Melting Boxes

When I first set foot on a Mumbai local train station, I thought about the many number of stations there might be in this city. In my stay here, I wanted to board trains from as many stations in the city as possible. In essence, I wanted to experience the whole of this city. I’ve found that when the local government changes, the vibe of the area changes altogether. Kalyan VEDH, yesterday gave me the opportunity to visit a new place. This fact was as exciting to me as knowing what I was going there for.

Sunday’s theme ‘Out of the Box’ is a synonym for VEDH itself. That was what pulled me towards it the first time, a few years ago. Since then, I, a person who was buried in the box has time and again heard many faculty members across themes and VEDHian cities, who have trodden upon out of the box paths. The program on Sunday was but a cherry on the cake, like a summary of years of my observation of ‘out of the box’ people.

After listening to the various interviews, I was reminded of my favorite German song, ‘Die Gedanken sind frei” (Thoughts are Free). A famous folk song that is an integral part of not only the German culture but also the thought process of the countrymen, it was written during the horrors of holocaust. It says that tyrants can imprison people, but not their thoughts.

And should tyrant take me and throw me in prison,
My thoughts will burst free like blossoms in season
Foundations will crumble and structures will tumble
And free men will cry, Die Gedanken sind frei.”

This has always been a powerful and inspirational song for me. I think these lines apply to not just thoughts, but also to the freedom to choose your path. But if that is how free thoughts are, and today, even people are, what keeps us from using the freedom to get ourselves out of the box? I think the answer lies in what the boundaries of the box are made up of, as much as what happens inside the box. The sides are like modern dictators, and there are two: the society that dictates what a “reputed profession” is, heavily influencing carrier choices by managing to curb interests somehow and bitterly criticizing those who still manage to break free. The other dictator is the voice within, that might be of confusion, self-doubt, lack of clarity about the profession and why it is needed and anxiety to venture out of our comfort zone.

I realize I’m walking on a very shaky bridge here. Exercising one’s freedom to choose and out of the box path doesn’t mean one impulsively fulfills whatever wish comes to their mind. The box needs to be filled with a lot of responsibility about the choice and the courage to accept the emotional and practical consequences. If both things, responsibility and acceptance combine, the wall of the box would evaporate and out would emerge a path that eventually, is followed by many.

When I give a picture to this process in my mind’s eye, I don’t see it as a sudden process, as a product of putting in energy at one single time. This is a slow change, bottom up, that is a fine result of years of skill acquisition and hard work, that unknowingly results in the melting of the box. This process of being was beautifully highlighted in one of the VEDH choir songs that day- People who set out on a journey out of their box are met with ridicule. When those in the box look up and see the different and glorious path outside, the ridicule is transformed to awe and appreciation. Now the maker of the path looks back to see how empowering the path has been for many inside the box. The caterpillar doesn’t know it would be a butterfly in the future, it keeps doing what it does, because that is its nature! The metamorphosed butterfly touches many things and lives like our ‘out of the box’ people, again because that is its very nature.

Out of the Box isn’t doing, it is a process of being.

-Ketaki Joshi.

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