A scene from the movie

The movie Sound of Freedom is making waves, big waves. I watched a few documentaries about the making of the movie. One phrase that grabbed my attention, “Pay it forward”. They were using this catch phrase to ensure that everyone had a chance to watch the movie; the ones that could afford to watch and pay it forward and the ones that couldn’t afford to pay it forward got to watch the movie as well. The objective being that everyone should get a deep and disturbing look at the dark and dangerous world of human trafficking and understood this heinous crime.

A few years ago when I supervised Freedom Firm’s jewellery training program for survivors, I remember having a survivor on the floor with me. She was one of the bold ones. She would walk into the workshop with a spring in her step and a sparkle in her eyes. She was in love with a boy and influenced by him, she was frustrated at not having the “freedom” she was supposed to have. Even though she turned 18 a few months earlier, she was naive and didn’t have the maturity to take the best decisions for her life. We wanted to meet the boyfriend but he did not want to meet us (surprise surprise!) One day in a fit of anger she said she was happier there, there being the red light area, the same place were she and her workshop mates were rescued from. My initial reaction, shock. When I recovered I looked at her and said, “Where you are today was at a price. Good men risked their lives to make sure you were safe, plenty money was spent to make sure you are safe”. So I asked her to meet the founder who was one of the good men and tell him that she was happier there. My sigh of relief was silent when she stared at me and then just walked back to her table.

Freedom has a price. It costs money, it costs time, it costs many minds coming together to brainstorm; but above all, it costs lives. This month we Indians celebrate 76 years of freedom. I have heard stories from my grandparents, grand uncles, mentors and others about the freedom struggle and voices of dissent during the emergency. We have read plenty about those who were in the forefront of these struggles. I have dreamt of being one of them in my time (smile). Many of these leaders of various freedom struggles have lost their lives, their health, their wealth and much more in their fight for freedom. Most of them did not get to enjoy the freedom they sought and fought for.

You and I get to enjoy a free life because of the price that has already been paid by somebody else. We have our fundamental rights and we enjoy it. The evidence is in the fact that I am able to write and you are able to read. We live free. We have the freedom to vote, freedom to possess assets, freedom to learn, freedom of movement, freedom of speech and freedom of expression…

While I enjoy freedom, I am compelled to look at those around me who do not enjoy the same freedom. I invite you to look around as well. Who are these people? They could be our helpers at home, our employees / colleagues; some struggling to make ends meet, others enduring a daily diet of abuse in their homes, and then there are those inspite of living in these supposedly progressive times still face discrimination for being born in a certain caste, religion or colour. It surely is the child on the street who does not know his/her family, the scores of women in the red light area feeding themselves and families through prostitution and the young girl from the little village who excitedly came to work in a spa in the big city only to realise she wasn’t going to learn beautician skills but learn how to provide X rated skills to perverted customers.

Catherine Raja, National Director