DON’T RAISE YOUR VOICE . . . NO YOU MUSTN’T 🤐

When I raise my voice at home,

I am told – Shhh! Decent civilized people don’t talk with raised voices.

And so I learn decent civil behaviour,

Within the walls of my warm home sweet home.

 🤐🤐🤐

As I step into the world outside,

I cringe with fear to see and hear,

Such confident deeds and words of tyranny,

Of injustice, exploitation, prejudice and villany.

 🤐🤐🤐

I wonder whether these all were not taught,

Those lessons of decency and civility that I was!

Maybe some were and some weren’t . . .

Alas! I don’t see much of a difference between the two.

 🤐🤐🤐

The respectable bespectacled professor,

With degrees galore from the country and abroad,

Turns out to be just a wolf in sheepskin,

Offering a deal for a night in exchange of assignment papers to be signed.

And I am told – Shhh! Decent civilized people don’t raise their voices.

 🤐🤐🤐

I witness the underprivileged bereft of the basic necessities,

While money changes hands under the table,

And the officials swoosh by in their well-polished vehicles,

Leaving behind a cloud of dust to fill the poor desperate hands.

And I am told – Shhh! Decent civilized people don’t talk with raised voices.

 🤐🤐🤐

I hear of the barbarious acts in the name of religion, caste and region,

Mass massacres, rapes of women young and old, and of children innocent to behold,

Hundreds maimed in the body and mind,

Several hearths shut down for all times.

And I am told – Shhh! Decent civilized people don’t raise their voices.

 🤐🤐🤐

To be a quiet conformist,

Doesn’t require much labour,

Just a sweet smile and a servile nod of the head – and that’s all,

You say right to what’s wrong – after all this is how the world has been going on!

 🤐🤐🤐

History holds high those mortals who dared to raise their voices,

Against prejudice and discrimination, repression and inequity,

Some lived to see, others died to let the world see,

The ripe lustrous fruits of their raised voices.

 🤐🤐🤐

And so I sit wondering – what is worth,

To fume and fret, and cringe under the threat,

Adorning the garb of decent civility,

Or to raise my voice out loud and clear – at the cost of life, decency and all?

🤐🤐🤐

DON’T TURN A BLIND EYE, RAISE YOUR VOICE

Dumping of debris has destroyed more than 20 acres of mangrove forests in Charkop, Kandivli in Mumbai over the past seven years, making way for encroachment by 3,000 shanties and private properties.

28th October 2017 – Indiarimes.com – Remember the shocking images of poisoned trees from Bengaluru, earlier this year? It appears like they have just done it all over once again. This time 30 trees have been cut illegally in what environmentalists suspect was done as the trees were blocking some advertisement boards nearby. The trees at the outer ring road were chopped down on Thursday night by unidentified people.

Debris continues to be dumped along the Roadpali mangrove stretch, killing mangroves and reclaiming the wetland along Taloja creek. The creek shore has been encroached upon by roadside shops. The latest encroachment, adjoining Sion-Panvel road, will soon grow if deterrent action is delayed by Cidco. Nobody seems to be bothered about preserving ecosystem,” said Rajesh Poojary, an environmentalist.

Ten members of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at Taloja were booked on Tuesday over release of untreated industrial waste into Kasadi River near Navi Mumbai.

The list is endless. We come across such news items almost every day in the newspaper.

These things and more are happening around us. By people who are living amongst us. It’s time we stop turning a blind eye to the whole thing and raise our voice and educate the people who, for their short term gain are destroying the long term future of our planet.

I remember when we were in class 8 or 9, a compulsory subject called environmental studies was introduced. We read about climate change and global warming etc. Frankly speaking as a kid I thought this was all overhyped and a very distant future. I never expected to see the effects of these things in my own life time. Yet here we are 25 years down the line actually experiencing the effects of climate change.

It’s high time now that we should all be aware and make others aware about how our lifestyle is adversely affecting the environment. I know it’s a daunting task I am not egging everyone to get up and file PILs against the polluting industries. Do it if you can! We all may not be able to take such big steps. But at least start with baby steps like – segregate your garbage, composting wet waste, replace all leaking taps, educate the house help about not wasting water, if you see anyone littering, stop them and show them the dustbins, protect the greenery around you.

There are many small changes that we can bring in our lifestyle and of people around us so that the life of our planet is extended for a little more. And yes if you see anyone destroying the green cover around us don’t turn a blind eye, Raise your voice and report them. Change the mindset…

JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE – IT’S ALL ABOUT TWO EXTRA LETTERS

One thing that we see in abundance around us is Injustice. Every morning when you read a newspaper, 90% of the news reported are directly or indirectly related to some kind of injustice. Be it a rape, honor killing, domestic violence, female foeticide, money laundering etc. And what do we do about it? Read and forget? Sometimes, a bunch of citizens will arrange a candlelight vigil for protesting against a rape incident. Sometimes, a good lady may offer help to the maid to report the domestic violence to the police. But what is the end result? Do these efforts help? Are the efforts enough in the first place?

Raising voice against injustice is no joke. One needs a great deal of courage to stand for self or for others. And this is exactly where a common man lacks. Nation’s leaders have left a great legacy of fighting injustice. Contributions of Raja Ram Mohan Roy towards abolishment of Sati and Child Marriage, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule towards setting up education system for females, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar towards untouchability and caste discrimination go a long way in shaping up our nation. But are we capable enough today to continue this legacy? Another question that comes to my mind is, is our system capable enough today? Not enough courage coupled with insensitivity (of humans as well as system) is an even more dangerous combination and paves a stronger way to injustice.

So what do we need to fight injustice?

1) Reinforcement of Law: With all due respect to the judiciary system, our laws do need an upliftment. I fail to understand why we need 10+ years to convict a rape accused. Worse is, chances are high that he walks free on various grounds like mental ill-health, juvenile age etc. A crime is a crime, how can the accused be forgiven on such petty grounds? Why the accused is not executed, especially when we know that they are guilty, beyond all doubt? We have some excellent examples from our neighboring countries about how do they deal with rapists. Why can’t our laws be changed for better? Rape accused is just one example of many. There are various other areas where the accused though guilty are living a peaceful life while the victim is dying in misery. If the perception in the minds of the people is that the judiciary system is denying justice, there is no place a common man can go to asking for justice!

2) System Revamp: By “system” I mean any authority that runs this country selfishly and illegally. Be it police, politics, media, just anything. We need to have these completely revamped. Sure, there are a few honest exceptions, but it is indeed shameful that even today we hesitate to approach the police to report any kind of incident. It is even more shameful that the big fat politicians are filling up their own pockets in the name of needy. Recruiting inactive MLAs just because they are a dignified personality in sports or films and paying them a salary of lacs of rupees is a complete injustice to the citizens. While media may show that they are doing an excellent job by running with cameras and questionnaires to the targets, what needs to be questioned is the authenticity of the news that are released? How much of it is fabricated? How much of it is bribed? How much of it is true? These three are the clutches of a common man without which he is left crippled. It is important that these systems work together. They do, even today, the only difference is they work together (inter-connections) for the betterment of their own and not that of citizens.

3) Shift from Sympathy to Empathy: Indifference in humans is growing day by day. They witness an incident, sympathize and forget about it. Partially because they feel crippled because of law and order and partially because they are too self-centered. It is common to exclaim “Oh it is really unfortunate” or “so sad” as long as injustice is happening to someone else. But ever wondered what would such guys do when it happens to them? They won’t be able to do anything more than sympathizing with self. It is high time that we put aside the sympathy and feel the empathy. Unless we are able to really feel what the victim is going through, nothing inside us is going to prompt us to take any action. The most common example is accidents. People are busy making videos of the accident rather than helping the victim. The victim is literally left to die. And this comes from lack of empathy. Can there be a bigger injustice?

4) A Little more Courage everyday: Yes, we need to be braver than yesterday. And that cannot be taught. It has to come from within. We need to be strong enough to raise voice or take measures against any injustice done to us. There is no point in playing the blame game. It will take time to change the systems that run the country, but we can change our mentality faster. We must get rid of “It’s OK” attitude with which we swallow a piece of injustice every day. Be it getting chocolates in place of change at toll plazas, or touch and go episodes at crowded places. We must learn to stand up and say “NO, IT IS NOT OK”. It is important that we start to bring this change with ourselves. This small step will eventually lead us to have enough courage to help others in need.

5) Awareness & Education: This is the most important requirement for fighting injustice. It is very unfortunate that most of the victims of some kind of abuse do not know that they can raise the voice against the ill treatment given to them. They fail to understand that it is not the just the ordeal done by the stronger but it is injustice in reality and someone can help them (perhaps!) The most common examples are laborers who are denied the basic minimum wages, a housewife giving in to the hardships imparted by her husband. They feel it is just the way of life.  They need to be aware about how to distinguish the way of life from injustice. And for this, we need a solid awareness and education. While schools are doing their part of teaching children about good touch and bad touch, what are they doing to sow the seeds of courage in case of any unfortunate incidents? When media runs a campaign about reporting how a rape happened and how a prisoner (on account of some hideous crime) has had a tough life, what is it doing to let the common man know what their rights are or how can they safeguard themselves from injustice.

Justice or Injustice – It’s all about two extra letters. Screaming and whining because of injustice is very common, but we need to go a step further. We need to speak up; we need to bring in the change! If every one of us decides to take baby steps mentioned above, collectively we can remove those two extra letters from Injustice and get Justice for all.

SILENT ISN’T GOLDEN IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

It’s almost a regime for me to talk to my bestie.  We share our deepest darkest secrets, hearty laughs, saddest moments day in and day out.  Few days back amidst such exchange of emotions she told me about a brawl that broke down in the premises of her husband’s office following a missed call.  You heard it right it was just a “Missed Call“.

Her husband is a good friend of mine as well.  It’s about a missed call that he made to his female co-employee and it was unintentional, more of an accident as he was trying to call his father and ended up dialing her number which was next in contact list by mistake.  Within a fraction of seconds he disconnected the call as he realised the goof-up he made.

It all began with that accidental call.  Soon there was a revert and it was the husband of that lady on the other side. “Why you are calling my wife at this hour? (It was only 8PM), “Do you call often?” He was quite derogatory in his remarks.  Nothing seemed to pacify him or make this moron understand the fact that it was unintentional.  He was adamant on seeing my friend in his office next day as if he had some old scores to settle.

Next day as expected that man landed at my friend’s office.  He was raring to initiate a scuffle and create chaos to be seen by everyone around.  But thanks to few good confidants of my friend, that was averted.  But that didn’t stopped that reckless rogue from spitting venom about everyone including my friend.

The underlying issue was his ailment of doubting his wife’s loyalty towards him and their relationship.  Suspicion is his middle name.  He would always point out at the way she dresses, a tinge of make-up on her face would set the wheels of his obscene mind churning, would keep a track of her minutes, would always make it a point that she is always under his thumb especially in front of his family which is dysfunctional to the core.  To sum it up – he is mentally ill with an apparently healthy abode.  All this garbage can still be branded and gulped down as “Male Ego”, “Chauvinism” which is  more uncommonly common in society like ours, though unacceptable.  But what surprised me, in fact stunned me was that woman’s stand.  When my friend asked her about her stand about her husband’s behaviour, rather misbehaviour she dropped her shoulders and sighed saying “What can I do? What stand can I take? I have to put up with this.  And anyways you shouldn’t have created so much ruckus here in office, Sir!”.  

That was something unbelievably stupid coming from a financially independent, educated woman who takes care of an unemployed (by choice) husband who himself has his past relationships peeping (in fact resting in his drawing-room) in his present with his wife having full knowledge of it, still making no bones about it. Had it been from an illiterate and dependent person, that would have drawn some sympathy.  This lady only attracts ire.  Few may hold a different opinion but inability to stand up and against such oppression in the name of family, love, values makes her equally guilty.

I want to re-emphasize that she is equally guilty as her silence is encouraging her husband’s sadistic and patriarchal approach where a woman is deemed to be acceptable if she is a silent spectator. She will prove to be a culprit to her daughter (who is just two years old) and her dreams.  She is doing nothing but preparing a ground which would allow her daughter to grow up with a mentality that a woman can’t question a man.  There could be two possible outcomes to such a cowardice approach of that little girl’s mother:

  • That could kill the confidence of a budding spirit. Since parents are the first role models for any child, looking up at her mother’s way of handling issues (very much passive) there’s every possibility under the sun that she would accept things lying down in future without any objection, without any contest and let out a foul cry blaming fate.  Unfortunately, this is the environment majority of girls grow up in. “Pati Parmeshwar Hota Hai” (Husband Is God) is the tonic girls are made to mug up breaking them from within, doubting themselves and leaving them always to search for a shoulder to lean on. I pity the poor child!
  • She might end up as a rebel with no cause.  A child needs love and mutual respect as catalysts for a healthy development.  But in the case at hand it is mental harassment, emotional abuse, fear, oppression that play constantly in front of her eyes and in mind in her growing years.  And it’s proven that with such a volatile and disturbed environment kids might end up being bullies or rebels.

To avoid any such occurrence in future that lady should raise her voice now even if it means walking away and out of such a rotten relationship.  By the way I forgot to reveal one twist in the story. This lady chose her partner (love marriage) and was well aware of his ways even before the marriage was consummated.

Is it Love or pure ignorance or self-degradation?  In this case I clearly see that this lady’s sensibilities are paralyzed beyond repair to put up with such a scrupulous person with her self-respect at stake every single minute.  In order to be acclaimed as a doting and pious wife she has completely laid herself on pedestal enduring character assassination at the drop of hat.

I understand, ego daunts a relationship but lack of self-respect isn’t saving it either.

Do think about it.

STOP BEING A VICTIM AND OWN IT!

“She is level-headed and opinionated!”

“She is a feminist!”

I have to say, when it is needed, I have spoken out loud and talked about my opinion though it has created repercussions both at personal and professional level. I have been stereotyped as someone who is ‘outspoken and rude’!

It happened when I took up public health after doing bachelors in Dentistry, despite my family’s wishes for me to continue it and run my own clinic. It happened when I raised my voice on unequal pay scale at office for same positions and prevailing gender bias. It happened when I fought for ‘price for marriage’ and rose against the concept of dowry.  It happens all the time when I have to defend myself whenever I disagree to follow the ‘norms of society’ set for a woman.

“A woman should not work late at night; a woman should only wear certain type of clothes; a woman should not drink alcohol or smoke; a woman should not have male friends once she is married; a woman should do as her husband says or if he ‘permits’; a woman has no life after divorce, she should continue living with her husband no matter what; a woman has no right to property, she is a liability”.

THE LIST OF WHAT A WOMAN SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO IS NEVER ENDING!

I have had to speak out quite loudly against ‘gender-based harassment’ at workplace. Just because I am a woman really does not mean that you have the right to belittle me, or making me feel like I have achieved something out of favors by men or by pleasing them or I am not good enough to lead a task just because I am a woman! This happens often in my job and many women face the same issue, and I have had to be strictly vocal about it. People will mistreat you if you take injustice lying down!

MY RAISED VOICE HAS HELPED!

It has made it possible for me to reach new heights in my career and getting promotions much before men in my office. If you deserve something, if you have worked hard for it, you should not remain silent just because you are a woman!

When you raise your voice, you make yourself known, and people know that there is someone who will not back down, who will not be silent. That is why I believe that raising your voice is a good thing. It helps people see others’ point of view, and make sure that they know why there is a need to speak up, especially against injustice.

Most of the time oppression against women start in their own families and are in-built in women. Indian women prefer to depend on their male members for financial and safety measures. Emotional and financial dependence of women gives birth to egoistic tendencies in men with negative mindset. They start imposing their decisions on wife and other female members of the family.

Even the most ambitious women face the injustice at workplace almost at every stage, employers hesitate to hire young women fearing potential pregnancy, if they do get hired the pay scale is always less than males, they fall much behind their male counter-parts after marriage due to responsibilities of family, many women drop out to raise children. Working women, especially in rural areas are monetarily and physically exploited by men either due to inaccessibility to credit sources or due to lack of laws to help protect them. Women also fall victim to social evils like infanticide, inhuman treatment to widows, especially in Northern India, Bengal and Rajasthan or polygamy in southern parts of India.

Women have faced tremendous injustice over the years, often due to women’s own lack of courage to face situation. Instead of silently bearing all the atrocities perpetrated against us, women should raise their voice against injustice; create awareness amongst women about their rights.  Women should channelize their efforts by forming women groups, linking the disadvantaged to NGOs and legal firms and getting heard, by writing and publishing articles, organizing workshops and seminars.

MAKE VOICELESSNESS LOSE ITS WICKED GRASP, GET YOURSELF HEARD!

MARITAL RAPE – BREACH OF FREEDOM TO CONSENT

Anita was taking time today to finish her chores before going to bed. She was dead tired, body sored due to menses. But she was also petrified anticipating the horrific sexual intercourse she was forced to go through daily, even during her menstrual cycle. She had sought refuge in her mother few days back, but was shocked when her mother asked her to comply quietly. “It’s the duty of the wife to please her husband, it’s custom dear” – this statement itself defies the so called “sanctity” of marriage.

Marital rape befalls when a husband forces intercourse on wife either by threat or by taking advantage of her inability to consent. Then just like any other domestic violence why is marital rape not punishable by law in our country? Whether a stranger, a known person or a family member commits it, rape is RAPE!

Like Anita, many women go through marital rape naming the social and religious customs or so called obligation towards husband. Marriage has become a leeway to force sex in such cases. The role of wife in India is still perceived as a homemaker and having intercourse a “duty”. Apart from the fact that women in India still strive for self sufficiency that shoves many to live in physical and emotional distress.

Although rape has strict and specific laws enforced, the boundaries are blurred when it comes to marital sex. Despite many law commissions and new legislation such heinous act of coercion is not yet termed as criminal offence in India, the reason why it’s one of the most under reported crime.

Marital relationship’s so called “sacrosanct” status has become a taboo. Our society is unable to concede to grievous criminal offences occurring inside the boundaries of the institution of marriage. Marital rape is no less traumatic for the victim and to make matters worse, she has to cohabit with the abuser. It is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of a human being. However many women still accept and justify this assault as deference. This ignorance makes it even more imperative to provide legal protection to women against marital rape.

Apart from judicial awakening we primarily need to generate awareness to curtail ignorance regarding this domestic coercion. “Amends begins at home”, we need to change the patriarchal social norms and teach our children to discern and differentiate between adjustment to situations and complying to offences. No one should accede to any form of abuse from anyone.

Most countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa have amended and abolished marital rape exemptions from the legal texts. It’s not only our legal but also social responsibility to come out of embedded cultural and religious stereotypes and bring changes in our social values. The legal system needs to eradicate the myth of “conjugal rights” in its books. Every step we take today towards changing the mindset will definitely diminish nescience and pave the path towards appreciating the fundamental right to freedom.

SPEAK UP FOR CHANGE!

It was a Sunday night when my frazzled house-help called me to tell me that she wouldn’t be coming to work… ever.

I was stunned. For any busy mother with too much on her plate, house-helps are more important than their own husbands. I frantically asked her why she had made this sudden decision because she loved working, I knew. She loved the independence and the money these odd jobs gave her.

She answered between sobs, “Didi, I can’t stay here while my husband is threatening my life. He won’t let me be. He’s lost it. He hits me and does drugs. And he doesn’t even care for the children anymore. What will become of my children if he kills me? I have no one here in the city. At least my people can support me in the gaon (countryside). That’s why I’m leaving.”

I knew what she was saying wasn’t a fabrication. Her husband had been very abusive, both mentally and physically, for over a year, going to the extent of making an attempt on her life last year! Heaven knew why she hadn’t bolted back then itself. I insisted that she see a lawyer for a divorce but she was afraid of her folks; ‘what will people say‘. When she didn’t do that I sent her to a doctor to dress the wound. It was superficial thankfully, but the attempt had shaken her to the core, as it would. The police had refused her help because let’s face it, the Police don’t do much in India unless you have connections (if you know what I mean). Sheer will, her children’s education and a helpful sister were the only reasons why she was staying on in the city even after the attempt, but that sister too had lately moved away, leaving her absolutely alone against the wrath of her terrorizing husband.

There was nothing I could do to help her or to make her stay. I was in no position to offer her a place to stay or another job. Even I felt that she would be safer in her gaon. But I did feel strongly that people like her are always trudged upon by the powers that be just because they don’t raise their voices. They never have. Which is why the oppression never ends.

This whole week on Candles Online we are discussing the topic of Raising Voices. For the remainder of the week, you shall have compelling arguments from contributors who encourage raising a voice against some form of oppression prevalent in our society. In this article, I shall be discussing raising a voice as citizens of a democracy.

I discussed above how people like my house-help suffer in silence because they chose to suffer instead of lashing out at their oppressors. But let me not generalize it for people like her, because it isn’t just ‘people like her’ who suffer in silence, but most of the population. Take for example the recent debacle over the movie Padmaavat, which I have written about here. It was shameful that a section of the Indian population was rioting over a harmless piece of fiction, but what was even more shameful was the way the general public was silent over it, except a few brave voices. Everyone knew that the rioting was unjustified, yet people who Tweet or post statuses about what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or are quick to add hashtags to be a part of the latest fad in the country, wouldn’t raise a voice for fear of incurring the ire of the rioters, while the authorities were, as usual, playing coy of stamping out the riots for ‘political reasons’.

Coming back to the point of the unhelpful Police, have any of you lost a phone, or a vehicle and have been turned out by the Police with the statement, “Lodge an FIR, and then we’ll see”? Or have you heard that a rape or an assault victim, especially a woman, has been taunted by the Police, “If you dress like that, or roam around at that hour, its bound to happen”? Or have you ever faced a wall of stone when you approached the Police about your grievances against a political big-wig? And how many of you have taken action against such latent oppression?

The Police are not the only authority or institution that feeds on the fear or worse still, the apathy of the public to get away with it. Every authority, when it does not have the ‘check’ of a watchful public, becomes a dictatorship, even a democracy like ours that is ostensibly of the people, for the people and by the people.

Forget about the government and other authorities, sections of our population face oppression and maltreatment at the hands of those who wield power over them in some way – like my house-help who couldn’t speak up about her oppression for months because of her husband or her in-laws who forced her into silence in the name of saving the marriage. Or abused children who can’t speak up about the heinous acts done to them because of fear of retaliation and ridicule from their families.

You may say, and your point would be valid, that no good has ever come from raising voices against oppression; you would only be beating yourself down while the powers that be will be quick to dismiss you, maybe even kill you! Some of you may say that ‘the system’ won’t allow any changes. Yes, maybe in the short-term it won’t, but in the long-term, it will. You and I may not be able to see that change, but at least our children will because we dared to do it. 

History has taught us that changes come only when a voice is raised against oppression –

The bans on Sati, child marriage, untouchability, apartheid, and the right of women to vote, to study in general schools and colleges, and to own property, these changes all came about because someone dared to say ‘no’.

Having seen what it is like to be in a Democracy, I think it is time that we stopped relying on the power of our votes alone to bring about changes. All political parties, all elected candidates, all oppressive factions of societies suffer from selective amnesia after they come to power. They may write off their promises to us, giving an excuse of authoritative encumbrances or may just shrug us off like dust on their shoulders after they’ve received our votes. The easiest medium of change is raising a voice because it brings immediate attention to an existing grievance. No one achieved anything by staying silent in the face of oppression. Even Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha movements relied on silent disobedience against the oppression of the British.

We are born free and the same powers that gave the oppressor their voices gave us a voice too. We have the additional right to freedom of thought and expression granted by a Constitution that claims to belong to its people.

Speak up for change!

Let your oppression be known.

Your voice makes this society, this nation.

Make it matter. 

 

Image Source: Ninocare at Pixabay.