Sunday, December 23, 2012

Oh for that Merry Christmas! When caste, suicide, rape were never today's monsters


I’ve always loved Christmas and the season surrounding it. The best part of the year. In Calcutta, we had quite a few Anglo-Indians as our neighbours. Other Christians as well. We would receive plum cakes without fail every year; we would listen to Christmas carols and, of course, to Jim Reeves. There would be innumerable walks down Park Street and past Flurys once I grew older. It would be quite like a season of dreams. There was nothing that worried us. It was an all-too-beautiful world.

I never knew what caste really meant when I was in school, except knowing there were certain communities classified under Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe. My classmates were children of all hues. We had a Muslim class monitor, Jilani, who sadly died in an accident. He had great felicity of style, could write legibly with both hands. Then there were Noor Zaman and Noor Afzal, brothers, who dazzled on the football field. Vincent Das used to sing Kishore Kumar songs behind my desk even as class was on. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, it just didn't matter. I would visit the school chapel regularly and spend a few minutes in meditation. Today, no wonder, I have to rack my brains to try and understand what a ‘caste Hindu’ is!

I didn’t know what a ‘suicide’ was until a family friend’s son decided to take his own life as a student at IIT-Madras. Far away in Calcutta, all I comprehended was that  his family members had gone numb and were not even talking. It was one of those rare occurrences. There is hardly a day today where the newspapers do not mention a suicide in your city. 

I never knew what ‘rape’ meant; do not remember having even heard the word while in school. Frankly, I do not ever remember having read reports on suicide or rape in The Statesman city pages. Or may be, I was just too naive. 

So, what has gone so horribly wrong, I ask myself. Many of my generation and the ones before must be asking the same questions. Has the Indian man changed? Or has the Indian woman? Have we become more ‘animal-like’? Perhaps it’s not appropriate to use that phrase – even animals behave better, much better.

The girl who is in hospital… what karma had she done? That’s what my sister asked me last evening. Even if she were to survive and get back home, how many deaths would she be dying each day?

Death penalty is really not the answer. The challenge is to get people to respect each other, to make it possible for anyone, women included, to go to a police station and file a complaint, to have policemen do a proper job, to bring criminals to justice in the shortest possible time, and have justice delivered. Utopia, you’d think. But it’s true.

Seeing the scenes unfold in Delhi, a day before Christmas, I have a horrible feeling that unless a miracle happens, we will slide slowly towards anarchy and disaster. A banana republic, or a country fragmented.  Much like the Mughal times. Sometimes, it’s a scary thought that this may not be too far away.