By Kanchan Dhar
Freedom. A clichéd status today. So many on social media, in books, in organisations promote it, debate it, but what is it really? It’s not a concept, it’s a journey, the outcome of which is the absolute liberation of the soul. Freedom doesn’t come easy. I feel that it’s a luxury you toil a hundred years to attain and another hundred to enjoy. Pain, blood, tears are some of its usual companions. Freedom also means you value your breathe, your moments so fiercely that you would be ready to flout every ridiculous postulation of society. The road to freedom is a trek to a Himalayan peak; you might stumble on the ragged terrain, roll down, lapped in snow, or lose breathe and muscles on the way; you might also successfully make it to the peak, a little battered but euphoric, perhaps even end up paving a safer path for another. Leave a trail for a fellow neighbour. Is it not worth a try?
I won’t say I have attained freedom, but the journey has started most certainly. And I won’t lie, it’s been so painful. It’s a lonely path, since you have to let go of so much, the baggage that society or your family loads on your little head right at birth. You must let go of it because you cannot possibly trek with a heavy weight without breaking your back. You only backpack what you really need, the basics to survive, so that light-hearted, you can enjoy your journey despite the challenges. In my case, I had to let go of an insensitive husband, an abusive father and his “home”, a dream career, the promise of an elite degree, cities that had briefly been my happy home. Every now and then a painful memory, a verbal trigger, a photograph lodges a rock so heavy in my heart, it takes days to unload it. I welcome the breaks and move again. You can never trek without the necessary pauses; you need them to strategise and recharge, plan the next mount.
As the pain grazes my skin and departs, I grow a little more than before; I have lately begun to worship my spirit, for recognising my worth; my eyes, for daring to witness a marvel; my feet, for leading me on. I have grown to become a devotee of life itself from a consumed, scorned lover. The transition amazes me! The peak is far still, but what keeps me going in spite of the hurt and the pain is the fact that I am tasting freedom in the air already. Its fresh, embracing, cool, and motherly. It’s the thrill of my gut, the strength of my footsteps, the magnificence of life that envelopes me in many shades, as I constantly push myself towards something better. The goal high up the mountain comprises of scented meadows draped with rhododendrons, an unnamed tributary of the Ganga, birds that squeak wild, butterflies flitting about seasonal blossoms in sensual glee, perhaps even a temple of a Himalayan goddess right on edge of the spur with clouds for a backdrop. A personal definition of a Turkish delight!
But am I really alone in this? What about the whispers that reach my ears from mountains afar, the gusts that willingly breathe stories into my ears? The rocks I walk must have been graveyards to millions of mountain people for eons. What about their memories, their stories that glide invisible along my feet? Every mountain trek is painful, at the same time exhilarating. So is the journey to freedom. To belong to the peak, even for a moment, to earn the oft-forbidden fruit called freedom, I would undertake this journey again and again.
Kanchan Dhar is a writer from Odisha/Pondicherry, India. Her pieces have found places in several anthologies from India and the US. Her debut book, Becoming Himalaya, is currently in press.
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