I went to the protest yesterday and I was immensely moved. It was a relatively small gathering, unfortunately. But large in spirit, in voice and in intention. And it happened: I felt something welling up inside of me. In no time at all, my efforts to push back tears were futile. So I stood with the not-so-large crowd of women and men gathered at Town Hall on a Sunday morning, wiping away tears, looking and feeling quite foolish, really. But also feeling my body billowing with a mixture of helpless rage and frustration, mixed with a wild, unbridled wave of inspiration from some of the amazing women who had organised the protest and came forward to speak and share stories of their work with women, with children, and with disadvantaged sections of our society, on ground.
I was particularly enraged not to see a single social media influencer/celebrity with any reach or influence present on the day. That post Manu Chandra post about Bangalore mourning for Monkey Bar, that I spoke about the other day? That enraged me just as much. None of the many, many thousands in this city who are otherwise so quick to take to woke catch-phrases and news pieces, to carefully curate their words and build an image that plays nice and is sufficiently activist-ish and sufficiently pleasant, somehow didn’t find it in them to make it and show solidarity. Many, many regular city women showed up though. In their regular clothes and no photo opportunities. With placards, slogans and heartfelt intention and presence. And once again, the tears welled up.
I am feeling sick to the stomach and peoples duplicity in a world where a woke social media image is becoming everything. This has been a long time coming. Waking up to my own privilege has been a difficult, slow and often painful process. And for many years, I have had the luxury of turning away. While I figured out where I stand, while I allowed my politics to shift and grow, while I took care of my sanity. I had the privilege to turn away. Slowly, but surely though, now I have been feeling compelled to push through. Push through my fence-sitting, my incomplete opinions, my sometimes dilute politics, my apathy, my helplessness, my privilege to just turn a blind eye when things get uncomfortable. And I have been questioning my place in the larger landscape of our society, this country and what is happening around me. And in this context, I have been looking at people around me with new eyes. People whose minds I once admired, some of whom I called friends, people whose politics I aspired to. Many of them are unbearable today. I cannot bear the armchair activism anymore. It began with a disgust at my own, and a kick up my own backside about time running out.
I know, I am not a foot-soldier out there doing the work. Just listening to the women speaking yesterday reaffirmed that. I am not even a person of influence. And yet, there are little things I can do. I am feeling more and more that the time for aimless despair is done. It is time to walk the talk or forever hold ones peace. I do know that my heart and my body are pushing me to be different, to be better — that’s what this welling up and bubbling over of tears, time and time again, is. And I can no longer turn away.
My personal politics have been shifting for a while. I am not the person I was even one year ago, let alone 4-5-6 years ago. I don’t ascribe to many of the views I held then. I look back on posts I’ve written and feel a deep sense of what has changed, and what has remained. Lately, I’ve been feeling immensely disappointed in some of the severely liberal talk online, at the hands of folks who seem to only talk and not do much more than that. In them, I see where I once was. In them, I see an absolute stubbornness and a dangerous change-averse stand. In them I see the terrifying arrogance of believing their politics are all figured out, superior to everyone else’s and somehow an immovable, unchangeable thing. In them I see the dangerous idea that personal politics are cast in stone, need no examination, growth and evolution. I’m ashamed to say, I see this in some of my friends too, and I watch and listen quite confused many times, about which way to go, and what this means for our personal relationship, sometimes. It’s something I discuss a lot with S, seeing as how again, it is not something I can bring up with just about anybody. And so waking up this morning to see S on absolute fire (instagram stories, if you’re interested) it hit me: I am slowly moving away from safety in numbers, for the sake of safety in numbers. I want lesser and lesser to do with people who cling to echo chambers and folks who play niceties so hard they want nothing else but to be surrounded by people who only prop them up and never call out their inherent hypocrisies. This is essentially saying they are opposed to growth.
I find that exceedingly frightening. And I can no longer relate to it even for politeness sake.
Later last night, before I shut down my laptop for the day, I happened to check the news and picked up on Delhi burning. Once again I felt the tears rise up, and so I cried to myself, a mixture of confusion and anger, and just a heavy sense of hopelessness weighing down on me.
So is this what it’s come down to? Is this what those who voted this government in wanted in the name of Acche Din? Blood, hate, violence? The brazenness of it all, so blinding. The news continued to come in today, even though I haven’t looked it up and my laptop has stayed shut until now, when I reached out to begin writing this.
For over five years we’ve patiently, silently watched this government perpetuate atrocity after atrocity. One fuck up after another. We’ve stood by watching dodge criticism, silence dissent and opposition and continuously shift the goalposts. We’ve witnessed a slow brewing fascism take shape right in front of our eyes, and last night things may have gone just a bit too far. I have a deep gut feeling what has erupted is just the beginning. I am filled with pain and pride somehow.
This evening, S came over to talk shop and work, and of course we talked about the news. Once again the tears came up. It’s like on-tap these days. And I am a bit flummoxed at how much and how easily it is coming up. In certain spaces, with safe people, I am feeling pushed to a degree of deep vulnerability, it hurts. I feel thankful for friends like S, with whom I now have the language and the means to process nebulous, unnamed feelings like this. And so we did.
It was no coincidence that everything we talked about work and plans and what is to come, after that, was centred around giving this new for of work that I have stepped into, a place in the world.
And so we mind-mapped and vision-boarded the heck out of it, until I felt uplifted and like I could breathe again. It is time to walk the talk.
In the face of a country’s shared trauma, with violent atrocities being committed day in and out, with questions of who belongs and who doesn’t, what is justice and how can it be met, I feel more and more certain deep in my heart that I want to go beyond “doing the work” and making money. Beyond making this yet another professional choice. I want the work I now do to have context and depth, meaning and purpose and it has to shape the way that I bring this work to my world around me. And that thought gives me some much needed solace.
One year ago: Wait, can you turn around?
Two years ago: Clarity
Three years ago: Misty mountain hop