I hardly gave animal rights a thought, till someone called a dog-catcher to capture the very lovable strays in our area. Though I never really fancied our education system, I didn’t feel like changing it, until I suffered from the mental pressure it put on me. I never thought about changing the despicable traffic in our country, till I lost my father to a car accident.
A while after my father’s accident, I was with my mother at a bank, where she had to take care of some documents. When she checked the box that said “widow” on a form that she was filling out, I couldn’t stop the sudden tears that came rushing to my eyes. With the word ‘widow’ come to mind old history lessons about reform by Jotiba Phule and what’s-his-name and phrases like ‘abolition of sati’ pop up in my memory. I would never have imagined the word to be so real, so relevant in my life. The first time my mother asked a woman, who was visiting, to apply the haldi-kunku on her forehead herself (because a widow is supposedly not allowed to do that) I realized much of what we label ‘discrimination’ is self inflicted. Thinking back to those days, when my mother instinctively felt ‘odd’ to go to a function dressed in bright, fancy clothes, I realized that if there’s one thing we need to change in this society, it’s the way we think.
Not everyone, as I said, can sacrifice their personal interests and become a social worker. It is not fair to expect that from each and everyone. But you can change society even by changing your perspectives on the smallest of things. The next time you tease a fat girl or call someone ‘gay’; stop and think about it, their personal life is none of your business. Religion is not a duty; it’s a choice – you can pray to God as much as you want, but you shouldn’t judge me for choosing not to do it. The best way to change the education system, is to stop studying only for the exams, stop mugging up “questions and answers” and focus on understanding the concepts – you have all the necessary resources and more; books, television, internet. What people might say, shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want. Walking into a temple at that time of the month should seem no different from sneezing in a temple. Becoming a widow shouldn’t stop you from wearing a mangalsutra; it’s your mangalsutra and it’s your goddamn neck.
People are always going to be there waiting; crouched, hungry wolves ready to pounce on you, and seize away your rights. It’s up to you to stop them. I’m not saying this is going to stop all the child marriages and sati practices still prevalent in the remote parts of the country. What I am saying is, it will still certainly make a difference. The change doesn’t have to colossal, no one is asking you to become the next Mother Teresa. What I am saying is, every time someone smiles and tells my mother “Are you kidding? You know that stuff doesn’t matter to us, you’re the one who should apply the haldi-kunku.”; it makes a difference.