March 8 is considered as International Women’s Day and living in the world of virtual communication, the first hashtag I witnessed on Twitter today, was #InternationalWomensDay. Social media was going gaga with what’s special about March 8 and why it is celebrated. Turning 24 in next two months, I was always brought up in a milieu of utmost freedom: from choosing what to eat to what to wear, where to go with timeless deadlines. This was how I grew up, this is how my social conditioning reshaped my ideas and my perspective on life. Frome reading Jane Austen during my graduation years, to Fidel Castro during my novice days of journalism, I realised how books, my guardians, my academics had an emphatic influence on me. Nonetheless, during all these novice years of journalism, I was also acquainted with people who changed my perspective towards society, societal issues and condition of the downtrodden.
The first issue that gained my attention was AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). From here, I was also introduced to the insurgency, militant groups, conflict zones and all the controversial issues which were quite distant from me in the past. When I was reading P Sainath, my college friends were busy talking about weddings, when I started understanding the crisis of Kashmir my friends spoke about how Hindu-Muslim divide is inevitable. Simultaneously, in all these years I always had one best friend, (my oldest school crony) and I always compared how our lives were so different due to our social conditioning. She, coming from a middle-class Bihari migrated family, wasn’t allowed to talk over the phone, always had less or sometimes no male friends, had deadlines unlike me, which she still does have. Completing almost 12 years of my life with her, her lifestyle is almost same, however, today after innumerable battles is a very successful baker and deadlines have become better. The stark difference between my and her lifestyle did create some differences between us yet she is most close to me since 12 years.
As I was introduced to the militancy zone, I was almost introduced to the “progressive Left” and the anti-liberal or perhaps primitive RSS or Rightist.” As I started reading more, more essays, more poetry, from books like George Orwell’s 1984 to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own liberation was never a far-fetched dream for me but perhaps was for my best friend, was for my college friends and indeed my sister (who is as primitive as the RSS). Women liberation or women rights is not just about what to wear, what to eat, by what time to reach home, it is also about how a person reshapes himself/herself. How our experiences revamp our minds and souls. There were many writers and academicians who altered my thought process and the first and the foremost was my professor, a single “progressive Leftist” mother with two kids, who told us to “Fall in love, break your heart and fall in love again when you break your heart, you learn many things.” These lines have a symbolic meaning, in life, in life’s uncertainties, the pitfalls that we endure, the nemesis we go through, which can be connected to women struggle, tribal struggle, LGBT discrimination, pains inflicted about minorities. Maya Angelou in her poem, “Still I rise” asserted,
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
The history might be distorted, but we can’t get away with the struggle of Tribals or women or other sections of the society which are considered as marginalised. Minorities in the contemporary world are facing pitfalls due to the religious bifurcation, the dichotomy in the name of religion is a sham to religion itself. Let us not forget how prodigies like Bhagat Singh happily died at a young age for this nation. How women like Sarojini Naidu, Amrita Pritam gave us some spectacular readings. How Mahasweta Devi worked for the downtrodden, the Tribal class and impeccable journalist P Sainath with a meticulous account in his book, Everybody loves a good drought provided us with an account about the struggle of Tribals. If March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day, why not a day of celebration for tribals, Dalits, LGBT, minorities. I shall commemorate this day as a celebration not just for women but for all those sections who were once or still are marginalised in the name of religion, caste, creed, race or ethnicity. Indeed this day reminds me of Mahasweta Devi, who in an interview to the Frontline said, “I do not write the sufferings of women only, I write about the suffering humanity in total. I am a humanist, not a feminist.”
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