I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that hasn’t been said yet, but I do want to say it, because if we really want change, each one of us WILL have to speak out and demand it.
There is nothing that has depressed me more over the course of the past one year than the rape of that brave girl in Delhi and the events that followed – the never-ending apathy of politicians, the so-called “youth icons” of the country whose only contribution to the state of the country was posting fucking tweets when the girl die, the disgusting police that beat up young protesters, including women, for trying to raise their voices, and then the bloody ridiculousness of the debate against Honey Singh and the entertainment industry that has achieved absolutely NOTHING except successfully diverting attention away from the real issue.
Since then, I have read tens of accounts of girls and women from across our ‘mahaan’ country, who’ve admitted to being molested multiple times at multiple junctures of their lives by both unknown and known men. And I have felt ashamed, so very ashamed, and, at times, even guilty of being a man. Or at least being a man living in India, the country that celebrates the “spirit” of the people for moving on after every catastrophe, every tragedy and every setback, and has never in history confronted the damn problem.
Why do we move on? It can’t be because we *actually* think that we can’t do anything about the state of affairs? Of course we damn well can! If EACH one of us raises our voices in protest against every wrong, every crime and every injustice AT the time we see it happen in front of us, we CAN change things! When we see something wrong happen right in front of us, why do we naturally assume that if we intervene, we will get screwed in return and no one will come to our rescue then? Maybe, if we intervene, then 10 other people who were thinking the same thing will also intervene and we can together STOP wrong from happening? Maybe, if we intervene, then the person committing the wrong will never attempt at doing it again because the only reason he does it is because NO ONE EVER INTERVENES? Maybe, if we intervene, then the next time something wrong is happening to us, someone will intervene and save US?
But we still don’t intervene. Because we are scared that if something happens to us, what will happen to our families? Because if we turn a blind eye towards wrong, then perhaps, the moment we step away from the place it was happening, the world will become a beautiful place again and no one will ever do wrong? Because it’s not happening to us? Or because we have become a nation of sadists – we ENJOY it when something bad happens to someone else?
It’s not great living in India unless you are really rich, and even if you are, you still face issues like too much traffic, bad roads, WAY too many people, bureaucracy, nepotism, uncleanliness, harami politicians and the like. Very rarely do we find happiness on a day to day basis. And naturally, if there’s just SO much to be miserable about in our own lives, it’s good to know that the lives of others are just as miserable. Initially, it could be the small things we enjoy – if someone got stuck in traffic for hours, if someone trips and falls, if someone got pick pocketed, etc. But then, as we get older and we realise that the mess in this country isn’t really going to go away anytime soon, and we feel trapped and suffocated, this little harmless sadism starts manifesting itself in unhealthy ways. If someone is in a bad relationship and we aren’t, we are alright with it. If we someone got into police trouble and we didn’t, we don’t care. If someone loses their job and we don’t, we laugh behind their backs.
And this sadism is perhaps the strongest reason that when someone is getting beaten up, molested, abused, wronged right in front of us, the feeling we have is not one of pity or sympathy – it’s one of RELIEF and HAPPINESS – that ‘Thank God, thank the universe and thank our stars, that isn’t happening to me.’ We DON’T GIVE A SHIT about someone dying, instead we are HAPPY that we are getting to live on for another day.
We have become SADISTS, we have become INHUMAN, we have become HEARTLESS, INSENSITIVE, CRUEL, VICIOUS AND RUTHLESS. And we don’t bloody realise this, but in some way, OUR sadism is one of the biggest underlying causes of the crime, the wrongs, the injustice and the misfortunes that we go through as a collective culture and country. The brave girl may have been alive had an auto rickshaw driver agreed to take them when they were stranded. Or if a passerby had offered them a lift. Or even if, after she and her friend were abused on the bus and thrown out, a kind soul had stopped and taken them to a hospital. Or if, hypothetically, someone had stood up to the rapists the last time one of them had passed a lewd comment on a girl in front of us, maybe they wouldn’t have been so encouraged to go to such a length. Our sadism and apathy may not be the only cause that the brave girl met that fate, no, but it IS a cause and it is upto US to change it around. And there is NO DOUBT that things WILL change if we just… become more human. CARE. Be kind. Be nice. Be generous. Be compassionate. Or just, stop being be assholes.
When even the Indian middle class feels oppressed, can you imagine what the economically backward class must go through EVERY SINGLE DAY? With our many luxuries – the ACs, the clothes to keep us warm, a good meal every day, the ability to afford a movie in a multiplex, the ability to afford auto-rickshaws every day, the ability to afford a doctor or a hospital when we need it, the ability to live life in a way we generally don’t require a doctor or a hospital – even with ALL these luxuries, we fucking hate our lives. Then can you possibly imagine what someone who can’t afford even these basic things goes through? Can you possibly imagine HOW MUCH THEY HATE THEIR LIVES? And how badly they would want to change it all by hook, trying for years at end by toiling every single day, or by crook, when circumstances and situations sometimes just go out of control? And as if their pain, their despair, the bleakness of their existence isn’t enough to drive them crazy and possibly consider the option of SNATCHING happiness through “wrongful” means – WE TREAT THEM LIKE GARBAGE.
When was the last time we were kind to the beggar on the street? Or the eunuch?
When was the last time we asked your society’s watchman how he is, or smiled at him, or said ‘Thank you’ to him for staying up every night keeping you safe?
When was the last time we bothered to even ask the name of the person who came to deliver something we had ordered and thanked them for their service?
When was the last time we did NOT haggle for Rs 5 or 10 with your auto rickshaw driver or your sabziwala – and instead were happy to give them Rs 10 extra, because Rs 10 won’t make a difference to us but can *actually* help him?
When was the last time we behaved nicely and understandingly with the sales clerk in shops or stores, who would have obviously served you early but has multiple customers at every given moment, instead of being rude to him for “wasting your time”?
When was the last time we acknowledged someone who comes from a financially-backward household, for a job well done?
When was the last time we gave a good tip that we KNOW we could easily afford to someone who’s served you well?
When was the last time we forgave a genuine mistake by someone who is serving us not out of choice but because he was born in a home that wasn’t as affluent as ours, instead of abusing him/her?
When was the last time we were kind in general? Or nice? Or sympathetic? Or helpful? Or generous? Or compassionate? The last time we smiled at someone less prosperous than us, for no reason at all? The last time we acknowledged their efforts? The last time we said a mere ‘Thank you’ to them?
Now think of the last time we were in a luxury store or a five-star restaurant. What do we do when they fuck up? How do we treat the staff of these places? Do we abuse them or haggle with them or give small tips? Do we disrespect them or are impolite? NO. Because these are “respectable” places and we behave exactly in accordance to the norms of behaviour at respectable places. We want to show that we belong there, and hence, we are fucking gentlemen/ladies. But we are also the SAME people who’d not mind humiliating someone at a place without AC if they screwed up. Because “they deserve it” and because we don’t have the time or inclination to be nice to someone who we think is “lesser” than us. Why? Because “how does it matter?”
IT MATTERS. Not treating a fellow human being with respect or kindness or even basic politeness, is the FIRST step in the scheme of things spiralling downwards that result in heinous crimes. Disdain, disrespect and contempt for the service class may not make us bitter or unhappy or change our day or lives, but it may do exactly that for them. Each time we act like assholes, they would naturally wait for the time when the status quo has reversed and then THEY can be assholes to us. Why does the auto rickshaw driver refuse to ply? Why does the carpenter take SO much time to repair something? Why does the maid steal small things every now and then? It’s not THEIR values that are at fault here, it’s on US. And every once a while, these continued cases of treating the service class with derision will manifest in an unhealthy way in that one person, who has had enough, and there’ll be a crime that we could have avoided in the first place – a crime that is ON US. Respect is possibly the one thing ANY human being would strive for as much as money. If we can’t show basic humanity to everyone around us, then all the shit that happens around us – it’s on US. WE are to blame. If we are insensitive, inhuman and apathetic, WE ARE to blame. If we think of only ourselves when something wrong happens to someone else, WE ARE TO BLAME.
Because really, IT’S NOT HAPPENING TO SOMEONE ELSE. IT’S HAPPENING TO US. When the fuck will we understand that?! Every little thing that goes wrong around us that makes the world just a little worse, is fucking the future up for US. WE are now unsafe. OUR FAMILIES are in danger. Our children, our coming generations will suffer. If we don’t stop it, if we don’t speak out, if we don’t protest, if we don’t even LIKE, SHARE OR RETWEET something that is stark, hard hitting and depressing but can make someone less ignorant and if WE don’t change, we are putting OUR tomorrow at risk.
We could have stopped that brave girl from getting raped, had we not created the circumstances that led those rapists to believe that they can rape her and get away with it. It’s on US. We are to blame, and we need to take the responsibility and if we ACTUALLY give a damn, we bloody need to change RIGHT now, each one of us. We need to:
– TREAT our fellow human beings with respect, if we want the same from them.
– TEACH our children and our loved ones the importance of respect, towards everyone be it of any caste, community, background or gender.
– RAISE OUR VOICES whenever someone’s doing something wrong in front of us. If we are scared about what will happen to us, INFORM other people and RAISE OUR VOICES.
– STOP BEING indifferent. Our opinion MATTERS. If we think that something is wrong, we need to SAY IT OUT ALOUD. Put it on our statuses. Share it. Retweet it. Discuss it with everyone around us. MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD. The more people know the CLEAR difference between right and wrong, they will start changing too. OUR voices can help make people less ignorant and more aware of WHAT IS WRONG.
– THINK FOR OURSELVES. It’s really not that difficult!! If WE think that it is wrong to disrespect, abuse, slap women or treat them like shit, we need to STOP DOING IT. Even if we are in a place where the majority thinks that way or where people believe in some archaic traditions or superstitions or way of life that’s disgusting. Even if we are in the minority but WE know what we think is right, DO RIGHT. And then try to make others realise it is right too.
– STOP being an asshole to the service class, for any reason. They deserve our best behaviour as much as anyone at the same level or at a higher level than us does.
– BE NICE. It’s good to smile at others . It’s the least we can do to ease the pain and frustration that life routinely hands out to everyone. Smile, and we shall get one back, and great moments like these will make life better.
– BE KIND. Give away Rs 100 every day. It won’t kill us but it may make someone’s life a bit better. Open the door for someone. Carry someone’s bags if they can’t do it. Offer our seats to someone if they need it more. Give our old books or clothes away to the needy. Compliment someone if they deserve one. Be chivalrous. Be gentle. Kindness is infectious.
– SAY THANK YOU. Acknowledge everyone who’s done something for us. Don’t call people by their profession – no one wants to be called ‘waiter’ or ‘watchman’ or ‘driver’. Find out their names, greet them, find out about their lives if we can and wish them well. Don’t treat a human being who is not as affluent as us, as anything OTHER than a human being.
It’s a shit excuse that we can’t do anything to change the world. If we change ourselves and become more compassionate, and if each one of us does the same, then slowly and steadily the world WILL become a better place. And a brave girl would never again be subjected to a death so brutal. And A good place to start is: BE HUMAN.
Note: This article was first written on January 5, 2013
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
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