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As we gather to commemorate the 76th anniversary of India’s hard-fought independence, looking back at the remarkable journey that led to the birth of a sovereign nation is more relevant than one might expect. For me, this occasion is particularly poignant as it connects me to my roots; with my grandfather’s role in India’s freedom struggle; and resonates with the experiences of our fellow Indian immigrants in the Third.

Freedom is a concept that holds profound meaning in everyone’s lives. It goes beyond the physical act of breaking chains or colonial shackles. I never thought freedom had so many different definitions nor did I imagine that there could be more to the freedom that I thought was absolute back home in India. As an immigrant, I am often asked whether I like it here in the Third and what I like the most. My go-to answer is “The freedom to be myself”.

Like many of my fellow Indians who call the Third their second home, I too am troubled by the riots and bigotry happening in my home country, but this made me appreciate my newfound freedom a lot more. However, it still did not help me define freedom. The definition I had was nowhere near complete. And I did not know where to look for the right one.

My grandfather enjoyed sharing his stories of the Indian Freedom Struggle, which he took part in during his high school days. As a veteran politician and a firm believer in Gandhi’s ideologies, he always ended his anecdotes with some lessons that felt like deep philosophy to a 10-year-old me. He defined freedom as the capability to truly be oneself and do whatever pleases one as long as it does not interfere with anybody else’s ability to do the same. Was defining freedom that simple? Maybe that is the definition that I was looking for.

The concepts of freedom and independence are powerful ideals that resonate universally. They are not merely confined to the political realm of nations but are timeless and encompass the spirit of human aspiration. Freedom signifies the ability to make choices, to express oneself, to pursue dreams, and to live with dignity and equality. It is an inherent right that all individuals should enjoy, irrespective of their nationality, race, or background.

To my fellow Indian ex-pats, on this 76th Independence Day, we must reflect on the value of freedom and recognize the privileges we all enjoy. While the Third maybe thousands of miles away from India, the celebration of this significant event should not be limited by geographical boundaries. The spirit of freedom and independence is universal, and as citizens of the world, we must cherish and protect these ideals for future generations.

For Indians, the struggle for independence was a heroic endeavor, a collective movement driven by the unwavering spirit of freedom fighters and their dedication to the cause of a free India. The struggle was not only against the oppressive colonial rule but also against the internal divisions and inequalities that plagued our society.

In drawing parallels between India's independence and the experience of our Indian immigrant community in the Third, we find a common thread: the pursuit of freedom and its transformative impact. Just as India fought for its freedom, we newcomers sought a better life; opportunities; and a chance to positively contribute to the economy and fabric of our communities.

I have been told that our presence has enriched the community, bringing with us our unique traditions, customs, and work ethic, creating a vibrant multicultural tapestry that defines the essence of Canada.

This influx of Indian immigrants mirrors the essence of what independence meant for India – a chance to embrace diversity, to build bridges between cultures, and to create a harmonious society where everyone can prosper. The 76th anniversary of Indian Independence serves as a reminder of the countless struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs that have shaped our world.

It is a time to honour the legacy of my grandfather and the other freedom fighters who fought for the values we cherish today. Moreover, it is an occasion to recommit ourselves to the principles of inclusivity, equality, and compassion.

Happy Independence Day!

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