While working on an article I came across a study which proves that the greenery in the Mumbai city is linked to the socio-economic conditions of the population. The study proves that affluent neighbourhoods are visibly greener than neighbourhoods of low income groups. I had used this study to extrapolate to the overall geo-political issue that is climate change. The idea that green spaces and natural habitats belong only to the affluent is deeply problematic and you don’t need me to tell you that. However, things are the way they are, and what the damn fig can I do about it? Not a god-damned thing that’s what.
I’ve been currently wrestling with accepting the spaces I inhabit the way they are. We love to say, “but that’s just how things work” and I am unable to find acceptance in my heart for the way things currently work. It causes heartache only to me and no one else, so I don’t recommend this malaise. New generations don’t have much manners. That’s just the way it is. Upper middle class will live with agonising traffic but not use their power and wealth to make a change. That’s just the way it is. Leadership is all about jingoism and inciting performative action. That’s just the way it is. Men will talk crass about young girls in their spaces. That’s just the way it is. And on and on it goes. Can anything good come out of Nazareth, I ask myself. I don’t answer.
When we were in our 20s we used to throw around the word ‘entropy’ because we had decided that we knew what it meant. That it was cool and hip to be existential. I have grown out of being existential but entropy still remains. The steady tumbling of life into a long, dank rabbit hole of the universe’s making. Will we have a tea party by the end of it? That remains to be seen. So, imagine my frustration when all that I have learnt in theory I cannot put to practice in reality. I’ve always known that violence against women exists in our society. Having to see it from a close view bothers me because I am absolutely unable to do anything to remediate the situation. My mother’s cousin, MG, who is a year older than me has been in a verbally and physically abusive marriage for many years. She has been pleading her maternal family to help her get a divorce but to no avail. There’s a lot of victim-blaming and shaming her for not being able to keep her marriage intact. MG has made it categorically clear to everyone involved that she won’t go back to her narcissistic husband and props to her for being so brave. It has been over 2 years and she still hasn’t received the divorce she asked for. Her in-laws have confiscated all her wedding gold. They’ve taken her two daughters away from her. To be fair, I expect this from in-laws. Oh well, that’s just the way it is. But what gets my goat is that most recently her brother hit her and threw her out of their maternal home. She had to spend the night out on the road with one of her daughters and she had no one to call for help. She’s not welcome back in her maternal home and has a makeshift living arrangement. It breaks my heart. I feel helpless*. I don’t care what she has done to dishonour a family name, that is no way to treat your own sister. Why have people put ‘honour’ in the vaginas and shoulders of women? Why don’t you own your own honour and be a decent frigging human for one nanosecond? I have debated writing about this for so long and I am always filled with rage on any update she provides when she can. But I think this kind of stuff should be conversation more often. I know it’s not the most pleasant thing to hear, but this behaviour towards the women of my family and the women of Indian society is far too common and should be unacceptable. I’m getting really tired of having to sanitise language in order to suit sensibilities. You’re offended? Whatever. I don’t care.
Sanitising language in order to placate a large crowd is a problem. Speaking xenophobic vitriol in order to rile people up is also a problem. Words have power. So I wonder a lot and wonder deep on what kind of conversations must abound our social spaces? All in good faith, recently I had to debate and defend my use of the word ‘privilege’ in a document at work. Privilege is not a slur, and I’m not entirely sure if it should be. Men sitting in places of privilege they’ve created for themselves have to accept the simple fact that what they allow and what they deny has the power to shape our social spaces. It boggles my mind. This is for all men, in all walks of life. They have power that the rest of us don’t. I’ve seen my father incur the wrath of society for defending his girls and giving us a life of our own choosing. He’s the first feminist in my life. Only now, after so many years, I appreciate the battles he has fought for my sister and me. If all men did this for the women in their lives and women at workspaces, we would live in a radically different world. So you don’t get to downplay the word ‘privilege’? It really isn’t that bad of a thing if you use it well. Don’t sanitise language and euphemise the act of living. It’s not helping anyone.
All in all, I am starting to think that volume of time should trump volume of money. I don’t care how much money is thrown at a thing, if it has lasted the test of time, it wins. Lasted the test of time. Not having made to endure, mind you. I have come to this conclusion on seeing large trees, whenever I do. The amount of time and energy that has been invested by nature in growing a tree cannot be replaced by money. So, all those affluent people who think urban greening belongs only to you, I have to say — screw you. Profanity and all, I know. But I just made the point about sanitising language, so there goes that. Have these upper class people asked for trees in their midst? Probably not. But I am not blind to the power structures of this world and neither are you, dear reader. We all know that housing societies, expansive resorts, and palatial upper and high class spaces want to have manicured lawns and swaying trees and orange lights that flicker at night on the cemented paths where you want to take a walk after having fueled the capitalistic machine. Nature doesn’t only belong to you so stop acting like only your immediate surroundings need to be taken care of while the rest of your cities can go to hell on a handcart.
Yes, rage is a part of it all. Like they say, if you aren’t angry, you’re not paying attention. I thought I was paying attention and that’s why all this realism, then, I met someone exactly like me. This woman sat across me and said things I would say, the way I would say them. It was both, fascinating and creepy to watch. I asked my other friends present ‘Is that how I am?‘ They nodded in assent. What underscores the difference between us is that she’s a self-proclaimed optimist while I am not. I may be a realist, but I am not optimistic without action. It was like sitting outside of myself and seeing how I am perceived. Man, this world is amazing and bonkers all at the same time.
Sometimes, I want to nestle in my privilege and live an ivory tower life so that I don’t have to wrestle with all these opinions and feelings. (Basically, I want to be a rich man.) At others, I don’t. As a fish, I find myself conflicted all the time. It’s hard. Swimming is also hard for me, I tried it recently. I drowned more than I swam, but for some reason I laughed a lot while I did. It was surreal being in the water after decades of running away from my YMCA swimming class in fourth grade. I was able to float in water with my head underwater. It was nice, full of coloured hexagons on the pool floor, paused breathing, and a feeling of weightlessness. I should probably try it again, sometime.
*P.S. I am trying to find MG an employment opportunity somewhere in the baking business in and around Mumbai (she is a home baker currently to make ends meet). I will also need to find her a place to stay in and around the employment area. If you have any leads, please write to me.