#MeToo?

As I scrolled down my newsfeed, I could see almost everyone I know, most of them women, put up a status on Facebook saying #metoo. Confused at first, I scrolled down past a few more status updates, some rather descriptive. The message was loud and clear. Somebody had started a trend, and it caught on, really well. I am glad that it caught on, but it was amazing to see the uncomfortable silence (me included) surrounding these statuses. I have scrolled down and read through every story I came across, but haven’t had the courage to like, or comment on any one of them. I don’t know what to say. I would like to apologize that whatever happened to them, but they aren’t looking for an apology. There was nothing to like about or react to their status – no response dignified what they were sharing. There was bravery in what they were doing, yes, but this was more than just them being brave. I could tell them that I will always be there for them, but they aren’t looking for someone reliable once it happens again, which it might. This problem is far from being solved.

The one thing about the #metoo campaign that caught me off guard, was that every other person I knew came out and shared their experiences. It was surprising, but I wasn’t entirely surprised, and therein I believe lies the root of the problem. We expect nothing more from our ‘brethren’. We don’t hold ourselves to high standards. I’m not sure if we did in the past, but we sure don’t anymore. It’s not normal, but it isn’t abnormal to hear about someone being sexually abused today. It happens. It happens everywhere, at home, in school, at work, on the way to any of these places, at hospitals or at religious institutions. We aren’t safe anywhere, and we know it. We aren’t okay with it, but we accept it, not completely, but more often than not, silently.

This isn’t normal, and it never will be. Through this campaign we are, in some sense, crossing that barrier of silence. I am not convinced on how much of an effect it will have in the long run, because like other campaigns, it is likely to see its rightful end until sustained differently, but I am glad that it has stirred up a conversation (though one-sided) and that is a start.

One, usually unanswered, question props up when these discussions take place. Who is to blame? Is it the perpetrator, the silent onlooker or is it the victim? Or is there a third (fourth) person responsible for all of this? While the victim has nothing to do with this, the crimes of the first two are easy to pin down. I believe that society, you and me, is responsible for this as well. Our silence, our indifference, our inability to stand up for ourselves and the people around us, out choice of leaders and our emotional investment in an already good narrative, with evidence clearly stating otherwise, are all small but relevant examples. Add to that the way in which education is perceived and delivered in India and our lack of investment, personal, economic and political, to bring about a change in it. We play our parts indirectly and we need to feel responsible for all that has happened and all that will probably happen.

Until we do something about it, the next time somebody else puts up #metoo, we can reply saying the same…

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The Dirty Minds

There are certain events that get you thinking. The ones which highlight how humans treat fellow humans (the dirty minds), they peak my interest. The general debate on issues involving humans usually focus on why one person/group of people should be punished. Their acts are put down as gruesome, inhumane, or sometimes in bad taste. Their punishments however have a wider range, from instant civilian justice to castration and sometimes death (can also be read as genocide-the line between the perpetrator and the perpetrated is finer than you expect).

What is interesting about events like this is that the level of public outrage is usually not in direct relation to the level of the ‘crime’. Now that is understandable because human reaction does not necessarily follow the rules of rationality (it shouldn’t, because that would be against the rules of emotion). However, what I fail to understand is the basis for the approach taken to solve the problem. Because the basic structure of a problem is that it stems from somewhere. You can’t cut the stem of a (few) plant(s) and expect to solve the problem. The root still remains untouched. (please brace for the plant and gardening metaphors to follow)

I am often in awe of the human need for instantaneous judgement. We believe that it teaches everyone a lesson, that it serves as an example. We’ve all been to school. Lessons can be forgotten, in fact they are meant to be forgotten. I believe that as a society we need to start asking questions and get to the root of the problem. But don’t be hasty and cut off the root just yet. Maybe the problem has nothing to do with the root, it can even be the soil. (I warned you! )

I believe the only way to diagnose the problem is to ask a few questions.

WHY?

Why did whatever happen, happen?

Is there scope for this to happen again? And again?

If yes, why?

(Ask these questions not on the scale of an individual, but on the scale of society)

Before I continue I would like to make it very clear that I am in no way justifying the act(s) itself, but I sincerely believe that along with delivering a message to the miscreants of the future, we must try and create a system where we can reduce the number of miscreants created in the first place.

It is too idealistic a vision, but it also targets too real a problem. Maybe the dirty minds aren’t the actual problem but merely a symptom of the general trajectory of change to follow. If so, this symptom needs to be weeded out before the dirty minds become our default setting and the resulting activities commonplace.

When history is the rest

​In the shadows I stand, hoping some day she’ll remember,

Remember the things that we used to be. 

And that we aren’t free, 

Not from each other, so as to speak.

It is unnatural, don’t you think,

Freeing yourself from a loved one?

If you had to free yourself, 

you were never actually bound,

Just the illusion hound.

Binding is not what we wanted to flee.

It was a phase, 

We didn’t have to agree.

Moments then felt like a lifetime and a lifetime felt too long,

The distance between us 

stretched out like a heartbroken song

(seriously, sometimes they are painfully long)

We caught ourselves down in the  pursuit to forget,

Falling deep into an abyss, 

Carefully steering clear of regret…

Time’s a healer and space the medicine, they said,

Well, a daunting task lay ahead!

The components of this had me haunted

In my defence, they’ve ridiculed many a great mind in my stead.

Days were sleepless, nights alight,

Even the thought of us embracing each other turning into a long forgotten sight.

We weren’t strangers, we couldn’t be,

Meant to be is what they say,

Apparently it only seemed so to me.

I didn’t want a memory, we hardly created any, 

I wanted us to create history, 

And history it was.

For each our own,

In ways different more than many. 

Failure

Modern day man is the worst when it comes to handling failure. The moment he fails, he does not immerse himself in the failure, not even for one complete moment. He looks out for a medium to ‘share’ the pain, dispense it with. It can be through an intoxicant, a loved one or more preferably a mix of both. He might even take it out on an object of no significant importance, ascribing to it the significance of pain and disapproval, but to no end.

Man fears pain. He does not want to learn from it. He wants to pretend it never existed in the fear that this may prevent him from moving forward. How does he expect to move forward without understanding why he failed?

Failure shouldn’t be forgotten. The fact that it happened isn’t one you can change, but the fact that it did happen, you shouldn’t be okay with, especially if that wasn’t the original plan.

India versus Pakistan

The atmosphere was tense as one of the biggest sport rivalries go head to head in a scintillating display of talent, hate and misguided patriotism. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big sports fan, in the sense I don’t watch a lot of sport. I love playing sport, and the discussion on how often I believe should be left to a more auspicious hour, day and year. But regardless of my sporting handicap, I believe that the term rivalry is just as honest as we Indians will get to how we feel about our ‘neighbours’. Why we feel that way is a debate no one is willing to objectively conduct. It’s quite nice, how we ‘hate’, umm, too strong? Okay, ‘intensely dislike’ people from a country that decided to stay with us even after the world partitioned, well physically.

I think these inherent feelings towards the Muslims (or Hindus, depending on your side of the spectrum), has been handed down over generations. It’s funny that I use the word spectrum. Spectrum means a band of colours as seen in a rainbow, produced by separation of the components of light by their different degrees of refraction according to wavelength. So is that the reason? Different wavelengths?

Maybe, it was because of the growing tensions among the two communities over centuries that slowly drifted them apart. But the real question is how long ago were these centuries? Did the political success of the Muslim rulers drive the Hindus to not accept the weaker Muslims or vice versa. Or were these sparks, noticed by the British, fueled to fulfill yet another political objective? Or maybe, it was just a particular vegetarian who didn’t like non-vegetarians around his food, and somehow the trend caught on, and diversified. Honestly, I don’t know who is to be held responsible, the perpetrators or the simpleton folk, you and me, who believe that a simple action/inaction had to have a deep psychological meaning obviously making us assume nothing but the worst. When we start believing that different is wrong and that the unknown is scary, we also are sadly never able to guess what we’re signing up for, and on the behest of how many lives.

A game of cricket, in its current medium of operation is a source of entertainment. Sadly, nothing sells better than a bloody political history.