“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Martin Niemoller
(Every morning I wake up and thank my parents for sending me to study in the bougainvillea laced beautiful campus of JNU. It was an act of great kindness on their part. They were not rich but they never compromised on spending money on providing quality education to their daughters. My parents could have asked me to study in Odisha and saved the money for themselves. But they let me explore a whole new intellectual, creative and absolutely fascinating world. JNU changed the way I listen to music, watch films, understand life, society, art, identity and most importantly India. It taught me the importance of dissent and protest.It taught me to celebrate diversity, pluralism and secularism.
My friend asks me not to be too vocal against Hindu fundamentalists on Twitter. She loves me. I think of this beautiful poem written in bold red color on a thick black paper and pasted on one of the walls of JNU. I know the poem by heart.
We are living in tough times. The voices of dissent need to be loud in the times we are living in. If we don’t protest, who will then? What kind of narratives will we be leaving for our daughters, sons, nieces and nephews? )
Mellowed sunshine lazily filtering through the drawn curtains of my room,
You making your way through fleeting clouds,
Your mobile phone in ‘switched off’ mode,
From STD calls, we will now graduate to ISD calls,
To hear each other’s voices,
To make an otherwise ordinary day extraordinary,
To make life seem less lonely,
But that will take a little while,
Right now there’s no way you and I could talk….
We only have memories to talk to,
We talked just before you boarded the flight/ We talked about the two different time zones we would now live by/ We exchanged skype ids/ We talked about writing to each other/ And then we talked about America/It’s difficult to not talk about America/When Syria is there/And you said, ‘America is not a country, it’s a Continent.’ / You know why I loved America at that moment/It made me burst into laughter/ Even when you were flying away to/ Another Land….
Far beyond the glass window,
there is a life under a beautiful sky,
A life beyond work and a payslip,
a life beyond our respective glowing computer screens,
a life beyond the neatly arranged shelves of a supermarket,
a life beyond an ironed white shirt and a sari pinned to perfection.
Why must you and I be so far away from each other,
when we know that it will rain,
Why must I ignore the sound of the rain,
by increasing the volume of the TV in the living room,
Why must I kill the hunger of passion,
By biting slices of yesterdays.
Why must you go away,
leaving me all alone under a cloud,
Why must I turn and twist on a rainy night
that smells of wet earth and intimacy.
Why must you go away,
Leaving me to soak in falling raindrops
(I wrote this while I was listening to Bruno Mars’ heart-warming song ‘It will rain’)