They say that grandmothers are treasure troves of affection and knowledge. They shower you with love, all the while imparting knowledge worth generations, and often centuries. Modern grandmas are not only up-to-date with latest innovations and tech, but they are also very open to progressive ideas like equality and independence. Which is why we reached out to some grandmother-granddaughter duos to know their thoughts on freedom, and how former had impacted the latter’s ideas on the subject.

Purabi Dutta Chowdhury, aged 72 and 11-year-old Abhilasha Chowdhury are separated by generations. One has grown up over Satyajit Ray, Tagore songs, a childhood full of fairy tales, on the other hand, Abhilasha’s life revolves around Avengers, K-pop BTS, Spellbee and Harry Potter. Yet they are great buddies, living under the same roof for the last 11 years.

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For Abhilasha, an immediate response to the question, ‘What freedom means to you?’ is freedom from ‘studies and homework’ and being allowed to do as she pleases every waking moment! But then she reflects, “No…wait, the question is deep! All the kids I see while going to school every day, at the traffic signal, either begging or selling their fare, are NOT FREE. They have the shackles of poverty, helplessness around them. So freedom has to be freedom from poverty and freedom to live the life we want, a life which features a cosy home, hot food, birthday parties, movie trips. And come to think of it, it’s not even their fault, its all about Born Poor, Born Deprived.”

Purabi Dutta Chowdhury (72) and Abhilasha Chowdhury
Purabi and Abhilasha at Venetian Macau some years ago

72-year-old Purabi has seen so much of rain and shine, probably all of that flashed before her eyes when we asked her what freedom meant. Born in pre-Independence India, retired as Section Supervisor at BSNL, she has lived a full life. She managed to raise two sons while holding a nine-to-five job. She still cherishes moments of shopping, movie outings with colleagues, picnics, get-togethers and wedding parties. While she stays with her son now in Mumbai after her husband’s demise, but she misses her past, the past that is her very own, the freedom of being herself in the company of friends,  in her hometown ‘City of Joy’.

She keeps going to Kolkata frequently, but these days her health does not permit all the flexibilities that her heart desires. Her keen eyes keep searching for the familiar past when her vehicle zooms past Kolkata Telephone Bhawan, Laldighi, GPO, Rajbhawan, lanes and by-lanes.

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She misses the after-office processions, visits to Maidan for political rallies, but all for peaceful demands from the government, not the ugliness that follows processions these days. She misses her workplace, where during every visit these days, she makes it a point to see the club room, canteen, even the GM’s room where she was awarded the precious certificate for exemplary work, at her farewell. She so wishes to again be a part of those get-togethers, but where are those friends? They are all scattered in different cities of India and abroad and even far off, from where people do not ever return.

One thing about which she feels good today is modern technology. WhatsApp has enabled at least a virtual connect with so many of her near ones. Moments of such connect help her re-live her cherished past, the past which is golden.

Yeh din hamare swatantrata ka hai toh bahut khushi deta hai. It marks our complete freedom from bondage. We must recognise the liberty of others also. Liberty, equality and fraternity are the main principles of our freedom. So we should live and let others live,” says 84-year-old grandmother Indu Chopra, Retd. Professor, Political Science.

Indu Chopra and Akanksha Kamath
Indu Chopra and Akanksha Kamath

Her 28-year-old granddaughter Akanksha Kamath, who works as a Fashion Journalist for Vogue India says, “The only thing I’ve known is independence. Independence in my choice of lover, choice of family, choice of profession, choice of dress, choice of thought, choice of religion, choice in what I do with my body. It’s a wonderful thing – the independence of choice. You are your choices, and no one can or should take them away from you.”

Independence doesn’t just mean exercising your rights, it should also mean valuing the sacrifices of those who made it possible for us to do so.”I was born just after Indian Independence. So, the word independence carries deep emotions. We met those great  Krantikaris, who fought for our independence, and had served 33-year terms in Kalapani jail in Andaman and Nicobar, who were upset that they could not even meet krantikari martyrs Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad – as they had been born, lived their entire lives and had been martyred, all during their Kalapani term. They were greater than any of us,” says Dr. Madhu Chaturvedi, who is 69 years old.

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She further adds, “For me, independence is to value ‘the value of independence‘, to feel the pride in that independence. And that will build our character – socially, culturally, economically, politically – which will, in turn, build the character of the nation.”

Independence means freedom within the permitted limits of the society and the surroundings without infringing on other’s rights. – Dr. Madhu Chaturvedi

For Oishee Banerjee, Madhu’s 16-year-old granddaughter, freedom stems from relationships. “Whether or not someone is independent, I believe, is the true indicator of the success of their upbringing. To me, independence is my ability to trust myself unconditionally and act upon my instincts, having faith in the fact that I will make the right decisions. One of my absolute core values, independence is extremely important, along with resourcefulness and curiosity.”

Madhu Chaturvedi, Oishee Banerjee and Tavishee Banerjee 2
Madhu, Oishee and Tavishee

“Independence, to me is the freedom to choose your own path, whether it be right or wrong. You do not depend on others to make decisions for you. It allows you to break free of the norm, and do, feel, and say as you please. It’s your path, your choice, your independence, ” adds Tavishee Banerjee, Oishee’s 13-year-old sibling and Madhu’s grandaughter.

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Madhu Chaturvedi, Oishee Banerjee and Tavishee Banerjee 1
Madhu, Oishee and Tavishee

Synjini Nandi, Senior Executive-Content, Nykaa, opines that freedom means more than just ‘whatever she wants’. The definition of freedom is, the condition of being free from restraints, says she. “Independence to me largely implies the freedom to make my own decisions and taking responsibility of every aspect of my life—be it financial or personal. It also means negating the need to rely on anyone for my own happiness. What I have learned from my grandmom over the years is the importance of self-sufficiency and having the courage to make the right choices in life,” she explained.

Another granddaughter, Mysha Sharif believes, “Freedom means having the power to make choices without permission that honor who I am.” She thinks she has gained the virtues and necessity of understanding the definition of freedom from her 82-year-old grandmother, Vidya. G. Wadhwa.

The 29-year-old, who is a headteacher trainer elaborates, “My grandmom has seen the phase of partition and Independence during that time was all about survival. She is a part of that time zone where girls did not have the preference to choose or decide what they want to do in life. Since she did not get the opportunity, she made sure that all the girls in her family from future generations as well get a chance to choose and be independent in life. So here I am, granddaughter of a grandmother who did not give up and gave us the power to choose and live the way we want!”

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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