A friend once told me, “Begging is the easiest job in the world.” It took me a couple of seconds to recover from the insensitivity of that statement. I was really appalled. I retorted, “If that is so, do you mind mind working as a beggar even for a day?”
People have such stinking sense of entitlement. They believe that a person can be who they want to be. It is not the system which decides our fate but we ourself. तूच तुझ्या जीवनाचा शिल्पकार! (You are the sculptor of your own life!)
People are taught to celebrate their achievements. They are told, these achievements are a result of your immense hardwork and talent. The opposite is also true: if a person fails at something, the whole onus is put on their own shoulders. As if people operate in isolation. As if external factors don’t matter at all. As if capitalism is such a fair system that it rewards people commensurate to their hardwork/ talents/ skills. This false notion which is passed on from one generation to the next and accepted as commonsense by everybody, is insidious. It makes any critique of our unjust system impossible. It pits one person in competition with the other. And it is completely devoid of empathy.
This earth has enough food, water and clothes for 7 billion of us but some people are made to beg for these basic necessities. We do not find this revolting only because of the inhumane system that we have created for ourselves and now are made to accept as normal. We spend such a vast amount of resources and human labour on completely useless things like cigarettes, gutka, soft drinks, fireworks and beauty products. We have taken such great strides in science and technology; we have been able to send robots to the outer space. But we cannot feed the hungry on this planet even when there is enough food available for everybody.
I think this is because we are made to believe that one has to work to get their food. It does not matter if the work opportunities are simply not there, or that people are not paid as much as they should be for their labour, or that their livelihood options have been snatched away from them along with their land and forests and rivers by our “benevolent” state and the multinational corporations working in collusion. I wonder what will happen if tomorrow a rule is made that one can only eat what they grow in their own backyard!
I live in a countryside called Wada, where girls and boys generally don’t interact with each other. I personally never talked to a girl outside my relations and neighborhood till I moved to Mumbai for my higher studies.
Human beings learn things through imitation. We never saw our seniors in school talk to girls. Girls and boys traditionally used to sit separately in classrooms and no teacher tried to break that tradition. It was the first implicit message given to us that you are not supposed to mingle with girls. No one told us to not talk to the girls. None of us received flak for talking to a girl. But friendship between a girl and a boy was outside societal norms and we knew it.
But new technology has given a major blow to this status quo. The proliferation of mobile phones and adoption of Facebook in last couple of years is giving new dimension to the relationships between the opposite sexes.
Mobile phones allow teenagers to communicate without being surveilled. No one has to know who you are talking to if you can talk without being heard (most teenagers have their favourite places and times for this purpose). SMS (short message service) takes this convenience a step further. You can talk to your ‘friend’ even in the presence of your parents, without them getting to know about it. As a result the number of courtships, elopements and love marriages have risen sporadically in the last few years.
The ever decreasing cost of electronic gadgets and telephone services has made sure that every teenager has either an internet-enabled smartphone or a feature phone in her palm. And the first access point for these netizens is, but obvious Facebook. Facebook has literally challenged the norms in our society. Telling a girl how pretty she looks on her face will otherwise be a very creepy thing to do, but not so on Facebook. Girls routinely upload their pictures on the site and boys ‘like’ them and post flattery comments.
Our society has a diaspora of students who have gone to cities for higher studies. This diaspora is more liberal and modern in their approach. This has further liberated the public sphere on Facebook. Though WhatsApp has still not caught on here, Facebook Chat is the next best thing available to these teenagers. Again, there is no surveillance and it’s better than SMS. Facebook Chat also allows people to nurture some ‘special’ friendships.
New technology has liberated the society. The trend has not remained limited only to mobile phones and Facebook. It has permeated in physical world too (though the extent is still limited). Classroom interactions between boys and girls have increased. Parents are becoming comfortable with the idea of platonic relationships between their teenage daughters and sons. Love marriages are no more taboos. Though this is a result of fundamental change in the society, attributable to many other factors, technology can take major credit for this.