rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Bring back the love!

Bring back the love!

June 29, 2017 13:44 IST

Hate is far easier to package.
And that is perhaps why politicians do not see the We Care feeling as a currency worth cultivating.
It is high time we showed them the currency of this transaction too exists.
And that we make this We Care currency precious enough to hoard and bank upon, says Shameem Akthar.

IMAGE: 'Though there were small groups of people who knew each other, most others were strangers, with the comfortable awkwardness of being strangers with a common sense of outrage and a deep caring.'
All photographs: Shameem Akthar

Since the time I read news reports of the lynching, I have had very restless sleep.

He was just a child.

I am a mother.

It is an immediate sense of maternal connection. There is nothing more.

And the sheer and sustained horror of his torture.

The silence of others all round.

The senselessness of it.

The sense of foreboding that continued to nag me was really what was unpredictable.

Why should I be so deeply affected in a country where mob-lynching has become so commonplace, that some troll pops up on my screen if I post my distress and 'offers' (read 'bullies') that I should not discuss this because it has been happening for so long!

The sheer horror of this attitude -- of why-are-you-bothered-because-it-is-nothing-new -- truly bothers me. It should bother all of us.

So, when the #NotInMyName protests was planned through a spontaneous movement online for a peace meeting at Carter Road, Bandra west, Mumbai, I was there prepared for the rain in a coat, and my poster laminated against the assaults.

The crowds were coming in slowly. Stray loners, many foreigners, too, curious, alone, but supportive.

IMAGE: 'The sheer horror of this attitude -- of why-are-you-bothered-because-it-is-nothing-new -- truly bothers me. It should bother all of us.'

Though there were small groups of people who knew each other, most others were strangers, with the comfortable awkwardness of being strangers with a common sense of outrage and a deep caring.

This is such a huge human feeling, to be able to say We Care. It is also very fine, beyond description.

And perhaps that is why it is difficult to put it in a package and gather mobs, as hatred does.

Hate is far easier to package. And that is perhaps why politicians do not see the We Care feeling as a currency worth cultivating.

It is high time we showed them the currency of this transaction too exists. And that we make this We Care currency precious enough to hoard and bank upon.

I had gone in a bit late, and missed activist-actress Shabana Azmi addressing the small gathering. But by the time I reached, more people were coming in.

It was such a relief to see that others were feeling the same sense of foreboding, distress, caring, that I felt.

There is nothing more scary than thinking you are the only one who cares in a large country because that makes you helpless. And this helplessness isolates you. Then silences you.

And that would be as bad as participating in acts no sane human being should.

So, I think for all of us gathered there the sweetest sense was of being connected by a deep caring.

In a world going into a shambles with so many labels and divisions, to say no to all of them and say we are one is a huge gesture.

Especially since this coming together was spontaneous, this we-are-together should be noted seriously as a valid emotion, even more valid than the jingoism being thrust down our throats.

It was heartening to see the youth out too. Boys as usual were in small groups, but many girls were alone, under the umbrella as the rain played footsie.

All age groups had turned out, and whenever I broke ice with someone (as I am wont to do as a former journalist), the one thing that struck everyone was how many people had turned out despite the rain.

I think it was very encouraging and touching for those who cared to know that they were not alone.

And this could be a very important emotion to hang on to -- that we are not alone, as is being made out (when someone tells you that lynchings have been happening long enough so why bother).

IMAGE: Actress Nandita Sen at the protest. 'There were many celebrities around, but the nice thing about the crowd was that the celebs were not seeking attention and the gathering was not there for them.'
 

The most important feeling here was the sense of being together, caring and saying we are prepared to hang on to this feeling.

And perhaps, I hope, to suggest that this is just the tip of a groundswell, of a bonding that will show the world we Indians have stayed and struggled together for so long with our differences.

That we wish to improve upon that beautiful bonding.

And that we hope to remove the thorns in the past and reach for the roses in the future.

And that we will not squander it away.

Keeping with that temper, the policemen and women in their bright yellow raincoats were in a loose circle around the group, with their body language indicating they did not expect any trouble.

Many in the gathering had printed out posters, and some had them handwritten. They were all holding them at their chest or above the head, wanting to express their sense of solidarity under a shared threat.

Though most people had the #NotInMyName poster, like myself, others had innovated: 'I am immovable stone in your world of weak -- I speak'.

The list of things they did not want in their name included casteism, communalism, fascism, cowlitics. No to 'Lynchbox' in my name. Another asked pointedly, 'Peace sells but who is buying'.

There were many celebrities around, but the nice thing about the crowd was that the celebs were not seeking attention and the gathering was not there for them.

Nobody was gawking because the intention was only to connect and to care. Strangers smiled at each other, if the eyes connected. But that too was not a requisite.

The press photographers/TV cameras arranged themselves on a raised platform but the protesters were not performing for them.

If they wish to be seen, it was because they wanted their message to be heard.

Even the press presence was gentle, not shrill, as it is wont to be these days.

Except for a few photographers pushing you out forcibly for their picture of the day, the rest of the troupe moved about the group gently, as if infused with the sentiment all around.

IMAGE: 'The press photographers/TV cameras arranged themselves on a raised platform but the protesters were not performing for them.'
 

Since there was no agenda or programme as such, except to gather, you would think a large group like that would disperse after some time. But they all stayed the entire two hours, which passed fast.

When the rains descended hard, the umbrellas opened and everybody hung on till around 7 pm when we were politely told that the permission was till only then, that we had to pack up.

The group dispersed as it came, gently.

There was a shy, on-and-off talk of forming a human chain, but it would start and break since there really was no specific game-plan.

But a group of artists started singing and the rest sang along, following the leader, as it were.

A drum was taken out, its beat creating a sweet resonance of firm togetherness, singing simple songs that said no to divisiveness, and yes to sharing a common path.

You can keep your mandir and masjid, but you cannot take away our togetherness, he sang. And we sang along.

The mood was infectious, and I wished for the whole of India to be there, to feel this.

IMAGE: 'The mood was infectious, and I wished for the whole of India to be there, to feel this.'
 

Bring back the love, one poster said.

Yes, please.

Shameem Akthar