of the state to play badminton, which is my ticket to travel. I have gone to Raigarh, Raipur, and Ambikapur. I haven’t been outside of Chhattisgarh. I want to travel around the country, but for that, I will have to practise very hard.

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What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
I speak Gondi at home. I know Hindi and Gondi and want to learn English and Telugu properly. My mother knows Telugu and I know it a little, but I don’t know how to read and write it.

What disturbs you the most about your home?
I live in a “Naxali area”.  In my village, because of this, electricity comes and goes. There are so many problems because of this conflict.

What do you love most about your village or country?
I love my village. I like playing around in the village early in the morning. I meet friends who I grew up with. That makes me happy.

When did you last feel patriotic? Do you know what deshbhakti is?
I know what deshbhakti is. My deshbhakti is to play for India in the future. I am prepared to practice for it.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I don’t watch television or films. Sometimes, maybe some videos on somebody’s mobile. There is no TV in our hostel, so we can’t watch films regularly. Our coach last year made us watch Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013). I loved the film. He worked so hard and got everything he dreamed of.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
Of course, I have heard of Pakistan. They will be like us only. Like people live here, people must be living there too.

What would make India a better place?
It will not happen in a day, but I want to remove the problem of Naxal violence. When I go to Raipur to play, people say there is so much danger where you live. They don’t come here, because it’s a Naxal area.

When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
I want to play for India. I will have to work very hard. When I recently played in Raipur in the open state tournament, I made the main draw, and people spoke to my coaches and to me extensively. I want to then start playing for the state. And from state, to playing for India.

– Written by Dipankar Ghose

‘How are some people so rich and some so poor?’: Bhagyashali Mogha, 16, Mumbai

Bhagyashali at her Arera Colony home in Mumbai. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

Bhagyashali Mogha lives in a tin hut in Aarey Colony, a densely forested patch in Mumbai, with three siblings and parents. Her father works as an extra on film sets, earning Rs 400 a day. Her mother is a homemaker. Having just cleared her Class X exams from a municipal school, she will soon start studying arts in a city college. Since she was in Class VIII, Bhagyashali has aspired to become an IAS officer to improve the life of the tribal community to which she belongs. If that doesn’t work out, she wants to be a playback singer.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I am not allowed to stay out for long, especially if it is night. I have to return before dark. But my brother, who is a year older, is allowed to come home even late at night. In school, we are not allowed to talk much even in between classes. These are unnecessary rules.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born in Mumbai. I can count on my fingers the number of times that I’ve been outside Aarey Colony. Once, we all went to Marine Drive, and in June, I went to Bandra (20 km away) by myself for a singing contest.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
I know Hindi and Marathi well. I can read and write but talking in English is difficult. I want to learn French, my teacher told me about it.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
I see beggars at the station and I wonder how some people can be so rich and some so poor.  Tribal children are not encouraged to study because their parents don’t have money. I want to provide good quality, free education to them when I become an IAS officer. The roads in Mumbai are in bad shape, especially in this part of city. There is no road to our hut, we have to walk down the hill to reach the main road.

What do you love most about your city or country?
Nisarga (nature). Look at the greenery around us. We are hearing about construction of a metro shed in Aarey Colony. People say thousands of trees will be felled. I want to oppose that, join whatever protests there are against it.

Do you know what deshbhakti is?
Deshbhakti? It is related to India’s independence, right?

When did you last feel patriotic? And why?
We have Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations. This is when we show Pakistan that India is no less. Aren’t we supposed to feel patriotic on these two days? I feel patriotic then.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I stopped watching TV three months ago, before my board exams. My father just purchased a new mobile phone for me. I have started practising singing on a tanpura mobile app. I use it every evening for an hour. And I have started using WhatsApp, YouTube and the mobile game, Subway Surfer.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
Everyone says Pakistan is our enemy. I want to go there once, and why not? Countries should not fight. The people are similar, the country must also be similar. Our country should not have been divided. If we all live together in peace, we can grow.

What would make India or your city a better place?
Roads need to improve here, at least in Aarey Colony, and we also need access to water.

When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
I want to live in a building. My aunt lives in one. Nobody around can disturb us while we are in a flat, we can sit and do whatever we want.

– Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala

‘Our two countries are brainwashed to treat the neighbour as evil’: Aryan Isaac Bhobe, 13, Panjim

Aryan Isaac Bhobe.

CLASS IX student from Panjim, Goa, Bhobe comes from a multi-religious family. His father is a lawyer and mother is a yoga teacher. Bhobe loves music and is currently teaching himself to play the guitar.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
Haircuts and uniforms should not be compulsory. I understand that these rules in the armed forces symbolise discipline, but I do not see how this helps in schools. In schools abroad, children are allowed to be themselves. Allowing children to choose their attire encourages them to be comfortable with themselves at an early age.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born in Panjim, Goa. I have travelled north — to Rishikesh, Dehradun and also to cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune, and a few regions in Karnataka. Rishikesh was laid-back like Goa and the people in the hills were approachable. Mumbai and Delhi were really hectic.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
We speak English. My father’s side speaks Portuguese and Konkani. My mother’s side speaks Konkani. The Konkani spoken on one side is the Hindu style and on the other, the Catholic style. It’s interesting for me as I get to navigate both dialects; they are similar and still so vastly different. I know how to speak in Portuguese, I can read and write in French, and I think in English.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
Certain people ask about my religion soon after they learn my name. Also, I am not comfortable with cultures which demand that children follow the same work practice as their father. Also, a lot of people act entitled. They throw garbage and think someone will pick it up for them. Another thing that bothers me is a farmer dying because he has no money. Many a time nothing is in his hands and he still dies.

What do you love most about your city or country?
Diversity. We have so many cultures to learn from.

Do you know what deshbhakti is? 
I have no idea what deshbhakti is. I am hearing it for the first time. Patriotism is owning where you come from, no matter how bad the country is. It becomes wrong if you start putting other countries down.

When did you last feel patriotic? And why? 
Cricket World Cup! Everyone in the country was watching them (the Indian team) and collectively wanting the same thing (victory). It also made me proud to see India represented at such a prestigious event.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I watch every sport, as every week there is some match in some form of sport, someplace in the world. I love spy movies. I loved Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). The last movie that made me think was Lion (2016). An Australian family adopted a boy from an Indian slum. Some of us are like that. And some of us do nothing like that.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
Yes, I have. All the stereotypes, in fact. Then I started watching documentaries. I remember one by Drew Binsky, showing the streets of Lahore. The food looked the same, as did the people. Our two countries are brainwashed to believe that the neighbouring country is evil. I still feel things can change.

What would make India a better place?
Tourists take our reputation out to the larger global community. If we don’t discriminate against them and don’t take advantage of them financially, India will be better off.

When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
I want to be able to work and make my own choices about it. Nothing should be forced when I am an adult.

– Written by Smita Nair

‘I felt patriotic when I heard of Pulwama’: Nandana PV, 12, Binanipuram

Nandana PV.

Nandana is a Class VIII student at the Government High School in Binanipuram, in Kerala’s Ernakulam district. Her father is a carpenter and her mother is a cleaning worker at a factory.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I don’t like people beating me or saying harsh things to me. I cry immediately. I want to study but I don’t like to work too much.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born in Aluva in Ernakulam district. My father is from Edayar and my mother is from Thevakkal (both in Ernakulam district). I have not travelled beyond Kerala. I have been to a few hill stations in Kerala, like Munnar. My uncle lives in Dubai so I want to go there for a vacation, as well as to Bengaluru.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
I speak Malayalam at home. I wish I knew Tamil and Arabic. I want to learn them.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
Pollution. Smoke from nearby factories reaches our homes by evening. We have to shut our windows. There are times I have even vomited after inhaling the smoke. When it rains, we can really see the smoke. It may feel like mist but it’s actually harmful smog. Then there’s plastic waste everywhere, even in our water sources. People dump their waste into the Periyar and sometimes fish end up dead.

What do you love most about your city or country?
Nothing in particular.

Do you know what deshbhakti is?
Deshbhakti means love and respect for your country. Every single person may not have deshbhakti. When we see certain people standing for the national anthem, we can gauge their deshbhakti.

When did you last feel patriotic? And why?
The last time I felt patriotic was when our soldiers were martyred in Pulwama. When I realised how they lived and fought for our country under such arduous circumstances, I felt proud of them. Also, when our sportspersons win medals for India and when the ISRO launched Chandrayaan-2, I felt respect for India.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
On TV, I love to watch the teleshopping channel. I can watch it for hours. My father watches news but my mother hates the debates. She switches off the TV sometimes. My father is a hardcore CPM supporter and he turned my mother from a BJP sympathiser to CPM sympathiser. I use WhatsApp on my mother’s phone. I also watch baking videos on YouTube. I have tried baking cake a few times at home and wasted my father’s money. I also sneak my brother’s phone after he goes off to sleep.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
I have heard that they don’t value education for girl children there. There are a lot of Muslims there and they get more importance than people of other religions. Pakistan places a lot of emphasis on faith, I think. Also, they shoot people down for every little thing as I have seen in Mohanlal’s films where there’s so much shooting in Pakistan. If Pakistan invites me, I would like to visit with my mother.

What would make India a better place?
There has to be cleanliness. There should be a system to collect and dispose of garbage. Waste must not be thrown into our rivers. Factories must reduce pollution. There should be more support for farmers.

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When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
I want my house to get renovated and bigger. There should be a second storey.

– Written by Vishnu Varma

‘If you don’t show patriotism, then you’re trolled’: Rajveer Singh Bisht, 17, Lucknow

Rajveer Sing Bisht (Express Photo by Vishal Srivastav)

A Class XII student in Lucknow, Rajveer is an active member of the Model United Nations (MUN) in his school and has represented the school at MUNs in different states. His father is a businessman and his mother a homemaker. He loves writing and runs a blog on society and politics.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I wish I could bring my mobile phone to school. It is difficult because I get cut off from the rest of the world. Another rule is that you can’t contradict a person’s opinion just because they are older. We should respect elders, but we should not be forced to agree with their opinion all the time.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born in Lucknow. I have travelled to Kerala, Goa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. We take a trip every summer.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages did you wish you knew?
We speak Hindi at home. I know a bit of French, but I wish I could speak it fluently.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
The lack of infrastructure in the country really bothers me. Roads, hospitals and government schools need to improve for us to become a world power and for a better quality of life.

What do you love most about your city or country?
What I like most about Lucknow is how its culture has been preserved. The people of the city have done their bit in preserving it. It is evident in the way people talk here — with respect. And I love the food in Lucknow.

When did you last feel patriotic? And why?
When the cricket World Cup was going on. I felt patriotic when India was doing well and when the team lost to New Zealand, I was disappointed. The World Cup is an international event and we showed we are a nation to be reckoned with.

Do you know what deshbhakti is?
Deshbhakti right now is a trend with those who support right-wing ideology. Everyone is being forced to show their deshbhakti all the time. If you don’t, then you are labelled an anti-national and are trolled.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I watch Netflix on my phone and laptop. Currently, I am watching BoJack Horseman and my favourite show is Breaking Bad.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
Yes, Pakistan is our neighbour. I feel the place must be exactly like India. People of both the countries have the same lineage, and hence are similar and have the same problems — infrastructure, corruption, etc.

What would make India a better place?
For India to improve, we need our leaders to be more responsible. If something goes wrong, then there should be a person or institution that can take responsibility. Right now, what happens is that something goes wrong and the leaders start blaming each other. The party in power will blame the opposition party, and the opposition party will blame the ruling party… It is a vicious cycle.

When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
I would hope that aggression and hostility reduces in the online space. Now, with mobile data becoming so cheap, almost everyone is online. There are two camps — one who claims to be liberal while the other claim to be conservative. The two camps have fixed opinions and are not even willing to hear the other side out. We must learn to listen to the other side and sometimes change our opinion accordingly. We need to become more tolerant.

– Written by Asad Rehman

‘Anyone who works honestly is a deshbhakt’: Prerna Kashyap Das, 14 years, Ranchi

Prerna Kashyap Das.

The older daughter of a veterinary doctor and a homemaker, Prerna studies in class 8 in an English medium school in Ranchi. She moved to the city seven years ago from Barpeta in Assam, where she was born. Prerna likes Ranchi because she has close friends here, and also because she has developed a taste for local food such as dhuska (deep fried pancake made of rice and dal).

What are rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I like the daily routine and it keeps me busy. I wake up and go to school, come back, sleep, play with my friends and then study and then sleep. I like it this way. So, I don’t think there are rules which I don’t like.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born in Barpeta in Assam and I have visited Delhi, Dehradun, Kolkata, Ooty, Bengaluru and parts of North East.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
I speak Assamese at home and I know Hindi and English language. I guess, that is enough.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
Constant rain has exposed my city: potholes, waterlogging and bad roads. Before the rains, the city’s huge water scarcity. ‘Paani kaise aayega aur kitna aayega (how much water will be available and when)’ is all I heard at home – or outside. We suffered a lot when there was no water, even in schools.

What do you love most about your city or country?
I have an Assamese accent, but my friends and neighbours have never discriminated against me. This has given me a sense of belonging. There is unity in diversity. We come from various backgrounds, but we co-exist and this is why I love my country.

When did you last feel patriotic? And why?
I feel patriotic on Independence Day and Republic Day every year. I just feel this way.’

Do you know what deshbhakti is?
My father is a veterinarian and works very hard. He makes a meaningful contribution (to the country). He is a deshbhakt to me. A farmer who grows our food is a deshbhakt to me. A soldier working for the safekeeping of the country is a deshbhakt. Anyone who is doing his job honestly and makes some meaningful contribution to the society is a deshbhakt.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I aim to become a fashion designer one day. So I watch various arts and craft shows on my mobile phone, almost everyday. Sometimes I watch stand-up comedy shows.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
I have heard that it is an enemy country. It is not a good place and why should I know about it – jhagda hi ho jayega (I will get myself into trouble).

What would make India a better place?
Education will make any place better, because then people would have some knowledge, and then they would be able to contribute to the society.

When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
When I grow up I might think otherwise, but, as of now, I want to things to remain as they are.

-Written by Abhishek Angad

‘Deshbhakti is junoon for the country’: Reshma Mackwana, 18, Vadodara

Reshma Mackwana.

Reshma lives with her family, which includes her parents, two sisters and one brother, in a Vadodara Urban Development Authority (VUDA) in Vadodara, Gujarat. Her mother is a domestic worker and her father is a pick-up driver. Reshma, who is the youngest in the family, had to drop out of school after Class X and help support the household by working as a cook.

What are the rules you wish you didn’t have to follow?
I am not allowed to go outside all by myself. Somebody from the family always accompanies me. I wish I could go out alone and see what its like to be independent.

Where were you born? How much of India have you seen?
I was born and brought up in Vadodara. Apart from Gujarat, I have only only visited Tirupati. And in Gujarat, I have been to Ahmedabad and Surat, and Mt Abu in Rajasthan.

What language do you speak at home? Which other languages do you wish you knew?
I speak in Gujarat. And I wish I knew English, then I could even read this interview whenever it gets published.

What disturbs you the most about your city or country?
Lack of cleanliness. It is very dirty in my locality and it is always stinking. And I have never thought about what I dislike about this country.

What do you love most about your city or country?
The city is safe for women. Though I am not allowed to go out alone, I have seen women out at night and all by themselves and safe.

Do you know what deshbhakti is?
Deshbhakti is junoon (zeal) for the country.

When did you last feel patriotic? And why?
I last felt patriotic when the Balakot airstrike happened. So many of our soldiers were killed. What was their fault? We had to give a befitting reply, it was important.

Do you watch TV or films? Do you use a mobile phone?
I don’t own a mobile. My parents have said no. After marriage I can have it. I watch serials on TV, for around 3 hours a day.

Have you heard of Pakistan? How do you imagine it is?
Yes, I have. It must be a nice place but the only issue is that they have a lot of people who turn into terrorists in the name of fighting for their country. They should control this, control such violence.

What would make India a better place?
Education for all which will eventually lead to better jobs and eradication of poverty.

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When you grow up, what do you want changed in your life?
When I grow up, under no circumstances will my kids give up their education. I will make sure that they study and not end up working at an age when they actually could have studied and earned a better living.

-Written by Aishwarya Mohanty