By Shrenik Mutha:
I joined a law college as a student. During the last term, I faced harassment and ragging by a classmate. The ragging was based on questions and issues about my body and sexuality. The issue was taken up after a formal complaint was filed. However, due to ‘procedural’, ‘technical’ issues of law (to be read as delay in any action by the institution) I was asked to submit a post-dated complaint which I refused to do. At the same time, some individual faculty members stood by me, helping me through the process. To all of them, salaam.
Had the complaint been taken to its logical conclusion, there would have been a criminal case and the police would be involved, which was not a solution for the problem at hand. I wanted to find a solution which did not look at vindication, justice for me was not that. I wanted to talk about it, start a dialogue so that this would not happen again. Not to another person. I wanted to see if there was a way that a person could be made to recognise his fault and stop harassing. To see if there was a way to stop all those who were party to the act, all those who laughed when there were questions about my body and sexuality.
I confronted the people who were either spreading this practice or even abetted it by being mere onlookers. I asked for a letter of apology from the person responsible for the same. It was my gender and caste privilege, being a baniya male, a privilege of coming from a community which has become powerful through oppressing the marginalised communities, that I was able to confront them and talk straight and see where it went without institutional support. Recognising this privilege is not to say that people from marginalised communities would not have spoken or fought back; maybe they would have even more strongly. But in my case, it was my privilege that enabled me to do this.
For the apology letter, he kept postponing it. The excuse given was ‘my head is not working’. Finally, I recognised that the fear of me using it as evidence against him was preventing him from giving me the apology letter. I never wanted to blackmail him but I needed to be sure that this would not happen again, that no one else would do this again. I let it go, but, the trouble and fear inside me due to this incident stayed. I used to be scared to enter the classroom every morning. I used to feel a sense of fear growing inside me. This had to be stopped. I tried writing about it.
This is an attempt at responding to all of those who were a part of ensuring that I was ragged on the pretext of ‘it was just plain fun and humour’. I wrote this piece as a response to them.
There were people who stood by me then, who supported me. To each one of them, thank you for standing up for me. Lots of love to all of them.
My ‘big’ butt sticks out like a balloon pressed against a wall,
way out of proportion in the caricature you made of me on
one of the last benches. I guess you were looking through
your high powered brahmanised spectacle, wondering what
would make me cringe, your brahmanised lenses look
at my brahmanised body, disallowing me to liberate in
the many colours that I reclaim through the ‘kalamkari’
I adorn every day.
Maybe, the colours make you cringe,
the brightness makes your eyes shut
you could have closed your eyes.
you could have shut them and let me live in colour
with a big butt you did not have to stare at.
maybe you just wanted to look
and stare and dream of the copulation of two rigid bodies
meeting, fitting like plumbed pipes that enter one into the other.
My friend, did that turn you on?
I wasn’t interested.
I wasn’t willing to enter your room.
And yet I trusted, bare conversations and ideas, the legacy
of people’s struggles who died asserting differences, colours.
I disregarded instincts which came one after another
through experiences of betrayal and yet opened to the idea
of facilitating you uncover your truth.
You just used this to create subjects of ‘humour’,
your sinister laughter still rings in my ear and I cringe again.
Did you know, humour could also be fucking offensive?
And then you went about announcing in whispers
to solitary individuals, none of whom stood up
as to how I was to be ‘cured’ in and out.
From in-of the disease you said ‘infects’ you in hiding but wait,
your ‘dis-ease’, as you think, is not one. I wanted to tell you this and you had no courage to listen.
Does your heteronormative lover know now that you did what you did – shamed me, forcing me to
think that my ‘out’ had defects, waiting to be cosmetically removed, modified, changed.
I guess not.
But you know what that did to me, you crushed my spirit which helped me
assert myself, find my beauty in differences.
A brahmanised institution stood to your defence, not on the face of it
but, they stayed becoming a complacent authority too busy to speak.
But you know, you forgot the power of solidarity – of listening ears, of burning hearts,
of shouts and cries, you forgot that people live in colour, making it their strength. But you?
you shall never move beyond your black and white sophistications. So stay.
But, I will be as I am.
You won’t find here another narrative of vulnerability, of fear, of scare, of silencing.
For now, I speak again
and this once, I speak in colour.