The mascot of tehzeeb
Demi Moore is in India. As like most of the westerners, she is looking to indulge in some soul searching and hopefully deal with the break-up of her marriage to Ashton Kutcher. My only wish – she should get back to her country safe and unharmed.
There are so many things we love to call our country, so many fancy tags that we proudly wear and flaunt that help us create a screen in front of the truth. Not that there aren’t things to be proud of, but the dirt is so thick that without this ignorant façade, we couldn’t survive. Without closing our eyes to the blatant poverty, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our newly imported Starbucks coffee. Without pretending to ignore the mass corruption, we couldn’t boast of our NRI relatives. Without being indifferent to the multiplying rapes, we couldn’t watch movies and push them to the 100-crore club. How important it is to be put on our blinders and switch on our air conditioner blasts if we want to live in the present day India.
I have seen up and close a section of society that had absolutely no idea how the poor lived. Or that they even existed. Who were happy to spend the entire day in a spa or a five star hotel coffee shop and not feel that they had achieved nothing worthwhile the entire day. Who said it’s ok to give a thousand to the official because “bahut paisa hai saala”. Who said that it’s ok if the other person is suffering because “mere baap ka kya jata hai”. And who lived as if they owned the world and could do anything because “upar tak pahuch hai yaar”. So in this country if you need to be happy, you need to be thick-skinned and merciless. And you need to befriend a politician. Or two.
Are we really the country with goddesses and deities?
Do we really deserve soul searching followers?
We assault our women as if they were lifeless,
We show no respect to anyone who is of no use to us.
So recently when there was an initiative where we had to draft our Delhi manifesto containing issues that need to be addressed on top priority, I searched my head and came up with my top two. This doesn’t say either that there are no other issues, or that the other issues aren’t important. It just says that I feel these two issues need to be addressed immediately. Well, now they have cleverly asked us for workable and practical solutions for those issues. And while I find it slightly superficial because there is no guarantee that our solutions will be implemented, I still have some out-of-the-box BUT workable solutions. They may sound bizarre, but I feel they will work. So, here are some of my thoughts on how:
If you have been following some of the stories around dowry deaths, honor killings, female foeticide / infanticide and rapes, you will feel that the India mindset is basically patriarchal. We prefer male children, we care more for them and we promote them. Woman are treated as step children and never really thought to have feelings or dreams or hopes or feel pain. In this kind of difficult and challenging scenario, a basic mindset change, which according to me is the root cause for women being so unsafe in Delhi, cannot happen easily. But at least a start can be made. And it has been. There are famous stars talking about the importance of women, girl child and daughters.
To take this a step further, we should identify people who have a command over people / who have a following and they should be contacted to pass on important messages to the mass population. Some suggestions could be influential TV artists since TV shows are watched in smaller pockets – TRP rating of shows can be tracked and the popular ones can be picked. Then their stars can be asked to lend their support through advertisements, personal appearances and also in their roles in their respective shows.
Other than TV shows, another group of people that are very popular and have a lot of followers are Godmen. Yes, the Asaram scandal has diluted their image amongst the educated urban class, but they still have a huge fan following amongst the less educated and hence more likely to be ignorant class. These Godmen should talk about the india culture which talks of respecting a woman for all the roles she plays. A lot of Indians, fortunately or unfortunately treat these men as messengers of God and in a country so governed by religion, what they say will be seriously considered. That way, they can also play a role in the betterment of society as well cooperate with the government in good governance.
Recently we had a debate amongst a group of friends and one of them said something extremely brilliant. He said that even if the rapists of Nirbhaya get death penalty, it may not serve its purpose because a lot of potential rapists out there do not know what the repercussions are. They do not read the paper, watch news or get such information from anywhere. So the next step should be make the punishment loud and clear to the public on mass platforms.
I read somewhere that a lot of rapists are people known to the women and they continue to commit the crime because the girl is too scared to complain. There needs to be a campaign that tells women that it is ok to step out and voice what they are going through. Irrespective of the stigma, it is important for them to bring the criminal to light so that he doesn’t continue to do it to them or to other women.
Use TV stars with mass appeal,
To reach a majority with the message.
Comedians like Kapil Sharma
Or Godmen like Baba Ramdev,
What they say – a lot of people hear.
Make sure that punishments are public knowledge,
A criminal should fear the law like a ghost!
Tell the women it is OK to complain,
Their dignity is more important than any name.
I am at my wit’s end since there are a lot of components involved here. Firstly there are the people who think that knowing somebody high and mighty gives them the license to jump the light, then there are the policemen who get swayed by the name or the green leaf, there is a system that is porous and inconsistent with regards to traffic offenders and then there are laws and politicians. I am definitely not generalizing because that will be so easy. So I am not saying all policemen are corrupt, all politicians are power hungry or all laws are useless. I am saying that with so many parties involved, change cannot be very easy and swiftly achieved. But of course a start has to be made.
According to me, a start can be made in the form of strict vigilance. There should be as many surveillance cameras in as many road intersections, toll plazas and other important places as possible. These should be accessible to the public on demand. These can be used as proof in cases.
Mobile police vans should have the authority to take cases of road rage. If somebody threatens me tomorrow on the road after bumping into my car, I should be able to immediately register a case and not wait to go to a police station.
Somebody like a Munnabhai MBBS should be made the mascot of “tehzeeb” in Delhi. With a city of such historical, cultural and artistic significance, hearing somebody tell you on the road, “Abey chal, tujhe pata nahi mera baap kaun hai”, is so deeply saddening on so many levels. Munnabhai needs to tell people how important it is to talk to people with respect and award each person with dignity. It is not necessary to have your ego hurt if somebody overtook you and pull out a gun (as happened with a Delhi journalist couple of years ago). It is not important to beat up a toll plaza person just because he asked you to stop despite you being somebody important (As happens all the time). A mascot who tells people that its cool to be polite, lovable and respectful; a mascot who says that it doesn’t matter how important you are if you don’t have “tehzeeb” and basically who makes respect, cordiality, less rage and more love “COOL” can do wonders on Delhi roads and to the Delhi road rage situation in general. Then hopefully police officers will have less people to remind on who their fathers are.
Let’s earn marks for being respectful,
Let’s show we can be loving too,
A kinder Delhi will be a cooler Delhi,
Let’s spread joy to others in the city,
Let’s reduce the rage and increase the kindness,
Let driving be a pleasure in Delhi!