Little Fingers, Tiny Toes

With squinted eyes, I scrutinised. Palm pressed against palm and foot pressed beside foot. Yes, the exact same size! She’s going to be my best friend, I declared. Grabbing her hand I was just about to take her to meet all my other friends when my grammy asked what I was doing.

“We’re gonna play, Grammy!”

“But she’s got work to do!”, Grammy reasoned.

“Hoooome-work?” I enquired. Visibly miffed at that ever looming entity that always threw a spanner in all my best laid plans.

“No, child, house work”, replied Grammy.

Frowning, my six year old mind tried to fathom why little Neerja had to do housework. Wasn’t that her mother’s job?

Since no one around me ventured an explanation for it the entire day and seemed completely at home​ with such a situation, I assumed it was one of those things that only adults or ‘big people’ knew.

I’m 25 now. I still cannot wrap my head around that fact.

(Today is World Day against Child Labour. We all know child labour is atrocious. Let’s do something about it. Children need to be loved, nourished, nurtured and educated. They should not have to work their small bodies to bones while continuously worrying about where the next meal would come from. Let’s give them the love and support they need. Say no to child labour. Say yes to love.

If you’ve come across heart wrenching incidences of child labour, please share the story in the comments section below. Spreading awareness always helps. Nothing works better than guilt. Let’s guilt the world into being more humane?)

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Hindi Medium: a satirical take on class struggle

I recently watched the Irrfan Khan starrer ‘Hindi Medium’. As the title of this post suggests, it was a satirical take on the plight of non-English speaking parents trying to land admission at a prestigious, elite, English medium school for their five year old daughter.

It shows the lengths they go to in order to ensure their daughter’s future. Although a lot can be said about the lack of acting skills of the entire cast as well as the movie being riddled with clumsy direction, content and editing, yet, it brings to the fore a very pertinent topic and delivers a strong message to the society.

The movie emphatically showcases how one can only go on to achieve success in life today if one has mastered the art of speaking and writing English fluently. There’s nothing wrong with this premise, I agree. However, we face a very real challenge to the progress of society when we start to judge and categorise people based on this ability alone. Over the years, we have not only become social snobs towards people with fautly and faltering English, but we have also started to measure a man’s worth on this scale. Herein lies a grave problem.

A particular dialogue in the movie aptly summarises the society’s attitude towards English. Roughly translated, it says, “If a French man were to speak incorrect English, it is excusable. If a Russian were to speak incorrect English, it is again excusable. However, if an Indian were to speak incorrect English, that man is deemed a failure at life and is assumed to amount to nothing”.

To make matters worse (yes, suprisingly enough, it is quite possible), there is absolutely no scope for children of parents having been educated via Hindi medium to gain admission in English Medium schools. The entire admission process is structured in a way that the child’s future hangs upon how well his parents fare in the interview. Usually, it is affluent people only who have recieved education from English medium schools while the poor studied in Hindi medium, Government or Public schools. So, by imposing this structure, we are eliminating the chance of kids belonging to poor households to get a chance at competing with affluent kids even at a later stage.

In essence, the privileged become more privileged and the poor remain poor, if not become poorer. No hope for bridging the rich-poor divide Survives.

The movie also showed how the welfare scheme of the government under the Right to Education Act, granting access to free and compulsory education to all children aged below 14 years of age, is being misused by the rich for their own benefit, thereby reducing the chances of the poor by a huge margin again.

In a society today where “convent educated” is a stamp of approval on our foreheads, worn with pride, opening many doors for us; where “English speaking” brides and grooms are actively sought for in every matrimonial ad, this movie comes as an eye opener.

Schools are not meant to only impart learning in the English medium. Personality development is not limited to being fluent in spoken English.

No, schools are temples of education. Education being a holistic one. Children are the future of the world. We cannot shape them into social snobs. We cannot divide them into classes and categories right from preschool. They cannot be made to feel less than another because their parents were not fortunate enough. No, schools are meant to nurture young minds and hearts. They’re meant to nourish the nature of children and enable them to form a moral compass. They’re meant to enable the creation of better human beings so that they may grow up to break the shackles that we, as a failed society, erringly imposed on them.

Nurture, nourish, shape and enable is the motto. Not divide, distinguish, judge and begrudge them their dreams and futures.

I would like to end this narrative with the lyrics of a song from the movie sung by equally capable students from a government run, Hindi medium school –

Sooraj jaise chamkenge ( We shall shine like the sun)

Dekhe hain saadi ankhiyan ne (our eyes have seen)

Eh sapne ambraan de (dreams of the skies)
Eh sapne ambraan de

Boond boond jodenge pal pal (we’ll collect every drop of water at every moment)
Door door beh jaayenge (we’ll flow far away)
Phir naal samandran de (along with the ocean)
Phir naal samandran de

Assi aithe khade (we are standing here)
Hai jaana pare (we have to go somewhere)
Na kam humko tol (do not consider us any less)

Assi zidd te ade (we are adamant)
Junooni bade (we are passionate)
Eh dil ke ne bol (these are the words of our heart)

Ek jindri meri (I have one life)
Sau khwahishaa (but a hundred wishes)
Ek ek main poori karaan (x2) (I’ll fulfil them one and all)

Ek jindari meri
Sau khwahishan
Mushkil humein rokna (it’s difficult to stop us now)

Shehron jaise ban jaayenge (we will become large like the cities)
Lagde ne jo chhote chhote (that crop up from tiny lanes and roads)
Eh raste galiyan de
Eh raste galiyan de

Phoolon ki tarah mehkenge
Hauley hauley yaaron
Ek din mausam galiyan de
Eh mausam galiyan de (someday, friends, these seasons of lanes will spread fragrance like flowers)

Abhi na jaane koi (right now no one knows)
Pehchaane koi (nor do they recognise)
Hai kya apna mol (our worth and value)

Assi zidd te ade (but we are adamant)
Janooni bade (we are passionate)
Eh dil ke ne bol (this is spoken from my heart)

Ek jinadri meri (I have one life)
Sau khwahishan (but a hundred desires)
Ek ek main poori karaan (and I will fulfil them all)

Raat hai kajle waali (this night is dark)
Door badi diwali (the festival of lights is agar)
Dive dhoondhe akhiyaan (my eyes search for those lamps)

Dil waale ghonsle mein (in the nests of your hearts)
Panchi banange yaaron (we’ll make our homes)
Humne ummeedan rakhiyan (we have hope)

Maine haaran nahi hai (we won’t be defeated)
Chahe kuch bhi kare duniya (no matter what this world does)

From Public Lynching, Mob Violence to Cow Vigilantism, who needs the zombie apocalypse?

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” – Dante 

I write with a sad heart today. When did we become so callous that 7 men could be publicly lynched by over 2000 people in a busy city right in front of the cops? When did we become so bestial that we had the time to click pictures of the last man left alive, soaked in blood, begging for his life before he met the same end? When did we become so heartless that we stopped caring at all?
Two days ago, seven men in Jharkhand fell victim to a newly emerging version of “mob justice” based on a mere rumour circulating over WhatsApp that there were child traffickers in the city. Not a single complaint of a missing child was filed during that time. Not a single child went missing. Yet, that rumour was more valuable than the lives of 7 men.

I write with a sad heart today because I, like millions of other people, saw the following pictures and could do nothing. Nothing at all.

Only last month, a family of nine, including a child, was slaughtered on the suspicion that they were transporting their own cattle for slaughter. “Cow vigilantes” presumably saved the cattle and killed the people. This was not even an isolated incident. Since the current government came into power, coe vigilantism has been on a record breaking high.

Not even a week ago, a man and his group of friends brutally gang raped a girl who dared to reject him. As if the Nirbhaya gang rape, where the girls entrails were taken out by inserting an iron rod inside her and then leaving her for dead, was not enough, this girl had gnaw marks on her chest, even her oesophagus had been torn out. Finally, a car had been run over her head to obliterate her identity. Nirbhaya’s rapists have been sentenced to death by virtue of it falling in the “rarest of rare” category of cases, the only category that warrants a death penalty in India. I wonder now where that rarity vanished.

Everyday I open the papers to read news that leave me shocked to the core. Day after day, I feel my blood boil, I feel goosebumps on my skin and I feel immeasurably helpless.

Helpless in the face of a public that is governed by the herd mentality. Helpless before a whole nation that somehow refuses to think for itself.

I usually refrain from indulging in political debates or writing my opinions on them. Today, however, I cannot sit quiet anymore. I believe we are getting sucked into a quagmire of State sponsored and approved terrorism. The party in power has very clear religious affiliation and has been very vocal about it. Rather, that was it’s entire election campaign. Where earlier parties tried to appease religious minorities to gain a sectional votebank, the present party made its way to victory by arousing the sentiments of the religious majority.
Yes, India is a secular nation. It is tolerant towards all religions​ and lets you practice them in peace. Equally true is the fact that India’s people are very religious. So much so that the pictures posted above were responded by abominable statements like “Oh, you’re crying for the death of 7 muslim men? What about that one Hindu man that died in last week’s incident of cow vigilantism?”

Why, why do you have to belittle the death of any single man because another died as well just because their religion is different? I don’t care about the religion, caste or creed of a person. I only care that they live!

 Yes, I get that you regard cows to be your mother, they’re to be protected and prayed to. But the person dying is your brother too! He has lived among you as one of your own. Should he not be mourned by you? Does his life hold no value?

I’m sorry if my words seem to meander today, I’m too emotionally charged. I am desperately trying to make sense of what is happening all around me. I feel lost, I feel betrayed, I feel scared. I feel scared to set foot outside my house. I am scared I’ll either be raped, beaten to death or lynched without even knowing why. Because these days, suspicions, rumours, presumptions and apprehensions are enough to take a life. Mob-justice requires no judge, no jury, it only metes out punishment without giving you the right to defend.

Why do we not rise as one when terror strikes take place around the world? Why do we sit back in relief that we’re safe when natural disasters destroy the homes of so many? Why, why is it that the only times we take a stand as one, as humans joined together, are when we decide to become inhuman?

I have a lot of questions. I will not be getting any answers. I live among men who ask, on public forums, for women of another religion to be raped. I live among men who ask, on public forums, for women of their own religion to stay at home and produce kids so that we are more in number. I live among men who pit religion against religion. I am confused which century am I living in? When did we start wearing a holier than thou halo on our heads? When did we end up talibanising our own society? When did we revert back to the dark ages?

When will there be light again?