It’s All A Matter Of Choices

Disclaimer: Before anyone reads this post, just know that I do not mean to be preachy, I do not mean to give out free advice, nor do I mean to be that kid who thinks she knows it all. These are just my thoughts, and I hope they’re encouraging and I can contribute to the change in my own minute way.

When ‘India’s Daughter’ was banned, there was quite a ruckus nationwide. The documentary, which highlights the shocking Nirbhaya Delhi rape case, was apparently showcasing a very bad image of India and Indians, simply put.

So I watched it, simply out of curiosity to see what the hullaballoo was about. And I couldn’t get rid of the goosebumps that followed due to the vivid descriptions and some of the statements of those who had been interviewed.

Mukesh Singh (one of the accused in the rape) said that taali ek haath se nahi bajti (you cannot just clap with one hand) and that the girl was always partly responsible in a rape case.

The lawyers spoke on length and quite passionately about our Indian customs and how girls should not be out post 8pm, and should not go out with male friends alone, and should follow a certain (admittedly medieval) code of conduct.

It was quite revolting for someone who has been brought up in a liberal urban environment (yes, as opposed to what the world thinks after watching the documentary, a part of India does exist where people think liberally and girls walk on roads in shorts) to hear all of this.

And I got thinking- if someone outside of India saw this, if someone who did not know the real India, and did not realize the diversity of thought and culture across India saw this, what would they really think? This was only punctuated by the fact that the documentary was made by a British national (who now, conveniently, isn’t in India), and that following the documentary’s release, a lot of not-so-nice statements had been made about the ‘scenario in India’.

In ‘Angels and Demons’, there is a line- “Religion is not flawed. Man is flawed.” In the same way, India is not flawed, Indian culture is not flawed (in fact it’s the richest culture out there), it’s just that we’re seeing it in a different light.  And we can definitely not trust a foreigner who hasn’t even lived in India long enough to know it thoroughly to show us the whole truth. Yes, what Leslee Udwin shows us is part of the truth, but not the whole truth.

She’s left out the brighter side, for instance, an incident that happened with me last week.

I was travelling by a local train during rush hour (and a true Mumbaikar will know what it is to travel by a Virar fast in the rush hour). Since I was with my friend, who’s a guy, we got into the general compartment, which was packed to the extent that people were literally holding onto anything they could get so as to not fall out. Into the already packed compartment, two more bodies entered.

I expected to be crushed and touched in all uncomfortable places, because that’s what happens when you enter the Ladies compartment in a Virar fast. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the minute I got in, the men moved to make way for me, saying “Chalo side do, ladies hain!”.

They gave me my bit of personal space, and told me to just move aside when the incoming rush of passengers got on at the next station. They didn’t make me feel violated or even uncomfortable. Even when it was my turn to get off, the men at the station stood aside for a slight bit of time, mutually consenting, “Ladies hain, unhe utarne do pehle.

I won’t be all roses and daisies and say that I wasn’t glanced at for the slightest bit of time by some men, and that my friend wasn’t looked at funnily, and that I got my own one square foot of space to stand in and fresh air to breathe, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected.

I had expected a compartment of men paying no heed to the fact that I was a girl, and pushing me around like I was one of them. I had expected someone to ask me why I’d entered the general compartment when there was a separate one for the ladies. I had expected a very uncomfortable scenario. But what I got was this- respect.

And it made me hopeful, very hopeful.

The change in India is already happening. People are waking up. People are understanding. It just isn’t reaching out enough, but it will. Change will take time. To quote a wise friend, “If change was to happen quickly, then it wouldn’t have taken us so much time to be freed from the British.”

Yes, while I type this out there are reports of a Kazakh national being raped in Karol Bagh. As I type this out another girl may be ogled in the train or in a bus. As I type this out, another woman may be whistled at on the road, another little girl may be touched inappropriately and not realize because she’s too young, another husband may slap his wife.
But the scenario isn’t as hopeless as we’re making it out to be.

And with all these thoughts floating around, I wrote this poem.

When I was young, my mother told me
Respect is the most important thing.
And in your darkest hour, no matter what
Shame upon yourself, don’t ever bring.
Why now, then, should we disrespect ourselves,
Why lower our self-esteem?
We are never that far gone,
That ourselves we cannot mend or redeem.

When you see something wrong,
Don’t turn your face away and sob
Reach out and make it stop right there,
Don’t just participate in silent candlelight mobs.
We can stay together in the time of need
Grow together, and bring change with more speed
If we only have a little more faith in our people
We’d be stronger, not all that feeble.

Let the world say what they will say
They’d never know what the truth really is
They don’t know what India can be
They only see us as a national crisis.
Hope can be found in the darkest of times
If one remembers to turn on the lights
So let’s see the brighter side, let’s not be negative
Let’s not get taken up by discussions and fights.

They’ll say a lot of things,
All those many loud voices
They’ll demanded change,
Make a ruckus, jarring noises.
But if only they’d take a moment,
Look around, they’d see,
The change has already begun,
We’re already a new kind of free.
We can see it that way, or keep pointing fingers,
It’s just a matter of choices.

We can go out in mobs on the streets
Hold candle light marches and silent rally meets,
Lament about the state that we’re in
Hold discussions on TV, long and grim.
Or we can be positive when we look around and see
That change has begun, By our own decree.
We can listen to those loud, jarring, impertinent voices,
Or have faith in ourselves. It’s all a matter of choices

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