Being the subject of discussion on a Facebook post of someone I didn’t even know too well was amusing at first but it quickly became a source of much anguish and hurt when people took to name calling and caste discrimination.
When a friend asked me if I had seen a senior’s post on Facebook, I didn’t think it would be anything much but a quick look made me realize how vicious people can be. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know the person who is being discussed. The attacks are just as personal.
It all started with a senior disturbing us during an exam. The invigilator had taken his answer sheet and he had been constantly nagging her to give it back. Not being able to focus on my own paper because of his constant whining, I asked the invigilator to either give him back his paper or make him go to another room. I said we couldn’t focus.
The invigilator gave the answer sheet back to him but he stormed out of the exam hall, banging the door on his way out. Apparently, he chose to leave rather than “write a paper that was given to him by somebody else’s persuasion”.
He could have come to me in person and confronted me if he had not liked me complaining about the environment he had created in the exam hall. But what do we do in the modern era of technology and social media? We upload statuses on Facebook and tweet rather than confronting and solving the problem in real life. And that is exactly what he did. The only difference was that it wasn’t just a regular Facebook status. From the derogatory words he used in his status, it was clear that he wanted to bring me down, mentally.
His friends and acquaintances had made many belittling, offensive, and insulting comments. My best friend was infuriated to say the least. The people who had commented on the status weren’t present in the exam hall and didn’t know what had happened. Yet there they were commenting as if they had witnessed the account first hand.
I could feel my hands shaking as I scrolled through the nasty comments. My tongue felt like sandpaper and my eyes were feeling heavier by the minute. I even told myself that the people who were commenting didn’t know me or that I had barely spoken to them so it didn’t matter what they thought. But the comments kept coming and they got worse.
“Jaat le aukaat dekhaayo” (her caste shows her status) said someone in a comment. “Naari ko naam ma kalank” (she should be ashamed to be a woman) said another. The others that followed questioned and insulted my beliefs and values while claiming it was all because of the caste I belonged to.
It made me furious but, at the same time, I also realized I just didn’t want to belong to a community that fueled hatred on the basis of gender, caste, and ethnicity. A community with biases wasn’t one I wanted to be a part of. I was in my early twenties like the rest of them but I have never had that kind of rage in me to destroy other people’s self-esteem.
What’s worse and hypocritical was that the person who started the caste hate-conversation by first commenting on my caste and status works for an online news portal and writes mostly about social issues like discrimination and injustice.
That evening, I spent hours crying, not because I felt bad (that too) but more because it felt like a sad, sad world to live in. My parents were upset and furious but none of us knew how to deal with a situation like that.
Use cybercrime laws against them hoping that it would suddenly change their perceptions? My father faced a greater quandary. He wanted to take legal action but he felt he couldn’t do that to “children” who were the same age as his daughter. This mindset that my father had was perhaps the only reason they got away with what they did.
However, I also know that tackling one isolated case won’t change a thing. I know I will come across many people like them in the future. I don’t know how that one incident has shaped me but I know that I’m ready to deal with such situations should I have to face them later on in life.
It’s just not in my hands to change what people believe in. If they have had a certain mindset for their whole lives, I can’t suddenly change it. Education and getting a degree mean nothing when you don’t understand the world you live in and have an open mind to embrace the differences.
Just because someone has reached a certain position professionally does not mean they are accepting of every other positions and achievements that exist. In an era where women are constantly fighting to be treated as an equal and not be defined by the masochistic and patriarchal standards, I will come across more men like this.
I will always have to stand up for my name in a country where so many people say, “It’s the 21st century. How can you still be talking about caste discriminations? Everyone is equal,” but also add, “You cannot really get married into my house. Everyone is equal but inter-caste marriage is a bit too extreme”. In a college/world that teaches and preaches gender equality and standing up for social issues, I know I will still find people who will learn all of this but not apply any of it in real life.
However, realizations don’t come easy. Before getting to the point where I understood how people’s perceptions differ, for a week, I was in that state where I would wake up every morning and have breakdowns just thinking about the comments people had made on that one status. I spent a week looking behind me every minute or so while walking down the street because we live in that kind of world where women have to be a little wary.
But it was just a matter of time. I slowly got to the point where I started feeling bad for them because they would have to spend their lives with this kind of mentality and perception. And I also realized that if you are the kind of person who is not afraid to stand up for what is right, who is assertive and speaks her mind, you will come across people who will try to bring you down just because they can never be you.