We know how to build monuments with the stones you throw at us.
Clustered in the era of violence, hatred and differences, we live in the shelter of fear, and love in the times of increasing societal norms. I have always been a socio-politically aware person and a believer of all religious faiths. Born to a communist mother and an activist father, I was always encouraged to take my own decisions and follow my own instincts. I have never experienced discrimination, casteism, and patriarchy until much recently when my way of life had to be paused due to some trolls and rumours on social media.
Having been born in an upper class Brahmin family, I never faced any stereotypes subjected toward me. I have been fasting on Shiv Ratri and Navratri since class 7. This year, I decided to keep the auspicious Roza and fast during the holy month of Ramazaan. Little did I know that I was stepping into a pool of awkward, baseless, insensitive questions and gossips. I was satirically questioned whether I was turning a Muslim any sooner or later and if I was planning to convert or if I was in love with some Muslim boy.
This amazed me! I was initially feeling awkward; but I was also somewhat used to the backlash because of my pro-minority, anti-lynching stands, my association with my political ideologies and friends circle. But today, I gulp down my regrets for being so insensitive to those comments. Until much recently, my father had been receiving messages from fake numbers, which carried the propaganda of a much hyped love story with a Hindu-Muslim angle to it. Nonetheless, the messages left no stone unturned to put forth my never committed ideas of converting and marrying. It brought me to question myself the dogma of religious masculinity and patriarchal retardation.
Last year perhaps, when UPSC topper Tina Dabi decided to marry her then boyfriend and now husband Athar, Hindu Mahasabha took an angry note of it by labelling her decision as Love Jihad and involved her father in the fiasco. They have demanded that Athar should be persuaded to undergo a Ghar Wapasi (re-converting to Hinduism) and urged her father to go against their marriage.
In a democratic, secular republic, religion and caste are sadly the most crucial stones. Forget inter-faith marriages or relationships, my friends have been denied flats on rent because they were born with a Muslim surname, my Hijjabi friends are looked upon with suspicion of being female agents of terrorism; and the favourite topic of every household is to cook up stories and beef up the rumours of cow slaughter by Muslims. No wonder India is becoming the new Lynchistan. No law or constitution can bring a reform until the reform begins in our mind.
I’m not surprised trolls and mahasabhas depend on fathers to take account of their daughters rather than expecting individual adults to take their own course of action. In a patriarchal society, we have always been taught to walk with our heads held down in front of male decision makers, be it a father or a husband. No childhood tales ever told of a queen who took the responsibility of the house or a princesses who took her own decisions.
Maybe, in such hours of unfortunate uncertainty, I can hopefully find a world for myself and remember the words of the great poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz:
“Bol, ke lab azaad hai tere:
Bol, zabaan ab tak teri hai,
Bol, ye thora waqt bahut hai,
Jism o zabaan ki maut se pahle;
Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak –
Bol, jo kuchh kahna hai kah-le..”