Aah the art of letters. I always believed that the best part about letters which is lost in all forms of electronic messaging is that tiny colourful piece of paper that’s glued to the envelope in the corner – yep stamps, and why you may ask. Why, simply because it teaches us so much about the origins of the letter. As a child I loved collecting stamps and its a habit that I still try to keep although its getting to be increasingly difficult to find stamps in this electronic age. To discover that some of the countries whose stamps I have, no longer exist, is quite thrilling indeed. Over time though, the stamps gave way to the persons behind the letters. I began developing a passion for the people who wrote heartfelt letters – baring their soul to the reader; their desires, their anger, their faults, their desperation, their joys…
India has never been more ‘nationalistic’ in recent history. With the wave of elections and the upcoming big one in 2019, it is even more obvious that a string of jingoistic messages are being floated. In equal measure though, is the ‘liberal’ front of things questioning ideologies and far standing traditions. The term ‘liberal’ is a more recent concept in the history of time (earliest references are 17th century) wherein freedom of religion, a general acceptance of free thinking, open and transparent society are fundamental tenets. Traditionally India has been a unitized fabric of rulers and the ruled; and religion has been inseparable, as it is today. Mighty kings fought and expanded their vast empires stretching all the way from Afghanistan to parts of present day Burma even. Up until the 10th century, predominantly, three religions were practised: Hinduism, Buddhism & Jainism. I shall not get into the Aryan-Dravidian divide and shall discuss India as it stands. Let us start from the time when a coherent system of barter, metallurgy, pottery, politics, warfare and agriculture was developed. Religion and state were never separated and yet society prospered at various times and at other times there were setbacks. How has the country fared from the view of the modern ‘liberal’ tag during several phases of her existence?
Yayati was a powerful and handsome king of the ancient times. On being cursed with premature old-age by a sage, Yayati loses all that his youth had been giving him – pleasure, fame and riches. He approaches his dutiful son Puru to exchange his youth for his old-age, to which the boy readily agrees. Thus Yayati indulges in excessive passion for over a thousand years. Eventually Yayati realises the fruitlessness of lustful excesses and returns his youth to his son and renounces worldly pleasures and turns into an ascetic. This story from mythology is a beautiful depiction of the futility of youth if not constructively used.
Who shall recall that I once walked the journey of life 200 years from now? Did my capricious mind ever face this question in the myriad of emotions it faced?
As I chased horizons with changing goalposts, little did I realise that I will never hold it within the folds of my palm. When I did, it granulated like sand and found its way through crevices.
That India is quite diverse is a known fact and with its diversity comes ample opportunities for the curious traveller. I travel solo a lot, either on vacation or on work. Occasionally I extend my work in a new city to a mini vacation by taking time off. It is during my slow travels that I think of some things back home and I wonder if the sense of freedom I seek is available to me in its true sense.