Rant Against the Dying of Our Conscience
Image credit: Jithin Thomas
India’s education system is an absolute failure. We intend to be factories of doctors, engineers and MBAs but have limited jobs for most sectors. Around 50 young kids commit suicide every year in Kota alone and each suicide is not only a failure of our education system but also of our parenting values. We’re taught and conditioned to respect elders and follow and conform. When will we as a society, and when will our education system encourage and teach us to ask hard questions and seek answers? The current government’s crackdown on dissent in educational institutions is also reflective of this mindset. We are unable to imagine and digest that young minds can ask some very hard questions; questions to which we really don’t have an answer to. And both the education system and our flawed parenting styles are killing our young people. Will we break our silence and hold our elected representatives accountable? How can Members of Parliament get away with saying some of the most bigoted and regressive things but when some young kids ask uneasy questions about how we treat minorities, somehow it’s a great threat to our national fibre.
When a young kid challenges their parent’s decision, the parent usually takes personal offence, that the kid has disrespected them, that their fatherhood or motherhood has been abused and disrespected and the kid is reminded that they must not question their elders because elders mean well, their intentions are good. But what we fail to understand is that even if the intentions were well meaning, their decisions for their children might not be the best decisions. We don’t value kids as individuals but as functions and extensions of our own desires hopes and lives. Their lives are ours because we made them. Similarly in the current set up, questioning the parent about their decisions has been misunderstood as disrespecting the parent. But then again, we live in a world where we often hear stories of fathers who rape their daughters and brothers who solicit their sisters. Would you love such parents?
This relationship between the parent and child is not sacrosanct and nor is the relationship between state and citizen sacrosanct. We’ve got to break these boundaries. Family values just like patriotism is a much overrated phenomenon. Sure you must love your parents and nation but not unconditionally. No one has the right to take away from us what belongs to us. Our bodies, our voices, our conscience, our dreams, our hopes, our space. That’s what we are up against. A whole culture that wants you to conform. And even in being a rebel we want you to conform. We want all rebels to conform and break the same rules in the same way. Rebels and hippies often become synonymous and even our quest for uniqueness becomes just another trek where we blindly follow a path someone else has already walked on. We take those soul searching journeys to reach the same conclusions as everyone around us. And to this, I say enough!
Enough of conformity. Enough of silence. If we’ve got to break these barriers we’ve got to hit at the roots of this system. We’ve got to soak in courage and have the guts to confront our elders, our leaders, our journalists, our celebrities with some very hard questions. We’ve got to look in the mirror, see around and confront our friends. We’ve got to ask and keep asking questions till we figure out when, why and how did we become such conformists. We’ve got to break the taboos on sex, violence, incest, marital rape, BDSM, Kashmir, AFSPA, farmer suicide, caste and religion and trans* rights, and gender binary. We’ve got to stop comforting ourselves by saying- it is how it is. You know how parents are. You know how India is. We are not ready for this. I support the queer movement but I can’t come for the pride parade or protest because if someone sees me then my family might have a problem with it. I support this but i can’t take a stand for it. I have an opinion but I can’t voice it, because I’m afraid.
This fear has engulfed us all. This fear takes lives every day. We don’t know how many love stories die every day in this country. We don’t know how many parents abet the cruel suicide of their children. This fear is why even empowered educated liberal women end up victims of patriarchy. Because if they don’t get married, then their younger sister won’t find a groom. We’re killing ourselves and we’re literally a society of dead souls. Our society has crushed and silenced our voices and conscience for so long that we’ve forgotten what it means to have a voice. Look around and see how many educated empowered women voice an opinion on politics? Look around and see how many trans* people you find in your offices and bars. If I tell you I’m trans you will reduce me to that. You will respect my courage and give me your praise and everything, but would you take me to your homes and invite me to your weddings? Would you employ me or call me for chai with your family? Would you have dinner with me at a restaurant where you might be seen with me? You wouldn’t.
Because you’d be scared. You should be. Look around and see how many women speak out against sexism and misogyny. How many women would date a bisexual guy? Why is it hard for us to imagine that women can have and want multiple sexual partners? That all women don’t necessarily seek love. That a woman’s lust can be overpowering and insatiable. Why is it hard for us to imagine, that love can exist outside a two-person set up of marriage. That love can coexist between three people or four or many more. That love can’t be restricted or treated with your religion and cultural values and sanskaar. That lust knows no gender and no religion, it just knows how to fuck but hey, you’ve killed our conscience long before most of us could begin to explore our lust. You’ve taken away from us our most natural and primitive desire. Our desire to fuck and to love. How many women took offence to Mr. Modi’s 56 inch comment? No, we don’t need a 56 inch chest for good governance. I don’t think even Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani would agree to that comment either. But would they speak out? No, because they must conform to party ideologies.
We’ve forgotten that individuals can have their own opinions. We’ve made sacrifices to fit in to find a place to survive. But aren’t you tired? At some point, does your conscience not slap you hard and tell you to fucking wake up. Wake up and unleash yourself. Wake up and realize you’re a dead person walking. Wake up and realize that our collective apathy has killed and is killing people every single day. That six decades into being a free country, our farmers die a slow cruel death every day. Survival and existence is not life. Our malnourished children are as dead as our souls are. Because we’ve forgotten that we’re humans capable of independent thought and action. We’ve forgotten that our voices matter and that these collective voices can shape the course of our present and future. So sure, by all means, be educated, empowered assholes labouring day after day helping some random dickhead accumulate wealth, get married, make babies and repeat this cycle. Sure, be empowered feminists and get married and be a sanskari bahu. What use is this empowerment when it is so powerless and useless?
Our dating apps, Tinder, Grindr, Planetromeo have made it too easy for us. We’ve accepted the cute comfortable bubbles that make it easy to live dual lives. We’ve killed our hopes. We have accepted that gay people can’t even dream to get married in this country and we’re okay with that. We’re okay with the fact that about 5 crore people live in a closet unaware of their rights, unaware of who they are. We are okay with the fact that Armed Forces Special Powers Act enables our men in uniform to get away with rape. We’re okay with the fact that 84 million Adivasis are caught in a civil war for decades. We’re okay with the fact that thousands of farmers take their own lives because they couldn’t pay back a few thousand rupees of loan while corporate men get away with not paying back thousands of crores. We’re okay with the fact that year after year we’re pushing our children into slavery. Bonded sexual slavery and slavery of conscience. We’re deciding whether they get fucked by lustful men, or whether their dead conscience gets fucked by our need to conform. We’ve become brilliant factories at producing unquestioning slaves. Slaves to patriarchy. Slaves to Indian sanskari parenting. Slaves to husbands, to fathers. Slaves to capitalist greed. Slaves to political will. Slaves to political apathy. Slaves for sex. For money. What’s the difference between a woman who sells her body for sex and someone who works at a fancy MNC in Gurugram? I’ll tell you. The former’s conscience is alive. She knows that given a choice, she might opt out of sex trade. If you work at the MNC, your conscience probably was murdered when you were way too innocent. Maybe you killed it, maybe someone else killed it. And frankly, I have far more respect for women, both trans and cis, who work by free will in the sex trade. They are alive. They live. They know their choices and the lack of choices. And unlike them, most of us don’t even realize when we’re being fucked.
Written by Maya Vashi
Edited by Pallab Deb
Maya is a human rights activist and a freelance writer.