When I first started writing this article, I wanted to talk about how my generation is doing so much for the society, and the world as a whole. How we are educated, well-read, open minded, and willing to get shit done. But halfway through as I was drowning in my vanity, I realised we are here because of the people who brought us here, and taught us those values that have shaped us. And for that, I have to thank our older generation. You didn’t do everything right, but you did do some amazing things. If we are here voicing our opinions, it’s because you sculpted a platform for us to do that, so we will take that privilege, and we will channel it towards change. And change begins with a conversation. I am here not to proclaim how we are the future of this country, or how you can learn a lesson or two from the millennials, but I’m merely here to talk. And perhaps you’ll see why we needed this talk, now more than ever.
It was a beautiful day 20-30 years ago when we entered this world crying, naked, and covered in weird amniotic shit. Less progressive, less open-minded, and less malleable. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful world to be born in. Earth was greener, glaciers weren’t melting rapidly, and society had a set of beliefs that it stuck to. And then apparently we did something wrong, all of us. Because today the earth is burning, glaciers are disappearing, and society still has the same set of beliefs it is tenaciously stuck to. So did we progress, or did we manage to somehow go down the graph?
Now, there are two things we can do about this. We can either sit back and watch as the mayhem unfolds around us, or we can pick our asses off the couch and do some damage control. The first vital step towards that is to stop enabling. For centuries we have enabled things that led us to this juncture today. The blood is in all our hands.
We enabled disrespect to our surroundings and the earth we live in. We exploited her resources, and wrung them dry until we were left to grab on to loose ends whilst climate change loomed upon us and threatened us with complete annihilation. When Greta Thunberg stormed into the house and demanded us to take ownership of what we have done, people rose in unison and witnessed a renewed sense of belonging to this planet, and the need to ferociously protect it. That was a fight put up by a 16 year old, and it shook the fragile egos of old men in power who chose to react with casual ignorance. However, nothing could dull the reverberations that were felt across the world.
We enabled fascism and corruption. We brought a government into power and we stayed quiet. They took away our economy, our jobs, our freedom of expression. Then they raised questions about our identity, the people we love, our citizenship. Then they made a rookie mistake, they threatened our secularism, and our constitution. That is when we took to the streets, we raised slogans, we preached about love. We showed them that Bhagat Singh and Ashfaqullah Khan were both revolutionaries, and this land belongs to both of them. We let the government dabble with their power until their actions or inactions brought us to a point where the ideals of our country and constitution became obscure and almost indistinguishable. That is when we finally found our voices. Alas, it took longer than it should have.
We enabled patriarchy for centuries! We let them tell us where we belong, we let them disregard us and our capabilities lest we hurt their fragile masculinity. From Savitribai Phule to Malala Yousafzai, the world has seen some brilliant feminists who tirelessly preached and fought for our rights. Yet we allowed men to tell us we were beneath them. Worse, we even believed it when they said that. You think I’m complaining? Yes I am. And I’m not even done yet.
Since the beginning, our country has persistently tried to pass off bigotry, and intolerance as culture. Our elders preach that homosexuality is wrong, that it is ‘abnormal’ and ‘unnatural’ to fall in love with the same sex. And we dare speak of marrying them? Blasphemy! LGBTQIA+ rights are apparently against our sanskaars. I feel these sanskaars are a lot like pigeon shit. Tenacious, and unwanted. Nobody WANTS to deal with all the pigeon shit that’s on their windscreen. It’s just that there are a lot of pigeons around, and all you can do is scrape off the shit until one day the pigeon finds another commode. For how long are we going to let them shit on our society? These are the same people who passed the trans bill and seemed to not comprehend the blatant misuse of authority. Who gave you the right to decide our identity? Who gave you the right to tell us whom we can love and whom we can’t? Perhaps, you don’t see it the way we do, and we can’t blame you entirely. With all that spite inside you it’s hard for you to see that, well, love is love, honey. It transcends everything else.
I know I made things look very grim, but let’s also try to look at the silver linings. There’s a heightened sensitivity that I see in the society now because we, the youth of this country, have opened our minds to what plagues this society in all forefronts. Be it the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, climate change, CAA, or violence against students. We are talking about it, we are enlightening those who are unaware, and we are debating with those who are ignorant. And although we aren’t quite there yet, it is the beginning. We have found our voices, and there’s no going back now.
There are many wrongs we have to make right, and there’s a lot I still don’t understand. But at the end of the day, everything comes down to empathy and compassion. As long as we have those two things, we will end up doing something right. It is not going to be an overnight process, and it will save us all a lot of time if instead of pointing fingers, we did some introspection and saw where we went terribly terribly wrong.
Turns out, when ‘they’ did wrong, we never turned them into right. When ‘they’ passed bills, we let them become acts. That changes now. The millennial wave will make sure we fix the mistakes we’ve made in the past. ‘They’ are whom we have to fight in this journey towards a more tolerant society. We let years of beliefs turn into laws and we stuck to those flawed ideas of right and wrong because we were scared. We were scared to stand on a pedestal and demand for change. But fortunately for us, there were a few brave women and men who carved the way to a more accepting and tolerant future. And walking in their footsteps, we have learnt now that if there’s ever going to be a change, we are the ones who will have to bring it. My heart brims with pride when I see people taking to the streets as well as the internet to fight for their basic rights to co-exist in this society. Their right as a citizen of this country irrespective of caste, their right as a queer, their right as a woman. Every mass movement began with an individual step, and the noise we make today, will turn into a rumble tomorrow.
Being a privileged straight woman, I have had an easier life and I have conveniently been oblivious of what affects people who are different from me, and for a long time I continued to remain so. Then I saw the pride flag somewhere, and it was mere curiosity that made me look it up on the internet. I was amazed, overwhelmed, and a little disappointed all at the same time. Amazed at the perseverance of the LGBTQIA+ community, overwhelmed by the ferocity with which they were fighting for their rights, and disappointed because it was the 21st century and people were still ‘fighting’ for something that should have simply been granted to them, no questions asked. It is sometimes unfair how our generation is constantly criticised for being on our phones and procrastinating life. I agree we sometimes go overboard, but social media can be a beautiful place. It’s a place where we can educate ourselves and be more sensitive towards issues that we aren’t entirely aware of. I urge you to do the same.
For too long we have let old men and women rule our country, now it’s time our voices reach them. Because our country cannot walk in a regressive path anymore. We will simply not allow it. Say what you will about us, when push comes to shove, we show up. And we are here to stay now. You have had your chance, now the baton is in our hands. And we will not only finish this race, we will also pick up those who have fallen along the way, and we will cross the finish line with kindness, compassion and grace. You meet these aunties at weddings you have no idea about, but apparently they know you very well, and they coo over you ‘Arey bacche kitne bade ho gaye hai’.
Yes aunty, hum bade ho gaye, ab hum dekhenge.