[music| ‘Maaeri’: Euphoria from the album ‘Phir Dhoom’]
I will admit that I do not know much of this world, it has really only been a few years since I have actually started thinking and have woken up to the realisation that the world is more than what I think and feel and want.
But the more I learn of this world, there is only one thing that becomes clearer and clearer to me.
I do not fit into any of the neat pigeonholes that define the various groups and subgroups in society—nor do I really wish to fit into them.
I do not believe in God, but I cannot label myself an atheist because I do not have a problem with organised religion—when it works to influence people to be kinder and more generous and gives them hope and some reason to continue with their lives in the face of overwhelming odds.
I think people—all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, education, wealth, sexual orientation—deserve the same rights, the same freedoms and the same respect. Yet I approve of the curtailing of that freedom in certain cases, such as locking up convicted criminals who are a danger to others. Or if the family of an alcoholic were to forcibly check him/her into a rehabilitation clinic to stop him from drinking him/her-self to death.
I cannot claim to be a capitalist, because when I see those who struggle so much for so little, I am enraged by their lot in life and wish there was some way to help them. But I cannot claim to be a communist, either, because I believe that when someone talented has toiled to produce something, he deserves adequate recompense—even if there are other people starving in the streets—be he a software engineer, a sweeper of the streets, a neurosurgeon or a writer of symphonies.
I believe in the freedom of speech: to paraphrase Voltaire, ‘I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ When someone writes fanfic in which a person sexually abuses his younger brother, I do not think a lack of artistic merit (which is subjective, anyway), or lack of recourse for the victim occurring within the plot, or even lack of adequate warning for disturbing content—are reason enough to call for banning the story or criticising the author for writing it at all. I do believe, however, that inflammatory speech/writing that incites violence or hatred against anyone should not be allowed to spread.
I support equal rights for women, but I hesitate to call myself a feminist, given what I have come to understand of the word. If a woman were to find happiness in giving up her job to give life to and rear her children, I would not consider her a ‘victim’ of a patriarchal, exploitative society. I would rejoice that she has the freedom to choose her own path to happiness and that she has the resources to actively pursue it. And if she were to find happiness and fulfillment in her job, and decided to hire someone to take care of her children instead, I would not consider her a bad mother.
Similarly, if a woman were to have a relationship with a man (with a sexual dimension) where they were to have the occasional disagreement and the ups and downs common to any relationship, I would not consider that he was exploiting her. Nor would I think he was ‘raping’ her whenever they have sex [Robin Morgan and Judith Levine], because rape and abuse (including marital rape and abuse) are much more terrorising and horrifying things than a husband pressurising his wife into having sex when she didn’t feel like it—which is still wrong.
Growing up in today’s world, I have seen and heard of—and even experienced firsthand—the terrible things done to women by men, but I cannot hate all men or consider them the enemy. I do not—or I strive not to—think that every man who looks at me when I walk down the street is molesting me in his mind.
I believe in rational explanations for all things, and science, and cold hard facts, but I also realise that faith is one of the strongest forces known to man. I try not to attempt to change someone’s faith or convert them to my own, and I expect the same courtesy from others. I cannot condone, however, the fact that most faiths call to people to hold themselves separate from those who do not walk the same path, which almost always eventually leads to divisiveness and violence against the ‘others’. I still have faith in humanity, however, and I trust that some day we will finally get it right.
I do not think we should divide ourselves into cliques or groups based on what we wear, who we know, where we party, where we studied, what religion we follow, what party we vote for, and a myriad other things, but I also think there must be a clear distinction between those who would visit violence on others and those who would not.
I do not believe that violence is the way to solve conflicts, but sometimes the big stick is really more effective than the softly spoken words. And the ends justify the means, but who decides which is the ‘right’ reason for war or violence or a riot?
I believe that war is terrible, and should always be the last resort, but sometimes it seems to be necessary when the only other alternative is to see the world swallowed by evil, but who decides which war is a necessary one, and who decides the nature of the evil? And how come all leaders and politicians who call for war forget that a clash of ideologies eventually ends up killing human beings—soldiers who leave behind grieving families?
I do not believe that life is sacred because it was created by a God, but I realise that it has value and it cannot—and should not—be taken away lightly. I believe that it is the woman’s body and therefore her choice—and her partner’s, if she has one—whether she wishes to have a child or not. I look at all those who are born with congenital disorders, and I wonder if they are happy with their lives, are their families happy? Or would they have been better off if their parents could have made a choice for them?
But I also wonder about all the potential that may be lost to the world if abortion were to become a right afforded to women. Then I wonder whether the child would have grown up to be a murderer or an artist, or even just a perfectly ordinary human being like everyone else.
I am vegetarian by habit, not by choice, and I have eaten non-vegetarian meals occasionally. I find I cannot agree with the moral stand of the people who claim that they are vegetarian because they cannot bear to harm living creatures by eating non-vegetarian food. Science has proven that plants are sentient creatures, and vegetarians are thus as bad as non-vegetarians. But we have to eat to survive, and the habits of a lifetime are hard to break, so I remain mostly a vegetarian.
In retrospect it seems that often I am never sure which side of the line I am on, or even who drew the line in the first place.
I am anti-labels.
In the end, I find I am only one thing for certain: human.