By Shahamat Hussain:
I was an active participant in the protests against Rohith Vemula’s suicide. His death changed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My sentiments were boiling in support of the movements in Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University ever since the protests were branded as ‘anti-national‘.
When I heard Dub Sharma’s ‘Azadi‘ on YouTube for the first time, I got hooked to it and started playing it on loop. It gave me temporary relief and worked as a stress buster. The song didn’t just have an impact on me, but also on the larger populace.Yet, little did I know that this song was going to teach me a thing or two about life.
I made the song my ringtone. Although I was convinced that some people would get annoyed when my phone rang, I didn’t bother.
I still remember the brutal lathi charge that happened in the University of Hyderabad in March. We protested against the administration by chanting slogans. ‘Azadi‘ slogans were popular during the protest. We were beaten black and blue for this. Protesters were manhandled mercilessly and even the women protesters were not spared. I still wonder why the police got so offended by the ‘Azadi’ slogans.
I was fuming with rage when Umar Khalid became a victim of a media trial by an anchor who shouted at him and branded him as an anti-national. Umar was only standing up for what he believed in. After Arnab Goswami’s show, where he was lambasted, Umar Khalid went into hiding from the Delhi police as he was charged with sedition. What helped me cope with this despair was the Azadi song. These days, voicing one’s opinions has become an anti-national act in India. If you criticise the government, you are an ‘anti-national’, even if you are making a valid point.
My friends and I were in love with the song so much that we even danced to it on our farewell night. I know it sounds a bit absurd. But yes, we started and ended our days with that song.
Once I completed my master’s, I started working in a corporate firm. I forgot to put my phone on silent mode in office once. There was pin drop silence in the office and the my phone started ringing. Listening to the ringtone made people frown at me and give judgemental glances. I picked up the call and answered in the most confident ‘hello’ possible. Was I embarrassed? Hell no!
Days passed and one day, I was walking towards my bike after coming out of the gym. I was tired and suddenly sprained my leg. It hurt so bad that I couldn’t even move. I collapsed in the parking lot, crying out in pain ,when a guy came running towards me. He started rubbing my leg as people gathered around. The guy continued massaging and it took me a while to recover. Amidst all this chaos, my phone started ringing. To my surprise, the people who had gathered around vanished into thin air in no time. I had to call one of my friends who came and dropped me back home.
I soon resigned from my job and started working somewhere else. The same episode took place in my new office as well. This had started to irritate me.My friends and family were already annoyed by my obsession with ‘Azadi’. So, I decided to change my ringtone on my birthday last month. Was I embarrassed with the ‘Azadi’ slogan? No! I still respect the efforts of Kanhaiya Kumar and his friends. I adore Shehla Rashid for the work she is doing. Yet, I realised that maybe it is not so necessary to be bold and open about my views. Certainly not in the workplace. I do not want people to judge me just because of a ringtone. This was closing the doors of healthy discussions which I could have had with people. So this birthday, I became a bit wiser and gifted myself a new ringtone!