Tuesday, November 4, 2008
‘Don’t look at her. She’s bad.’ I still remember the few doctrinal-like words which were injected into me at a young age. Like any young one who would twitch and twist at the very sight of a shining needle, I too twitched and twisted, but stole a look nevertheless at the woman. Along with foundational letter recitals and rhyme learning, I was also told, by not only my mother and father, but also by the unending list of uncles and aunts that some people were good and others, more importantly, were bad. Like a cloth absorbing water into its parched self, I, too, took in everything that came my way. I was being the good student, the one who would accept everything and make others happy.
This was followed by the phase where I would imbibe whatever I saw, still staying in full view and control of elders and advisors. I noticed that certain people could not sleep on beds that we slept in, could not drink from the same cups and glasses that we did. I did find it a bit strange but who was I to question the cultural diktat being implemented by the rich and the fortunate ones?
Years later, with the guidance and help of numerous people and books I learnt that I was part of a huge conspiracy. (Not the one that the politicians in our land talk about!!!). I was a discriminator, lock, stock and barrel. I had discriminated against the woman I was told not to look at. I had discriminated against those with whom I had not shared my bed and my glass. It was a time when I felt sick of myself and confusion added to the predicament. All my life I thought I was doing the right thing, following the truth word for word.
The media too are like our parents and family, telling us who is good and who is bad, what is fashionable and what not. Our perceptions of different people are based on what we read and believe. We think we are adding on to the big reservoir of truth that we update everyday. But are we? What is truth? Is it what someone constructs or is it what we have to learn for ourselves? Is truth conditional and made up?
The same struggle to understand truth continues today. ‘She is a loose woman’, ‘Stay away from him.’, ‘That community is illiterate’, ‘This group is violent’... The clichés are unending. But on the other hand, what is true for me is the reverse for someone else. Truth itself keeps changing with time and place. What then is truth? Is it what keeps us together or is it what keeps us from keeping together?