Free thinkers

We have a voice everywhere these days. Internet and social media has made activists out of most of us and we hold strong opinions on a range of issues. The definition of intellectual has changed, ‘liberal’ tag has become a subject of mockery and I don’t think many of us really understand what it means to be free.

This is not to rant about the lack of true liberals and activists, but to reflect and look back at some of those eminent personalities who had a great influence over us while growing up through their works which we studied in school. Be it about Gurajada Apparao’s stand against dowry or Kandukuri Veeresalingam’s support for widow remarriage or Sri Sri’s radical, provocative literature which jabbed people to wake up from their slumber and become thinking, productive members of the society – they’ve all been quite progressive in their thinking and didn’t compromise on their stands despite disagreements and pressure from families and society. Their ideas were way ahead of their time. At a time when it was absolutely normal for women to be confined to their homes and for their parents to offer dowry while getting their daughters married, these men voiced their objections to such regressive practices. They fought for equality, education and liberation. They prodded people into thinking, and sometimes action, which brought about a positive change in the society.

Another such personality whose thoughts blew my mind is writer Chalam. I read his book Maidanam a couple of years ago when I casually picked the book in a sale at a local bookstore. Once I started reading, I realised this is no regular book. His idea of a woman, her freedom and relationships is so liberal and advanced that I wonder how he even survived back then. Women in his books don’t hesitate to express their opinions about anything. They’re intelligent, curious, loving and uncompromising. Love and marriage are not confining to them, rather, enhance their lives. Fidelity does not hold the same meaning to them as it does to the rest of the society, not because they don’t believe in the concept, but because their interpretation of the concept is different from that of the others.

When we read about such personalities and are exposed to their works, our thinking gets more open and refined. We’re able to comprehend and appreciate multiple schools of thought and respect varied points of view. However, I wonder if it’s the bane of our education system which is based on rote-learning or wider access to information in this day and age, but I don’t see as many thinkers and revolutionaries as we read about in our history books. These people thrived in an age where thought wasn’t valued, differences of opinion were few, and authority was accepted both at a societal and familial level. Wish to see many more such thinkers who have the power to shape societies for a better future. May the free speech and thought thrive and not get submerged in pseudo-democracies!

4 thoughts on “Free thinkers

  1. Chalam is the most influential writer ever in Telugu. He doesn’t write poetry, he doesn’t write literature, he simply talks to us in normal language. I still remember the first moment when I read his works. I have read many books from many authors in multiple languages but when I started to read his “Musings” book in a train, first few pages blew me away. My whole perspective of the world has changed. Next day I went to the shop and bought all of his works.

    Due to globalization we have too much to process now: literature from multiple languages, media, entertainment, facebook, wahtsapp, twitter, technology, social issues (Back in the days who in the village knows if something happens in a different state? But today the media shows the entire world live). The children these days have too many distractions, may be we dont need to process this much information and need to concentrate on fewer things.


  2. Yes. Information is confused with knowledge and knowledge with wisdom these days. It’s important to have an open mind, absorb information and form perspectives.


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