Yatra is the truth behind freedom.

Yatra is the truth that the historians and all the other thinkers and writers have mentioned but never really got down to identifying it as the one vital reason that led to India’s freedom. When I say yatra, I mean travel… travel is what opens the mind to new and bold ideas and brings us closer to a state when the mind’s inner portals shout: ‘These chains are suffocating. Unchain me now!’

This is precisely what happened. Gandhi unshackled himself during the period he spent in England and South Africa. Nehru travelled far and got nearer the truth of freedom. Bose hopped across nations to garnish his sizzling ideas for freedom! And before you stop me to say, ‘Not everyone went abroad?’ Well, when did I say, yatra was all about just going abroad? All our freedom veterans went deep into ideas by travelling into ideas… what I mean is that they read a lot too. Reading, I guess is an excellent euphemism for travel or yatra. They all read books, read between the lines of all that wily Britishers said, read the pulse of the nation, read the unsaid whispers of a silenced population, and travelled deep into these reading journeys.

The journeys or the yatras made them analyse the needs of the nation. These yatras were what made them perceptive, solution-seekers, and bold decision-makers.

Specky had been reading what I was writing and she said, ‘Yatra does open you up. Or we’d all remain as good as the frog in the well.’

I said, ‘Yes, you’ve given me the best analogy possible. Our freedom fighters decided they didn’t want to remain frogs in the well and decided to come out and see the rest of the world. Once they were out, they must have realised that the walls of the well need to be broken…’

‘Yes,’ agreed Specky, ‘and quite metaphorically, an entire nation rallied behind them to climb out of the well into the vast unexplored meadows where the sunshine of freedom was so evident.’

‘Phew!’ I said, ‘your last bit would qualify as pretty incisive freedom poetry.’ Well, the truth is that our leaders made the masses travel into their own imagination and made them perceive the benefits of freedom. The masses too realised that even they had to simply make this final yatra. A yatra out of the limitations of being ruled by a foreign nation. A yatra that would lead them to every sunny vista that was there. They knew that a yatra was a spiritual pursuit, a history-creating enigma, and one of the final steps to the realisation of truth. This was true then. This is true even now.

No wonder then that we Indians are so fascinated with yatra… even now we’re all ready to travel to into more revolutionary ideas to rid the nation of the menace of corruption. A yatra, as they say, must go on forever! So if I’m ever asked, ‘Who freed India?’ I’d simply say, ‘Yatra!’


Arvind Passey
08 August 2013