By Lata Jha:
If you thought you had a tough time combating stereotypes and mis-perceptions in your small town, here’s some news. It could make you feel better or worse, depending on how pathetic the situation appears to you. You’re not fighting the battle alone, there are others in bigger cities who face circumstances, just as tough, or maybe even more.
Students in the country’s premier institutions situated in ‘big, progressive’ cities have been admonished by the media lately for their outgoing attitudes, lives and lifestyles. These vicious attacks by the media, scaling huge proportions seem to be concentrated in pockets like Mangalore (home to the Manipal group of institutions), Hyderabad and Pune (with its Symbiosis group of institutions).
In video footage from channels like CVR, one can find programmes titled ‘Hyderabad Girls Caught Nude and Drunk’ for instance, where the patronising male voice speaks of how girls from NALSAR (National Academy of Legal Studies and Research) in Hyderabad wait for the weekends to ‘indulge’ themselves, go out, get debauched and come back having soiled their morals and their parents’ reputation. The ‘concerned’ voiceover goes on to feed them moral scriptures on the kind of women they need to be, their duties and responsibilities in life.
Other videos like ‘Drunk Girls Hulchul’ on StudioN and ‘Beware of Girls!’ on NTV take an even more grim turn. The angle to now be focused on is how underprivileged groups like those of Scheduled Castes are stepping in to help get youngsters from the wayward ‘upper castes’ back on track in life.
Mass communication, liberal arts, fashion design and especially law colleges have been on the receiving end of these attacks. The backlash traces its origin to the fact that most students in these institutions come from affluent socio-economic backgrounds and liberal cultural sensibilities. They’ve previously inhabited a space where they faced no restrictions on how they wanted to express themselves or go about their lives. Living away from home in these colleges, they not only miss out on the action (it is common knowledge that the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, NALSAR in Hyderabad and the National University of Judicial Sciences in Kolkata are far away from the hub of the city) but face extreme inconvenience from the hands of provincial natives in the trips they might make to the main city.
In teaching our kids and our own selves to go out and discover the world, we’ve somewhere forgotten that we need to respect and not judge other people who do the same in their own ways. A progressive nation is not just healthy, educated and prosperous; it is also respectful of choices, attitudes and spaces. And those are things we don’t need to go to school or college to learn.