Au revoir Freedom! Hope to see you back home too..

Dear Freedom,

I’m writing this letter to you because it’s time to bid farewell now. It has been a wonderful time with you as my company and I think I owe you at least a farewell note. I hope when you read it, you are inspired to accompany me further. Right now, you are leaving me stranded. I don’t blame you, but I hope to see you again not where you are right now, but at my home, in my city and in my country.

I was away from home, in a far-off land. I roamed the streets alone with my camera and a book in my hand. I wandered day and night with no sign of fear in sight. I walked, ran and danced, without carrying a pepper spray in my hand. I wore a bikini at the beach and a coat when it was cold. The weather decided my clothes and not age-old customs or poking noses. I sat in my room and read the news back home. Their voices made my heart gloom, but I still enjoyed my foreign ride. I slowly forgot to look behind my shoulder from the corner of my eyes or to make an angry face while walking past a group of men. Not once did I feel why it is so difficult to be a woman. I went to bars and clubs for a drink or two and returned home drunk yet safe. I have waited for night buses at wee hours or early mornings. I have traveled in empty metros after a night full of fun and frolic. I had keys to my front door and could walk in and out whenever I wanted. I sat down under a tree or at a bench for hours, without encountering any weird gestures or awkward questions. Nobody asked me where I was going, with whom I was going and when will I be back. I had no one to answer except myself. I didn’t have to plan my outings before sunset or ask a trustworthy friend to drop me home. I made friends with men and women alike. I was alone with strangers at a lot of occasions without fearing the outcome. I asked for directions and help from different kinds of people. Not once did I fear that they would misdirect or misuse me. I talked with strangers on buses and trains during my various travels and shared a joke or two with them or ate lunch together. I did not avoid meeting anyone’s eyes as those eyes didn’t seek my flesh. Sometimes I felt, I’m another person living a distant dream and the things I experience don’t belong to me. It tasted bittersweet. I swam in the Mediterranean and climbed up the Alps. I did adventure sports from bungee jumping to scuba diving to sky diving. Nobody said how could a girl do this. I spent an entire night at a railway station in a country whose language I did not speak. I woke up the next morning untouched and unscathed. I did the simple act of walking back to my home at night. I felt so ecstatic while doing this. I felt as if I have some sort of power which I can finally use. I have been brought up in a relatively free-er environment than I would say my fellow citizens. But I would still never forget the time I spent with you, with zero incidences of sexual harassment or something even close to it. I used to talk of freedom well before that, but I never would’ve imagined what freedom really is if I hadn’t lived outside of my country. Even now, I sometimes cannot believe that I have lived the better part of my life in a lack of basic freedom.

I have to go now, it is my time. It will take some time getting used to do things without you, to be careful again, to not trust strangers so easily, to dress cautiously, to not wander alone, to come home before it gets dark and to many other things I’m not looking forward to. But I’m inviting you over, will you come Freedom? Will you visit me in my home? And will you stay with me forever? Will you? …

P.S. This post is in reference to my five-month research stay in Germany and to my various travels in and around Europe.




Disclaimer: This article has also been published on Women’s Web and Youth Ki Awaaz


39 thoughts on “Au revoir Freedom! Hope to see you back home too..

  1. Very beautifuly compiled piece Japleen…Well i can very easily relate to this ,, fremde Freiheit” right now in germany..:) And hope to feel and have this Freedom in near Future in my Land too..Keep writing…Good luck…!

  2. I think, ‘freedom’ is the word that we all always look for with different meanings in different contexts. I must envy you that you have learned the taste of it. You might agree with me that when you first landed in Germany, you didn’t recognize her (freedom), neither you could greet her well, just because you were in a new country on the first day.

    1. Hi, thank you for stopping by. I could sense the differences on the first day itself. Also, this was not my first trip, I have been to Germany thrice now. But it felt good to experience it again. I wish too that not just me but all men and women alike have it as their friend 🙂

  3. Here’s to hoping (against hope) that you (and all other women) feel just as free back in India some day. All progressive men and women need to fight the good fight.

  4. Hi JP,

    Sorry to hear U saying bye to UR dear friend (can I add NEW?). Hope U’ll find the same friend back at home too. N I hope UR experience and the way U have shared it will change at least few N gives them the idea of freedom.

    I have become UR fan from the time I have read UR post.

    Take care.

  5. Very well written and touching, being born in India I know what you mean….. I am furious because more than a billion people in this insane country don’t even know what you are talking about.

  6. Hi Japleen,

    I can totally relate to what you are feeling, i have just returned home after a year in the UK. When I sat in my flight back home, I knew that I was leaving my freedom behind. It makes me wonder how many more people just like you and me lose this friend time and again.

    Well, all I can say is- i hope we all find our freedom again, its a basic human right honestly!!

    love and light

      1. I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that studying literature formally, in no way gives you a copyright over literature or certify that they write better than others.
        And also nobody can asccertain if you have produced literature or not because in more than 2000 years old history of philosphy, this till now remains undecided: What is Literature and what is Not!

  7. This blogpost almost made me weep. Very well-written, and I agree entirely. I wish there were more people like you. Here’s wishing you all the freedom and safety you deserve.

      1. I have been thinking of writing a piece like this for so many months. I have lived in Denmark for 9 months and I can absolutley realte to every thing you say here. Especially taking the public transport thing , and the dressing..I too stayed alone when I travleed to other countries and it was so empowering, the experience. I just feel sorry for our Indian women, why cant they just be allowed to live? why cant they dress the way they want to.?

  8. Amazing!! I love your writing and totally relate with each of them. I live in Montreal, I am here for my studies. This has been an amazing experience. I never knew the true meaning of freedom, until I tasted it. Now that I know, I will never let it go. Even thinking about a month trip to India scares me, but its my home land and my family lives there. I hope we never had to leave our country in first the place to experience this friend called “freedom”.

  9. Do not worry, we can’t let the hope die, we will bring the change, if not during our lifetime then the next. Remember, we can remodel the world, future generation lies on us. We will build a better tomorrow by letting our kids know the truth. We can only do this if we keep on fighting and never stop.
    Ps: I have exam tomorrow, and I am not getting over reading all your work. 🙂

  10. I hope freedom accompany you wherever you go 🙂
    If u don’t know let me tell you that u write wonderfully. You pen down your words beautifully, well articulated thinking 🙂 Keep writing !

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