Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Intriguing ways to express yourself.

Alright, Since nobody really has any problems with what I do around here, I think I'll go with a different format this time. The idea is the same, it's just that I really, really love to write stories. So I figured, why not experiment writing a post like that?

The platform at the train station was streaming with activity, as bodies jostled against each other on the concrete floor, porters bellowed at the top of their voices, furiously pulling their heavy, luggage-laden trolleys, and the vendors at the platform-stalls called out to travelers standing idly by the motionless line of coaches.

There were still about twenty minutes, even after making allocations for the punctuality of services in India, for the train to depart. But, having no companions from college to travel with, I had already wandered into my coach some time ago, and was quietly listening to music. I had found, to my delight that my berth was one on the side-lower side of the cabin.

It was slightly cramped for me, since I was about Six foot one, but once I'd hunkered down and plugged in my earphones, I was able to lean back with a contented sigh. Normal berths were always a nightmare for me, since I always traversed to and forth from Chennai to Trichy alone. More often that not, there would be a crowd of hostile co-passengers, usually a family with some exceptionally unruly children, seated all around me, leaving me to silently grit my teeth and stare furtively out the window.

Travelling alone also makes one, way more suspicious of his surroundings than the normal . A man makes his third bathroom trip under a half-hour? He's probably robbing every sleeping passenger blind. Somebody brushes closer to you than necessary? He has an eye on your laptop bag and is waiting for the next station to snatch it and run out. Every tattoo and every scar that you spot adorning a fellow passenger gains its own dark origin story, and every hand that slips into a pocket is expected to return clutching a knife.

'No wonder I like the solitude of the side-lower seat' I think reflectively, as I tilted my head to the side, and watched the travelling landscape reflected in my eyes.

There was something weird that happened once we were on our way, though.

 As I had predicted, there were a noisy pair of families spread across the other seven berths of the cabin. An old man, -I think he was the father- sat awake in his upper berth for the entirety of his journey.

Now, insomnia on a train journey is perfectly understandable. The constant rattle of the coach wheels on the gravelly tracks and the shrill whistling of the wind, as it whipped across the windows makes it remarkable that the man was more of an exception than a norm. What stood out in this man's actions what that he had a near zombie like stare for the better part of the three hours that I was observing him.

I really had no choice. As I lay on my back, I couldn't help but look at him as he sat, his head leaning forward with his forehead resting on the berth supports. And, well. It freaked me out. As I lay three berths down, I contemplated, in my head,  all the various situations that could go down if the old man suddenly went on a kleptomaniac/Murder spree.

Sure,  I could stop him. But then... I was the lone, single, entitled young dude, whilst he was the old guy with a family.  IF we were to throwdown, I was fairly certain the rest of the coach's passengers would pronounce me guilty of some heinous crime anyway and mete out 'righteous' justice to me.

Luckily, nothing of that sort happened. The only unusual incident that happened during the rest of the journey was that we had a spot of rain while crossing through one of the bigger towns.

Returning to the hostel was sort of like returning to the frontlines of a war from paternity leave. You're always teary at odd moments of the day, you snap at everyone else, only to go to their rooms at the first opportunity you get, to fret in unison about the prospects for the upcoming semester. It doesn't help that the corridors obligingly resemble a city that has just been bombed, with the amount of trash that other inmates toss out of their rooms.

As I was catching up with friends, one of the three topics that every conversation in college will include in some form or the other, cropped up, namely; grades (The other two are girls and football). So, as we were talking about grades, or rather I was talking about my lack of them, someone mentioned the name of our resident top scorer.

Instantly, all manner of abusive words and obscene comparisons were shouted. I, of course being a person who is all for the notion of keeping with timeless traditions, joined in, adding in a couple of particularly harsh comparisons. They drew dry chuckles and a few laughs from the little gathering in the room, leaving me feeling pleased as punch.

A few days later though, I started to think over it after I saw a few articles online. The first was Ellen Pao's resignation. I don't really dish out opinions out here, and I myself am pretty much a newbie to Reddit, so I won't pretend to understand the community out there. But, when I read some more about it, the abuse hurled at her for stepping on the 'freedom of expression' of certain persons was horrendous. I mean, is it such a bad thing to clamp down a little on online harassment? Some of the banned sub-reddits had some extremely distasteful and allegedly abusive content, which the moderators were doing nothing to stop.

Is shutting down a sub-reddit called 'Fatpersonhate', where people post pictures of fat people being abused, a gross injustice done to the freedom of expression? Ludicrous.
If this happened in India:
1. The government would have shut down reddit completely.
2. People would grumble a bit, send a few nasty tweets at ministers, then accept it with a shrug after a while.
3. Some yogic/social expert would weigh in on the whole issue a few days later, causing a minor flutter in the newspapers.
4. Reddit comes back online, after some ah- 'negotiations with the government, with perhaps Gandhi mediating the whole thing'. Everything goes back to how it was before.

More than the arguments presented by the bereaved users of Reddit though, what interested me was how they chose to go about it. Abusive language. On social media.

Now. My current modus operandi on social media is to rarely create original posts, share the occasional random tidbit, and above all, proofread everything at least twice, before clicking 'post'. These people were using language and obscenities that you'd find on 'roadies' or at an all-nighter study group ten minutes before the finals. And on an incredibly exposed and public stage to boot.

Reddit isn't alone in this phenomenon though. Recently, the government of India announced a programme called the #SelfieWithDaughter initiative. As the name suggests, parents, particularly in the rural sectors of the country were requested to take selfies with their daughters and then post them online, on twitter for instance. It was certainly a novel and unconventional approach to raise the awareness against selective-sex abortions, which were still being reported as common incidents across the nation.

The idea, was that the act of taking a selfie with your daughter, would inspire others and yourself as well to cherish the female child. The initiative, started in a rural village in Haryana, aimed to tackle the problem by stimulating the most ancient incentive of all; human emotions.

There was one person, though. an actress who questioned the effectiveness of such a scheme. She happened to voice her apprehension in the same medium as the campaign, twitter, and unfortunately was rewarded with an incredible amount of abuse. People called her a thesaurus-worth of obscenities, with some individuals (and opinion groups) going as far as to suggest that she had been a victim of abuse from her father at childhood.

Maybe she was validated. in voicing her concerns. After all, we are the world's -yawn- biggest
'democracy'. And as effective as the selfie campaign could be, in the long term, it is more likely that improvements in the accessibility and quality of education, particularly in the inculcation of sex and health education would have a better long-term effect in reversing the trend of India's dropping sex-ratio.

But did she deserve to be a victim of people looking for a 'score' in social circles? No, nobody deserves that I think, and especially not my poor resident class top scorer.  

1 comment:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. Hope you write more often.