So another bloggers meet has come and gone. Eight meets in, some things change, and some remain the same. I’m glad for what has stayed unchanged. The confident, witty and charismatic Anoop Zombie’s hosting, the interaction between bloggers – some known to each other, some seen faces and some new. Nabanita won a mug first yet again (Indiblogger wants a storehouse and they’ve found it in her house I guess). I met up with my backbencher gang again. We’ve been meeting often this year and it’s nice to catch up. It’s always nice to see the welcoming smiles of the Inditeam. Think it was Diana this time who I met first (usually it’s Vineet).
So now that the small stuff is over with, the meet’s actual agenda this time was Indichange. I think the Delhi incident is something every Indian knows of, and has talked about at one time or another. After that, there has been much voice for change, and much voice for the cause of stopping violence against women in the country. The last Indimeet was of a similar agenda, to discuss and hear the thoughts of bloggers in this issue. The last time was somewhat a restricted group, and though there was discussion, it wasn’t on such a scale as this.
The #RingTheBell or #BellBajao initiative is something that was unfamiliar to me before this meet. To quickly summarize, this initiative was something that began by a person going and ringing the doorbell of a house where the man was abusing his wife. The disturbance in the act of abuse supposedly gives the guy something to think about, and a cooling off period. Though the idea is definitely innovative, I don’t quite think a 2 minute interval actually changes anything in the head of a guy who’s angry because he wants to be. That being said, even those two minutes of relief might be priceless to the woman. The discussion on how to stop this domestic violence picked up pace and strength as the meet progressed. I am not a violent person in any respect, so I don’t think violence can solve violence. But that definitely came up as one of the ideas. Let the woman respond by retaliating against the man (sink to his level, so to speak?) Someone suggested the woman should walk away from that relationship immediately. But the question arises, “Can she do it immediately? Is she financially independent? Where can she go if she is?” Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for women being independent and treated equal as others, but looking from the Indian society’s mindset, it’s not a given that the parents of such a woman would openly welcome their child back and support them through the tough time. And we also tend to think that if our family members can’t understand our position, how can strangers? So walking out on the relationship immediately isn’t an airtight solution I feel.
In the meet, there was a monologue skit that was performed. It told the story of Durga, who lost her father at a young age, then was married off when the time was ripe. The husband, seemingly innocent and straightforward, turned out to be abusive. But she adjusts with it, suffers through 18 years of marriage. When she retaliates against him after he abuses her during her illness, the rumors spread that she’s a husband-beater. The heads of the village where she lives demand her to apologize and fall at the feet of her husband. Left with no option, she does that too. The question asked is “What should she have done?” The answers that came left and right were various. “Walk out”, “Beat him back”, “Approach an NGO who can know what she’s been through”. I don’t know what she should have done, because I haven’t been in her shoes. Think of it, and none of us actually can be. If she were to walk out, wouldn’t she have done so years back and not waited 18 long years to do so? If she felt like beating him back, which I’m sure she would have a hundred times if not more, she could have done that too, but there is a fear of society that makes it very difficult to go against these so called “norms”. So the wife adjusts fearing repercussions and bad name for the family. Approaching an NGO is again in that other mindset what I mentioned earlier.
What I think should first change is the attitude of society, and that isn’t easy or possible very quickly. What ideas our previous generations had has atleast in a small part come to us. I’m gonna digress from the topic a little here, since the topic is Indichange – Change in India. We say we’re all humans, but strangely, I find we lack humaneness when we need it most. So a guy rang a bell to stop domestic violence happening. A lot of us, including myself, think that it isn’t enough to completely stop it, but even in that moment, I accept that what he did was kind. If anyone of the bystanders in the Assam molestation incident had that little ounce of kindness, the incident could’ve been avoided and solved quickly than become such a mark of disgrace on the nation. Forget such big incidents, even when I’m hit by a vehicle and fall on the side of the road, the bystanders usually point at me for getting in the way of the vehicle rather than help me up or say the vehicle was on the wrong side, which it was. If our near and dear start judging our friends by the misfortunes they have suffered, and tell us to stay away from those friends, everyone who has suffered misfortune will end up alone with no one to stand by them. So with each incident, the humaneness we are feeling goes down. When we can’t stand up for a fellow human being who’s got a few scratches, how can we unite voices to stand up for a girl who would have been hurt for life? In the meet, my friend Raghava told, “Change begins with us. We have to initiate it”, but as much as I agree with him, I feel it should begin with society and the ideas of how someone should live. We can initiate that change in society, but it is the society who must start to think in a different way as well.
Returning back to what I think Durga should have done, it’s still difficult. I feel rather than waiting 18 long years to retaliate suddenly, she could have begun to do something independently a year in. Though the notions and norms would’ve stayed the same and there might not have been people willing to support her, if she might have had the will to slowly break away from that abusive life, then when she had the choice to fall at her husband’s feet in regret or walk away, she perhaps could have had the will to walk away than the helplessness to still depend on her husband. And her will to break away might have made her take her brave step sooner than eighteen years after.
During the meet, there was an interaction+interview session. During that, I was asked by one of the video interviewers as to why we had to ring the bell (act on the situation). I think that’s quite obvious. The menace is still not conquered. After the Delhi incident, the only thing different is that more cases are being reported in the papers. That’s not a positive development in any respect. More recently, a girl as young as five years was abused, and that’s another young life this nation has lost. So it’s up to us to create that awareness, stop that.
There were some notepads given at the meet (not sure for what, because I arrived late). Feeling inspired, I wrote a poem during that, which I showed to Nabanita as well. I share that in this post. Not sure how it turned out though.
Far from the maddening world
Few souls gather to ring a bell
To make a promise to save us
Before we all fall down the well
To gather ideas, move forward
Stop violence many women face
In a hope that when voices unite
We perhaps save the human race
Once anger is stopped at homes
We inspire the same outside too
For what can change the world
Is the power of us – ME and YOU.
So perhaps, we can start acting on change soon. I think the best start for that would be to change our mindset toward life. It’ll be a small one, but a start nonetheless.
(May 5th, 2013)