My friends and I had visited our college Miranda House a few days ago and were sitting outside the canteen, waiting for some of our undergrad documents to be signed. Since it’s the admission season, one could spot anxious faces everywhere in college, tottering behind their parents, worrying about the ordeal of making the right choice.
One such duo, a mother and her daughter, walked up to us. As a concerned parent, the mother began to ask us about the college, the faculty, science labs, etc. Almost satisfied, she then leaned in, her voice lowered and asked her final question, “Beta, woh humne bahar suna tha, matlab rumour, ki yaha ladkiyan drugs, alcohol… (We have heard rumours that the girls in this college consume drugs and alcohol).” She did not complete her sentence. Our initial reaction was to laugh it off, telling her how we too had heard such absurd ‘rumours’ when we were seeking admission. Having spent three years in this red brick building, we could assure her that we didn’t sit in class or the canteen and lawns smoking pot.
I came back home and narrated the incident to my mother, as I completed the story, telling her how that woman asked me if, “Miranda ki ladkiyan...” my mum offered a few adjectives, “chalu, awara? (cunning, immoral?)“, even before I could finish my sentence.
My mother is also a graduate from Miranda House. And she had heard these ‘rumours’ too in her time, more than 20 years ago.
Where are these rumours coming from?
And then it hits me.
A women’s college that believes in women empowerment beyond its claustrophobic patriarchal version? A place that teaches women not to take exploitation and oppression lying down and to fight for what’s their right relentlessly? Of course, it has to be demonised and morally castigated. Women who ask for their rights can’t possibly be ‘good’ women. They must be must be, “besharam, azaad, awara auratein (shameless, free, immoral women).”
These ‘rumours’ have been out there for what seems like forever to me. Forget about not attaching morality to such labels or the use/abuse of substances for a minute. If you ask every person who has such suspicions and ask them where they heard these ‘rumours’ from, they’ll direct you to someone else from where they’ve heard. As they say, repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.I guess if you keep following this chain to reach its source, hoping for some factual evidence, perhaps someone will find reports that prove we stumbled drunk or stoned into our academic acclaim. That our NIRF rank of being number one college in this country notwithstanding, you’ll find it.
Right now, their only sign of trouble, attacking their patriarchal insecurity, which can push them off their exploitation enabling power position, is a woman who asks the question ‘why’? Their only signs of trouble, are the chalu and awaara, free spirited thinking women Miranda produces.
This is an edited version of the author’s status update. You can read the original update here.