“Not in my name”

With a sad heart, I bring to you some news today. Recently, my country witnessed a spate of public lynching taking place in various cities.
Yes, you heard me right. Lynching. No, I’m still talking about 2017. Yes, we still claim to be a civilised society. 

I believe these instances are nothing short of state-sponsored terrorism giving rise to religious fanaticism in the name of nationalism and hindutva. I can only hope the secular nature of our democracy will soon see this “trend” ebbing away.

Meanwhile, our brethren are getting brutally slaughtered, for lack of a better term, right, left and centre (not alluding to political wings here, but you’re free to interpret).

In the midst of such godlessness, because no one can tell me this is being done in god’s name, the most recent instance has been particularly heart wrenching. 

Junaid, a young teenager, was publicly lynched while returning home after shopping for Eid. A mob (of people? Or demons, I think) suspected he was carrying beef and decided to end his life then and there. I am sorry, I do not have the heart to reproduce all the glory details here.

However, I see a sliver of hope for us yet. 

A facebook post, by filmmaker Saba Dewan, against this lynching has spurred a powerful online campaign with thousands of citizens pledging to hit the streets in protest.

On 28 June, citizens’ protests will simultaneously take place in the cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram and Bengaluru under the banner “Not in My Name”. 

The people of India have decided they’ve had enough of the mob rule, and they will not condone such inhuman acts committed in their name anymore. They’ve decided to speak in one voice and let it be known that the right to life, personal liberty, freedom and equality are not mere words adorning our Constitution. They seek to reclaim the Constitution and to remind the country (and its leaders) that ours is indeed a secular democracy. Thus, no onslaught on our people in the name of religion shall be allowed any longer. 

If you too have a conscience, a heart, a mind, a sense of right and wrong, a moral compass and a voice, join our people in this protest and bring your friends along. It is open to all citizens, there just isn’t any place for party/organisational banners though. 

And if you’re coming, make sure to carry a banner stating “Not in My Name” as clear as clear can be. 

(It is true that our government is blind, metaphorically, and our people are dumb, again metaphorically, it’s not unless we roar would they be able to hear us!)

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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?

Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle

​I recently wrote my two cents on feminism, fairy tales and the need to move beyond to more gender neutral grounds. In the aftermath, I had a highly enlightening conversation with a friend of mine. I won’t go as far as to accept she changed my world view. However, her points were poignant and realistic. Therefore, I decided to pen them down. Below is a narrative of her words, as best recalled by me alongwith my own thoughts on it.

She says being a female is about doing what a man cannot do as much as it is about doing what he can do. Rightly so, I believe, since there is a fundamental difference in our psyche, understanding, physical and mental capabilities as honed by centuries of designated roles right down to our basal natures. So, women interpret and view things differently than men, whatever may be the reason behind this.

She says the whole problem in any age boils down to male agression. Yet, to be equal, women need not become as brutish as men. They can preserve their grace and still bring about major changes in the current world scenario.
She amplifies this point by saying being soft does not equate to being weak. The necessity of life is to be tender also.

She says the problem with the current wave of feminism is that it is making men uncomfortable and nervous. Now, here, one needs to understand that even though the whole agenda may be to make men sit up and notice women as equals, the approach, however, is still wrong. We cannot operate in vacuum. One needs to make one’s play by keeping a solid hold on reality. This reality being that men, when cornered or threatened, like any human, are prone to lash out and be defensive. Consequently, they will be less rational and receptive to the whole idea of feminism.

Regardless of how they “should” react, in a more utopian context, the reality of their reaction cannot be ignored for long. Feminists need to be sensitive to the fact that what matters is how men will react, rather than how they should.

She says men in power have already always been ruining our lives by preaching and commanding how things “should” be. Women, however, have had centuries of experience in dealing with such men and surviving. They know how men will react. They can circumvent it to create a more positive outlook. Women may or may not be smarter than men, that’s a matter of individual opinions, they do, however, have the uncanny, unwavering ability to hone in on the exact reaction which will be solicited in a man in any given scenario.

She says when you violently or suddenly change the status of men in society, i.e., if we are not gentle and gracious, in the long run, it would only produce more misogynistic bosses, more patriarchal mothers, more dominating fathers, even more homophobic population. Because this is too much too fast.

What bears testimony to the above is the fact that men don’t even stand up against their own objectification, their own abuse, their own rape. Feminists need to know what needs to be done, but also done in the right way.

Softly, gently, gracefully, forgivingly, lies the way ahead. There cannot be a war of the sexes. The consequences of that would be way too ugly to even imagine.

Society is all about power equations. To disrupt it, even if the aim is to bring about a balance, one needs to be tactful and strategic.
She ends the discourse by saying to fight, you don’t need to antagonise. Hate the sin, not the sinner. As I said before, in a previous post, we are all responsible for how men and women grow up to be. Not every individual can be blamed.

I think a small dialogue with her has mellowed down my self righteous indignation. I was previously unaware that, being a woman, I harboured an angst against the opposite sex for their sense of entitlement. I am better educated now. I hope to be able to contribute to upliftment of the society as a whole now.

So, thank you, dear friend, for taking the time to talk to me.

Funnily enough, for some reason, I can only think of the following lyrics to aptly describe how to be gracious towards the sensitivities of men while moving ahead on the right path:

“Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle

Razzle Dazzle ’em

Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it

And the reaction will be passionate

Give ’em the old hocus pocus

Bead and feather ’em

How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?

What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle ’em

And they’ll​ never catch wise!

Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle ’em

Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous

Row after row will crow vociferous

Give ’em the old flim flam flummox

Fool and fracture ’em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Throw ’em a fake and a finagle

They’ll never know you’re just a bagel,

Razzle dazzle ’em

And they’ll beg you for more!

Give ’em the old double whammy

Daze and dizzy ’em

Back since the days of old Methuselah

Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give ’em the old three ring circus

Stun and stagger ’em

When you’re in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder

They’ll let you get away with murder

Razzle dazzle ’em

And you’ve got a romance.”