It was the sincerity and curiosity of two young men which saved a 3-year old girl from a possible cruel fate. The men, Shubham and Jasbir on a Sonipat train, grew suspicious of the activities of a man, Bhanwar who was squatting near the compartment door with the little girl. Not content with the explanation given by Bhanwar and the way he was behaving with the child, the duo chased the man when he got down at the next station to catch another connecting train. The man panicked and was caught in time. He had kidnapped the girl from outside her home in Delhi and was taking her to his village where he planned to rape her and traffic her thereafter. If Shubham and Jasbir had also got busied in their own private sphere like many us and not ‘spoken out’ when they sensed something wrong, the girl would have also ended into the endless list of ‘disappeared children’.
An act of evil in society, be it rape, kidnapping, littering or corruption, affects each one of us. Not everyone has that courage or a motivation level to be an ardent activist. Frankly, we have plenty of excuses or ‘reasons’ to complaint but not to act. I still believe, even if not all of us are ready to march the street holding torchlight, still there is at least some way in which we can contribute, however little, for the betterment of the society.
Last summer, I had visited a small but beautiful European city, Vienna. I went to a local shopping mart to buy some chocolates and as is the habit or the ‘inculcated’ habit of Indians, rolled out few Euros from the inside pocket of my jacket and gave it to the billing desk manager. The man, in his twenties, crooked up his eyebrow, then gave me a cursory glance that had disgust written all over it, and then smoothed out the wrinkles from that crumpled bill which I had just handed him. Later, a friend explained to me, here people think that disrespect to their currency is disrespect to their nation and seriously mind if the notes are crumpled or damaged. Back in my room, I fished out all the Euro bills hidden in all tiny-winy places, rolled in socks, pinned to the underlining of my jacket, taped to the inside frame of the suitcase and the false cavity of the makeup kit. I know many of you will find it ridiculous, but this is what I am taught, to divide the money and hide it in separate bags so that you don’t lose out everything in one go in case you are mugged. That look of disgust had sent across the message and I took out all the hidden treasure, smoothed out the wrinkles and kept it neatly in a wallet.
This is what I am trying to convey here, even if we choose to sit and not to do anything to stop a situation which we know in our heart should be stopped, then also we must make at least some gesture, a crook of an eyebrow, a wrinkling of the nose or a tch tch to send some sort of a message that ‘yes we know the truth and you are being watched’. It is always better than sitting with a wooden face or lost in your mobiles and tabs in bus while a man standing just next to you is purposely falling on to a girl.
On a train journey from Jhansi to Delhi, I noticed a man continually staring a college girl, who was travelling alone. The man, who was perhaps some railway staff, changed his seat and sat across her so that he gets a good view of her. I could tell from his demeanor that he was waiting for an opportunity to take the seat next to the girl, which was lying vacant. You will find such people almost everywhere, with long experience and mastery in such acts they become so skilled that they carefully stalk their target without arising any suspicion with any sudden move. A woman who was travelling with her family was watching all this. She got up from her seat and sat down next to the girl and started chatting with her. The man got the message that his intentions are caught, and for the rest of the journey he sat quiet without any more games. If only all of us start ‘speaking out’ in whatever way we can, these evils will fade. Raise objection, if you see somebody littering the road; knock on the door if you hear a man beating his wife; get up from your seat to let an old person sit; carry a plastic bag in your car in which you dump all waste instead of throwing it out from the window; stop feeding the cows with food still wrapped in plastic bags; slow down your vehicle to let a bicyclist pedal safely; don’t jump red-light even if the one ahead of you just did; smile to the old lady whom you just crossed during your evening walks; strike a conversation with fellow passengers in train and buses. These are small gestures which will gradually send the message to others and people will follow. Isn’t it a common human tendency, you go and stand behind a person and automatically a queue will be formed. We hesitate to initiate but we like to follow.
The Administration may make endless numbers of rules and regulations to uproot the evils, but the social evils can only be uprooted SOCIALLY. A Swachchatta Abhiyan can only succeed when we, as individuals, inculcate this habit. We can never curb the menace of dowry deaths if we don’t stop socially boasting ‘how lucky a chap is that he got this or that’. The twenty crore ‘gift’ Salman Khan’s sister got upon marriage has set another scale for marriage ‘gifts’.
We must ‘Speak Out’ because it really matters. No, we cannot correct everyone, but we can at least correct ourselves, influence those around us. I am really surprised to see this addictive habit of Indians spitting everywhere in country, but these same people if happen to go abroad, are the most well behaved.
‘It is the attitude of Indians, it is in their blood and thus they cannot be changed’, somebody told me when I expressed my distraught on why we can’t keep our streets clean. Well, I am not sure whether things will change in my lifetime but when I throw the empty bottle in the dustbin and my 2-year-old follow the steps and don’t litter her toffee-wrapper then I am sure of one thing that I have just corrected at least one generation.