I sit here on my comfortable chair, in my warm room, typing on my nice little laptop, scrolling through an endless stream of tweets about the events that happened earlier today and it angers me. More than that, it makes me feel guilty for not being there right next to the protesters as they were hosed down, lathi-charged and tear-gassed. I didn't have a job to go to today, I wasn't physically unable to get myself from my room to my car, there was no one in my way. I didn't go because, under the blanket of horror, disgust and anger, there is little I, or most people I know, do to change things. We're a lazy, static, apathetic lot, and we deserve the shit-storm we're in as citizens of this country.
But this one isn't about us, its about the fighters that showed up at 9 in the morning at India Gate to work for a cause they believe in, beside fellow believers they don't know, to take that tiny step towards showing an administration that operates on the concept of "Sab Chalta Hai" that the shit has hit the fan. And while its extremely easy to sit in front of your TV and talk about how the protesters are doing the right thing, it doesn't mean lauding their efforts is any less important than being there with them.
March forth, brave soldiers, and fight the good fight. You're waking up a country and a people that have been asleep and comfortable in their resignation to their condition for far too long, and I salute you for your efforts.
In the ongoing war against the oppression and violation of women in the country, however, its extremely important that we pick the right battlefields. Its vital that protests like the ones today don't fizzle out and, possibly, multiply across the country, bringing to the notice of the government the frustration and resilience that has been building up inside the minds of its citizens for all these years.
At the same time, revolution, quite like charity, begins at home.
Chauvinism, victim-bashing and misogyny aren't class-based evils, nor are they the result of economic circumstances. These ideas and values are the result of a long-standing tradition of the mindless celebration of the half of the country that does't have a vagina. As with any long standing tradition, the results aren't confined to a particular group of people.
These ideas are all around us. Some of us have heard them from our parents, others from uncles, some from a close family friend and some from the old lady across the hall.
The belief that women are responsible for crimes against them if they act (or don't act) in a certain way is often treated by most of us as a belief that exists in the minds of people "outside our immediate environment". We, understandably, want to believe that these concepts aren't coming from within our family, friends and community. We want to believe these are ideas that sprout from the sick, chauvinist society that starts from right outside our home.
But they don't, they start with us.
Every time your uncle, in a family gathering, talks about how his daughter will "obviously" get married once she finishes college, you shift uncomfortably in your seat and nod along. You don't agree with him, but you won't talk back to your uncle in from of your entire family, would you? Fuck no. That would mean fighting off your entire family that feels there's a "time or place for everything" and demands you apologize immediately.
When hanging out with your friends, you stand and listen to one of them talk about how many women he's had in any amount of time, you don't turn around and say "How about you acknowledge the fact that these women CONSENTED to have intercourse with you and accept that you, being the vile, evil little pig you are, owe it to them to treat the decision with as much respect as you think you deserve for being the man in that agreement?" No, you stand there and high-five their cockiness (pun intended), or you stand and pretend to chuckle, or stand and do nothing at all. You don't want to be that one guy that brings the newspaper to the party.
We live in a society where everyone agrees that rape is wrong, but everyone does their bit to ensure its sustenance.
We live in a society where we'll laugh and rejoice when 8-year-olds dance on stage to misogynistic Punjabi hip-hop that demeans women and practically implies that an entire gender is just manipulative, superficial whores, but we'll change the news channel when someone says the word "Rape".
We're part of a system that will take its kids to see a movie with Kareena Kapoor dancing to the lyrics "Tandoori Murgi Hoon Main, Gatak Ja Saiyyan Alcohol se", but will be outraged should someone suggest we include sex education as a part of the school curriculum.
We're part of the system that will openly admit that we wouldn't give our daughters the same freedom and privileges their male counterparts enjoy, stop them from going out to parties, frown at a woman holding a cigarette and put the fear of god in the hearts of our sisters should they DREAM of (*gasp*) dating someone, but will continuously insist that "Women can do everything men can".
We're part of the system that believes in the beauty of the female form across centuries of art and literature, but can't say the word "vagina" without giggling.
In conclusion, I feel I need to reiterate how important the protest today was. It was essential that the people that count on the public for their powers and continued roles in administration are made aware that the people do, in fact, care. It was vital that we, as a people, stopped expecting the government to do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts and shove the issues we care about in their faces till they realise that the problems can't be ignored without losing out on the largest vote bank in the country, THE INDIAN CITIZEN.
At the same time, its important that, at an individual level, we instil the change where we have the most influence. We can't always change society by our individual selves, but we can change the ones we love and the ones that love us back. We can change the people that put their faith in our opinion on a daily basis. If, by the end of the day, you can get one person you know to change the way they feel about women, rape and/or male-privilege, then you've become part of something much bigger than yourselves.
You are the change.