Picking up the newspaper in the morning (or opening the news website on the computer) has become an experience akin to the opening scenes of a nightmare. It’s a nightmare that plays out every morning and that holds you in its horrifying thrall for the rest of the day.
Is it that human life has become cheap these days? Has the world decided to completely disregard human dignity? Everywhere around the world, the civilization seems to be sliding down into a state of anarchy that would soon be completely beyond our control. The traits that set us humans apart from the other animals… such as compassion, love and the ability to apply rational thought have been taken over by the more primal and base instincts of anger, violence and lust. It is like mankind is unraveling at the seams… it probably would just take one strong pull to disintegrate the fabric of humanity.
Yes, there were wars and battles in the ages gone by… fights over land and power, conquests and witch hunts and lots of violence in the name of defending or expanding realms and empires. But those were the rowdy teenage years of mankind when the hormones were ablaze and there were wild oats to be sown. Didn’t we all settle down to a mellow age when we were mature enough to understand that life has a beauty and dignity to it that needs peace to nurture it?
Ideas like religion were meant to be instruments of peace, guidance to the peoples of the world… their right to choose and follow a set of principles they felt comfortable with. Today religion is not too different from organized crime. The atrocities committed in the name of what is supposed to be a spiritual bridge to attaining nirvana (eternal peace of mind…and not specifically a Hindu idea) are so horrendous that I can’t understand how any ‘god’ can approve of it?
Then there is the great financial divide… the rich vs the poor. We invest so much of our time and efforts in complaining that the rich have it easy, I find it simply a mark of inefficiency that we do not all instead strive to be successful and probably help ourselves cross that gap.
Closer home, in India, the media in their calls to awaken the people of India talk about a ‘real India‘ which according to them consist of only the downtrodden, the sick and poor, the underprivileged and the destitute. How true is this picture? What about the cities in India, the urban centers, the working middle class which statistically forms a major chunk of the population and the rich and über rich of the country… are they unreal? Do they not belong to the country? Benefiting one strata of the society at the expense of the other would just deepen the chasm between them. I know there are people who have brilliant ideas that can help uplift the society as a whole without alienating the people. Some of them don’t believe in the system and are hesitant to put forward their ideas because the system has always failed them before.
Today, in the newspaper I read about a woman who hung herself from a lamp-post in Kolkata during peak hours… and no one dissuaded her, helped her get back on her feet, figuratively or literally. The headlines screamed ‘Heartless Kolkata’ but not for a second did I believe that the scenario would have been any different in any other city. Human life has lost its charm as long as it isn’t your own.
Women in India, both the citizens and the visitors, live in complete and constant fear for their dignity, for their very lives. Even though I hate to generalize, I am being forced to and I have to point out that men are increasingly losing hold of their senses… they are de-evolving into something worse than animals, because animals do have their own social codes and norms and strictly adhere to them. A large part of the public, including politicians and self-appointed guardians of ‘culture’ are busy blaming the media, the victims of abuse and everyone else other than the perpetrators of these crimes. These people are equally if not more responsible for the mistreatment meted out to women here. They are the ones who give these men the encouragement, that final push that instigates them to become monsters.
Every day, the newspaper puts forth a new horror story in the life of some woman in the country… and this story is the one that sees light among the thousands that get buried under threats made or carried out, under political or financial clout and under shame which the victims are often always made to feel. And this terror tale is very personal to every women in the country, for the mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters…working women, students, housewives… even the unborn infant girl in her mother’s womb… any of us could be the victim… and all of us feel the pain, the heartache, the humiliation and attack on our dignity every time such an incident occurs. So why does our country let it happen to us every day… why does it let our picking up the newspaper or turning on the news channel become a painful disrobing of our dignity?
I am a woman. I fear for me and my kind. I have vowed to never return to India. I dread my nightmares would turn real there… and I am already scarred for life by the repeated attempts to molest my dignity by proxy. I am a scared woman… and I am not the only one.
© Surya Murali