As I sat in the red line subway headed to Harvard, the conversation I had with Hari kept playing in my mind. The plan was to watch the first Harry Potter movie as a family in the evening. So I owed him an explanation as to why it was not going to materialize.
“Why will you not join us amma?”, he asked. “Someone did something really bad to someone in India”, before I could complete, he shot a volley of questions at me, “Who did what? and why did they do it?” “A man was very violent to a woman and hit her so badly that it caused her to die. He did that because he thought he could get away with it. I am going to join a bunch of other people to say that it is not ok to treat anyone with violence and that we should treat each other with dignity.” As I scooped the hot chocolate and mixed it with his milk, I added, “Remember Hari, it’s not ok to treat anyone in an inhuman manner nor is it ok to let anyone to treat you in an inhuman manner. And if you see someone doing something wrong you should do something about it.” I was not prepared for the question that followed, “should I help out even if it means I will get killed?” He had me stumped and I confessed that I didn’t have an answer.
As I mulled over the conversation, I had more questions than answers.
The local Indian Organizations joined hands to organize a candle light vigil this evening to honor Damini and express intolerance to the barbaric acts. I headed to the venue with mixed emotions – skepticism (is this gesture just symbolic without yielding anything actionable?), relief (in some ways, this gesture convinced me that we care, that together we can make a difference), and sadness (really, what these men did will make the wildest of beasts shudder), and helplessness (honestly, how can I make a difference?)
As I joined a couple of other strangers who were going to the vigil, I sensed similar sentiments. The gathering was filled with activists holding placards that were reflection of anger, rage and impatience. As the speaker unfolded the agenda for the evening, we helped each other light our candles. There were statements from a number of organizations – how this incident is just the tip of the iceberg, and that what really needs to happen is to address the problem where it originates – at the Dalit and the lower rung of the society where atrocities of this nature is not uncommon and often goes unreported. What originates there seeps into middle class. I concurred with the statement from AID India that made concrete demands from the Indian government.
There were heart wrenching poems and a skit. A survivor of violence sang her heart out – I am more than a victim of my back, I am sunshine. I am survivor of violence. I am also a survivor of love. She left us streaming with tears this cold winter night. Resolutions were made and pledges taken for freedom from sexual prejudices and atrocities.
The event came to a close as all of us sang “We shall overcome”, and “Hum honge Kamiyaap” in unison. The pit was filled with energy and possibilities. I felt calmer and assured.
Do something, anything. Change your attitude, spread awareness, learn self defense. Enkay has expressed beautifully how Change should come from You, please hop over and read. Empower yourself.
Do not underestimate the difference you can make. You may be a drop in the ocean, but remember that without drops like you there is no ocean. Every drop collectively can make a difference. Absolutely, there is power in numbers.