When are you free in life? I was born a beggar – freedom found me when I was born out of my mother’s womb and it will find me again when I am to leave this world. During my life, there were moments when I thought I was free. I remember my mother saying that we got freedom when she was in her teens. But that was only social freedom, freedom for a society to have its own law and rule. What about individuals? When are people like me free?

When I was little I thought I was free because I ran around the streets, fighting with other children, breaking mud pots in strangers’ courtyards – the freedom of childhood, to do whatever you want to under the pretext of ignorance and exploration. Nobody really cared since I was of the street and that was the sense of freedom I had then.

When I grew up I thought freedom was in wanting things of your own and accomplishing them. I was never wrong in my assumptions of freedom. They always served my purposes. My beliefs strengthened my actions and I was able to experience being free. Being a youth I was energetic and hopeful of a better future. That was freedom for me, I could dream of a better day at least!

Freedom is not an ideal state you yearn for when you are in shackles, but people often wish for it when they are denied something. Till then they think that they are free without ever really experiencing the taste of freedom. On the 32nd year of my life, I was arrested for a crime I had committed, the men of law said that I was an offender against the community and that I took without consent from an individual. The law never gave back anything to the person I stole from. I knew then that freedom by law was for the sustenance of society, the individual was never free from keeping up to the expectations of others, neither was he free from the losses he suffered in life.

In prison, I came to know what freedom actually is. I missed my dark streets, and memories of the times I used to walk free at midnight through those shabby lanes salted my dreams. I missed those times when I could eat from the waste dump behind a posh restaurant. I wished to the see the starlit sky in a summer night lying down under a tree. I understood why my grandparents struggled for freedom, and how they must have savoured it once the news of independence broke out. But I wonder how free they felt later in the years that passed.

I yearned to get out of prison. I realised that freedom is all about being where I want to be. I sensed that freedom was about being myself, without an apprehension of judgement from others, without fears trailing me from the dark days of past, without the heavy dreams I had weaved for myself smothering me every day, without the desires that led me through alleys seeking something that I would never have.

The day I was out of prison, I felt free when I shouted at the night sky with a tone that felt like that of a victor. I felt like a winner although in reality all I had gone through were rough days and hard nights. Now here I am walking through the streets watching a world becoming slave to machines, corporations, virtual life and silky smiles. I am glad I have no children, I don’t have to see them not experience life like how my grandparents once did. Those were times when there was less to worry, when men and women found happiness in simple and little things, the times when we were free from false dreams and virtual pleasures. We lived our dreams and dreamt of a good life for our children.

I realised that getting out of prison did not really help me. I had lost hope and saw only the negative aspects of a complex environment that engulfed everything around me. I failed to see the innocence children still had, I forgot to look at the genuine smiles people exchanged, and I just kept comparing present and past, worrying about the future of this world. I thought too much of others and the world I lived in.

When death found me I thought I would be free, but I could not leave this world. I still yearned for something that I could never have. Now, that was life! I felt jealous of the people that lived as servants and peasants, the people who were clerks and soldiers. They were all serving one another, even the richest men and the most beautiful women. They were not free of everything, still they had the gift of life and they had the choice to live it the way they wanted.

Life is freedom, for it comes with choice and free will. You can choose whatever you do as long as you are alive, since whatever you do becomes your choice. Even behind bars, you can experience freedom if you overcome the limitations you set up for yourself. Most of the time, more than what you can or should, it is all about what you ‘will’. Your freedom lies within your choices, and how these choices make you feel. If you can accept the results of your choices whatever they are, then you are a free man and will stay so.

While fear and emotions cloud your intuition and free will, you can gain strength and determination from them. Let the world know you for who you are, neither be ashamed nor proud but know yourself and you are free. When you are completely aware of yourself, you will know that there is no other person in this world exactly like you, and that is why you are free. You never have to compete with anyone since you cannot be compared. When you are at peace with yourself and your choices, you are a person free.

Let your will mould your dreams to reality, your choices guide you to happiness, and the actions you willed lead you to experience the essence of life. I pray, you experience life at its fullest every day, and thus be free all your days…