Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Us and Them

This is a guest post by Jaded 16

image Jaded16 is a Radical Feminist from India. She writes a humour blog ‘Oi With The Poodles Already’, attempting to make her world a little woman-friendly using healthy doses of irony and sarcasm to de-condition the Indian masses. It is at times like these when she loses all her sense of humour and starts looking for a rock big enough to live under.

Surviving in Mumbai is an acquired skill, my grand mum used to say. This city offers hope to millions of citizens to become ‘someone important’, to become rich, to break into the Bollywood industry or make every other dream of theirs into reality. Based on these fantasies, millions migrate daily into the city. If their fairy tales were played out in the real world, they'd crumble in two seconds flat, leaving you feeling bitter and cheated - not unlike the disillusionment Mumbai instils on every (once) dreamy eye. It doesn't matter whether Mumbai is your hometown or not. You're just as much a stranger to the city as the clich├ęd immigrant.

Before you know it, you've settled for serving coffee to the editor instead of hoping to be the person reporting interesting stories. Soon enough you realise Living is Surviving. In this process, the city becomes your teacher, making you a person you would have never dreamt of. Or so you reassure yourself.
You learn to adjust to the perpetual humid climate, you learn the correct way to elbow your way out of the crowded trains, you learn to ‘tolerate' men brushing past you almost daily and perhaps the most important of all, you learn the fine art of 'othering'.

You learn to see the world in two halves: You and Them.

Every time you see a beggar, you turn your heart into stone, look away. You've heard stories about these beggars being addicts, child molesters, and con- artists. You try not to cringe in shame when you see a tiny boy stealing the biscuits you left for stray dogs. You tell yourself, "They are lazy people. Instead of begging on the streets, they should look for jobs". Soon you have a scale of judging "those people" – you decide whether the beggar looks healthy or not, whether zie looks capable enough to hold a job. Only if they are truly destitute or missing limbs from their body, you give them money. Even then, you look at fellow straphangers in the train, searching for assurance that the beggar truly deserved your charity.

You learn to 'other' people from different religions or cultures next. You label people as 'Bihari', 'Muslim', 'Tamilian', 'Sikh' or 'Christian' based on their attire and dialect. Being next to anyone of those people doesn’t bother you much if you're in a crowd, bus or train. In restaurants however, you say, "I can't sit next to those non-veg eating people" and ask the manager to re-locate you. You say, "I've got nothing against Muslims" yet you think they "smell", they are "backward and orthodox", they are "fundamentalists". When people accuse you of being biased, you say, "Now not All of them are like THAT. But most of them are". You claim to be a person sensitive to other cultures yet you will vote for the candidate who speaks your language or 'prefers' your culture over others. You learn to turn up the volume of your TV and apathy every time you hear your neighbour beating his wife. You say to yourself, "I can't meddle with their lives. Besides, they're a Marwari family. In such cultures, this is bound to happen". You tell yourself "This would never happen in a Hindu family".

You tell your child not to discriminate between boys and girls, between gay or straight people; yet you turn up your nose when you see two men walking hand in hand. You tell your children, "There's nothing wrong in being That Way" but you'll exclaim in disbelief that a Girl you knew was homosexual. You say. "I raised my daughter as every other boy. I let her play all she wanted. Now, is the time to become a woman and settle down". You say, "Of course my daughter is educated! How else will she find a decent, educated boy?". When someone points out to you your bias and sexism, you exclaim loudly, "I'm not one of those uneducated people! I gave my daughter the best education. What more do you want? We have to think practically after all".

On the news, you see reports of another rape, molestation, murder or numerous other disasters. You quickly blame the "system", "corporate sector", "capitalism", "those lazy politicians", "western cultures" and say, "This is what this cracked city does to you". You claim that you can buy and sell morals, integrity and  people out here. You say, "In my time Bombay was paradise. Now it's a hellhole full of rapists, drug addicts and other low-lifes. They should all be killed".

Every time I hear these slurs a part of me melts away. I want to scream, "The city has nothing to do with your flawed logic!" but they just say, "These feminist bitches have a problem with everything!”

So now, I have two options: either 'learn' from the city and 'survive' with 'them' or look into my own heart to learn to 'live', 'believe' and 'expect MORE'. As it turns out, I'm not that jaded. Yet.

So, the next time, you're 'othering' someone else, remember to not back up your argument with "Those people...” We people nay 'feminists bitches' deserve better comebacks. About time now.