By Kritika Kapoor
Mother: Natali, stop running around the terrace! Don’t you see the pickles are kept in the sunlight? Stay away, else you’ll rot them all.
Natali: What have I done, Amma ?
Mother: Haven’t I asked you to read in your room until afternoon?
*The next morning, Natali’s family is at the breakfast table.*
Mother (murmuring to Natali): Child, if Anna asks you to go along with him to the temple today, tell him you are unwell.
Natali: But Amma, I am fine.
Mother: No…Shush! You can’t go to the temple! Also, remember not to wash your head these days.
Natali (aside to her mother): But why?
Mother (speaking softly): Menstruating girls can’t, that’s why.
(in an audible tone): Here, finish your glass of milk.
*Few minutes later*
Natali: Appa, please do buy a packet of sanitary pads as you come home this evening.
*An awkward silence surrounds the room.*
Mother: What was the need to ask ‘Appa’ to buy the pads?
Natali: Why can’t I, Amma?
Our ‘peaceful co-existence’ in 21st Century comprises of our minds majorly filled with the preaching of religious and moral teachers telling us that our biology is a sin. Our values are a mixture of superstitious and orthodox approaches targeting women in the society and supressing them on issues such as menstruation. The superstitions that are blindly followed without any valid explanations by our mothers and the orthodoxy, overruled in the minds of India’s patriarchy, motivationally teaches the youth how to be apologetically shameful about the natural processes. Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerning with values relating to human conduct in dealing with identification of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The concept of righteousness according to an elder is deliberately fitted into the minds of the innocent children. As soon as a child begins to see things clearly, he is directed in a manner of his tone, gestures and specific games to be played based on the suitability of gender, which is where a line is drawn, crossing it in any way will be considered shameful for the family.“Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and “Meri beti Mera Abhiman” seems quite exquisite in the posters pasted behind auto rikshaws but education isn’t limited to just educational institutions and pride is not earned by merely performing household chores. With education, forms an ideology wherein an individual attains a perspective, that ‘can’ be different from her mother’s ‘unanswered’ views on menstruation. Generating a perspective, becoming ambitious and making life decisions must not be considered as drowning of values, yet we hear cases of honour killing because of the profound patriarchal beliefs that honour is found in the body of a mother, sister and daughter. Still it is a question of mystery that whose honour is the Indian male dominated patriarchy saving by killing their own blood? Or has our value system fallen to the meagre materialistic needs of how we will be perceived by others?
Values are a set of principles and beliefs that guides one’s actions and contributes in his understanding to perceive situations based on the notions of experience. As students, we have always learnt to impart good values, do good deeds, see good, believe good and expect good. But the world outside is not that fair, in fact the mask of goodness is often worn to mislead, initiate illegal practices like terrorism, hoarding and drug abuse. While we are confined in the dungeons of ignorance wondering that the crime has been committed very far from us, we are promoting more goblins to rape and burn alive another daughter once she has been able to fulfil their thirst. This selfish motive inherited in the value system of these people exceeds all bounds of humanity, instancing the case of Lakshmi, an acid attack survivor, being attacked by a 32 year old man when she refused his marriage proposal at the age of 15. The addition to her misery was not her drowning faith in herself after the attack but the several ways in which the society repeatedly attacked, commenting her to be “Useless and worthy of dying!”
Another sickening fact in the ideology of our society, deeply rooted in our value system is that through one way or the other we find the victim to be responsible for the crime happening to her, blaming it either on the girl’s clothes, her character or her ethical code of conduct. The beliefs and religious practices of our Country are not questionable, what is questionable is the intensity of blindly following these traditions. When Baba Ram Rahim can sexually exploit numerous innocent girls and the so called devoted ‘priests’ can rape a five year old girl in the backside of a temple, how can we still continue to religiously follow an astrologer’s recommendation to visit the Peepal Tree every Tuesday to offer it a cup of rice. Neither sex education is imparted at school level nor prostitution being legalised in our country. However the crimes against women aren’t reduced by keeping ‘sex’ a secret within the walls, ‘periods’ in whispers of females or by the shopkeepers wrapping the sanitary napkins in brown paper. In his statement, one of the six culprits involved in Nirbhaya’s gangrape stated that he was not guilty for putting the iron rod inside her for she ‘deserved’ it.
Let alone the distorted mentality of the criminal but the elite professionals or even the educated class work their best to ascertain an accusation against the victim regarding her date, time and purpose of practicing the right she had been constitutionally granted since 1947. People comprising such values might be the ones not in favour of normalising the acceptance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) as they might be busy contributing their share in the ‘criticism’ part. After all, we still live in a country where once Breast Tax was imposed on the lower caste women in Kerala if they wanted to cover their breasts.
On one hand, we gain utmost pride in praising the remarkable hospitality that Indians offer but on the other hand, we do witness a handful of old and senile couple absolutely and helplessly homeless, a parent wanting a little love on his deathbed and a pregnant woman being disowned by her in laws with a few months old baby girl wrapped around her chest. We hail for the patriotic army and navy personnel for their commendable hard work and sacrifice, but stay silent on the concept of ‘Brain drain’, that is somehow putting the country’s progress at stake because we ourselves consider it a privilege to let our child earn in dollars.
Where does our morals and ethics vanish when it comes to fighting for the rights of other humans? Inheriting the right values does not involve our capacity to well discriminate between Hindus and Muslims but to serve without having a hope for any returns. True happiness comes from treating everyone equally rather than stressing to figure out whether one is Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra and measurably giving them ‘respect’.We are often involved in discussions stating that preservation of human life is the ultimate value and how essential it is to contribute our share for the humankind. Then is it not strange that we answer by elaborating our silences when lower caste people are brutally murdered in remote areas and their precious body organs been traded for a large sum of money ?
Why have the values of majority of us taught us to be the mute spectators of injustice? Had B.R. Ambedkar’s values been reflected the same as most of us, our nation would still have been caught in the eternal stigma of caste system. Guru Nanak Dev Ji answered the most prominent religious inquiry 500 years ago that which was the greater of the two religions prevalent in India then, Hinduism or Muslim, to which he replied without morality both will be losers.
Hence, we must raise our voice against the injustice and allow our instinct to guide our actions in way to uplift the humankind and stand united instead of discriminating and dividing each other based on societal norms. The true essence of values and ethics that is being lost by not using them in the right manner must be restored by becoming spiritual beings. It’s the time to leave behind the values of Manu smriti and stand united irrespective of race, caste, class and religion, only then the truest and purest form of values and ethics will be restored within us.