"Where the mind is without fear and the head held high; Where knowledge is free...
...Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."
- Rabindra Nath Tagore
Liberation- The act of being set free from a state of imprisonment.
– when a Bangladeshi such as myself hears this word, they'll automatically picture a child who has lost his family to war, beaming with pride as he waves a red and green flag marking the dawn of a new nation following months of an excruciating battle. That image of liberation holds immense significance in my heart, as it allows me today to live as a free citizen and think about my own values and ideologies without any restraint. I've had the chance to construct my very own definition of liberation and find out ways to seek it, which is what I'd like to write about in this essay.
Over the years, liberation took different shapes for me. As an elementary school student, the closest thing to liberation that I had was struggling through exhausting math classes, waiting to hear the final bell, to go home and watch an episode of my favorite cartoon show. In my more rebellious early-teens, liberation meant leaving the house to live by myself after the countless fights I'd had with my mother. In high school, I found the word "liberation" to appear and reappear in my social studies textbook. I had learned about cultural liberation, political liberation, social liberation, etc. where people undergo war, launch movements, and rallies to achieve a world in which they could live without fear. It has taught me that– for there to be liberation, there are hurdles to be crossed and vices to be fought and when it comes to liberating myself, the rules are no different.
Being born in the 2000s, I was raised partially by TV screens, so news channels are very familiar to me. Every day there's a new headline that speaks of women's bodies, wounded and lifeless, left in dark alleys, and every day, I watch the color drain from my mother's face as she tells me not to go outside out of concern for my life– hurdle one. I also constantly face the age-old question of "What will people say?"– which is attributed to the next hurdle: the iron weight of social intervention. Society tells me to be a doctor and be married at 25 with 2 children, to dress and sit a certain way due to my gender, and to not raise my voice– and to stray from those orders means to accept hearing countless snide whispers behind my back. And then there's prejudice, which mocks my father for not speaking perfect English, which tells the Rickshawala that he is inferior, and told my peer that she'd be beautiful if she weren't dark– those were only ten syllables–yet she smiles a lot less bright now.
To cross these hurdles, I must defeat the demons that guard them– which rear their ugly heads to intimidate me: bigotry, doubt, and fear. I have to overcome the doubt in myself which compels me to follow the path others choose for me. I must be fearless in defending those who are discriminated against, and I have to free myself of any bigoted views, which means learning about social issues such as gender norms, racism, classism, etc. and inform others about them in the hope to build a safer and more understanding society in the future-- one where we wouldn't be uncertain about our lives, one where everybody would co-exist peacefully.
To me, liberation is breaking free of societal expectations and fulfilling my own, to educate myself and others in order to create a better environment for all. To me, liberation is speaking up for my friend who's bullied for her skin color and not spending an hour in front of my closet to decide which dress covers enough. I've always wanted to go for a walk outside in normal clothing without constantly having to look over my shoulder and the day it happens will be the day that I'm finally free.