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From a 95-Year-Old Army Veteran to a 5-Year-Old Student: What Independence & India Mean to You?

“I don’t know about India but the flag is not a toy,” says 5-year-old Arundhati.

This independence day, we ask a group of individuals two simple, yet loaded questions.

  • What does it mean to be Indian?
  • What does freedom mean to you?

95-year-old Lt. Col. Gangadharan served in both in the Indo-China and Indo-Pak wars from the front lines.

Lt. Col. Gangadharan with his sister.

“Freedom demands a lot of responsibility. Government interference in an individual’s freedom of speech should be minimal. Free India should try to work towards improving basic infrastructure rather than woo people over through populist schemes.”

Chandra Sankaranarayanan, a former Central government employee, aged 70.

Chandra Sankaranarayanan

“Being Indian for me is being rooted to culture. I have a great sense of gratitude towards India. For me, the unity in diversity is a truly unique quality. I draw my strength from my culture and traditions. While I believe in my way of life, I also equally I respect that of others’. This respect for differences in thoughts, ideas and faiths, is our country’s biggest positive.”

Sukriti Chauhan, Director – Global Health Strategies, India.

Sukriti Chauhan

“For me freedom means to live without fear of a person, a thought, and a belief system that is incompatible with mine. For me freedom is being me, and staying rooted in what I grew up fighting for. Freedom is to breathe free, at every step, till my last.”

Sriranjini, a data scientist based in the United States.

Sriranjini

“Being Indian to me means being unstoppable. Being Indian means we are likely to be the most persistent and hardworking person in a room. Being Indian means we have a pre-built frugality meter, while also embracing a carpe diem style splurge once in awhile. Being Indian means holding onto and recreating all the memories (including food!) you’ve had of celebrations in India. Being Indian means never forgetting where you came from, while still embracing your adopted country.”

Arundhati Menon, age 5.

Arundati

“I don’t know about India but the flag is not a toy.”

Ratika Kanwar, a corporate professional and the daughter of a retired army officer and her father, Retd. Col. Rajiv Kanwar.

Ratika and Col. Rajiv Kanwar

Service towards the nation to Ratika means, “Pride, commitment, sacrifice, patriotism, courage and above all respect.” Col. Rajiv Kanwar says,  “It has been an honour and privilege to serve this country. This life teaches you many things – turns you from a citizen to someone who values the nation above all else. Teaches you not to take things for granted and value whatever you have.”

Nritu, age 13, and her mother, Upasana Luthra, age 46, the admin of a popular women’s online community based in Gurgaon.

Upasana and her daughter

“Freedom to me means acceptance for all to be who they want to be and live how they want to live,” says Nritu. Upasana says, “Freedom means no judging in any way. Neither for your size or shape, nor for your choice of career. Freedom from clichés and so called social norms.”

Madhumitha R, a student of class 12 in Chennai.

Madhumitha

“India to me is diversity. It is one place where you find so many kinds of people who all seem to work so well together. Adaptability is another thing that comes to mind when one says India.”

Harish Anand Thilakan, an entrepreneur in the digital tech space.

Harish Anand

“Growing up, I never saw much of my parents. Busy professionals, they spent a lot of time travelling and I spent a lot of my time growing up by myself. However, they did arm me with one very strong weapon – “Absolute freedom”. Most importantly, the freedom to make whatever decision I wanted, as long as I’d thought it through and promised to never regret it. Similar freedom was also granted to me by my high school. We were at liberty to decide what’s right and wrong (within boundaries) but never prejudiced beyond reason.

So whether I was deciding what to do with the additional Rs.10 over my Rs.40 auto-rickshaw fare, dropping out of law school to pursue building my business, or breaking norms and taking my mom on a luxury recovery vacation to Dubai after we’d just lost my dad, I did it all with equal ease.

I cannot think of a greater influence that has shaped me than the freedom of responsible decision-making.”

5-year-old Aadi Uberoi, a kindergarten student.

Aadi Uberoi

“Whenever I go to another country after some time I start missing India and want to come back. India is my home.”

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