Dear society, I have questions for you!


Shivani Waldekar

Shivani WaldekarMy dear society, do you know that I heard the word 'society' for the first time when I was in 11th standard when one of the teachers who loved me a lot taught us one day the valuable words of Maclver and Page, "Society is the web of Relationships.' Back then, I didn't have the lens to think on it critically, but today, when I go through the same definition I realise that if society is the web of relations, then the relations are with whom? I arrived at the answer that society is a web of relationships, and the interconnected relations with all living beings—animals as well as human beings. But today I see people don't live with each other in a healthy manner, let alone with animals. It may be that they are showing care about animals but they don't care about people. We people are not honest and truthful in our relationships. In the relationships with our mother, father, sister, brother, teacher, friend or stranger, we are either honest or we are diplomatic.

Before I heard about the word 'society', I used to confuse it with 'people'. My father used to talk about it—they said, what people say, what people think etc. Actually, what he was trying to tell me indirectly was about people who are in society or the society where people lived. If society is the web of humans' interrelations with each other then, their relations with each other should be ideal, loving and caring. At that time, I felt how beautiful and kind society is, but today, I have developed a dilemma about it. At this very young age and the very beginning of life, I feel like the society is so ridiculous. It maybe because at only 22 years of age, I have undergone much and tried to overcome it.

The society in which I was born, it wanted to kill me in my mother's womb because I was a girl child. The society loves a boy child more than a girl child. Because of this partial society and its system of patriarchy, people's minds are like that. Till today, we are denied gender equality and are living under a masculine attitude and domination. This society still tells me, even after growing up, not to speak more, not to laugh loudly because I am a girl. I was always told that society has different values and norms for girls and boys. It discriminates between girls and boys from their childhood when it tells us not to play with boys; and now it tells me only men are like this. Who made society like this? The men or women or both of them shape society. Who is the responsible for constructing society like this? We make society or society makes us? If we made society so why did we make it like this? Why the absence of humanity and freedom?

I have seen that if two people love each other publicly in the street, people beat them, shame them. But on the same street, if people fight each other, no one goes and stops it. They think it is their personal affair; but when they love each other, it becomes a public affairs. We have the right to express our emotions but if we express it, allegations are thrown against us. We have the right to think out of the box if we ever think of breaking the glass ceiling. Do we ever think: why is caste so rigid and whether we really need the long history attached to it, or do we derive any profit out of patriarchy?

However, this is the bitter truth of the society where I live, the Indian society. For me this society and its patriarchy are very closely linked to class, to caste, and to heteronormativity. As Indian Dalit middle class women where we are divided in the name of caste, class and gender. Other divisions like religion, language, culture, education, disability,etc., are also present. Many people are victims of this various intersections. Now, the big term is intersectionality. The number of intersections in our society makes our mind exclusiionary: what is good for some is bad for someone else. People treat everyone differently. Why are thy not able to treat everyone equally? Why is marriage mandatory? Marriage is everyone's personal choice. Who makes the rule that people should live together only after marriage, and not before?

It is like they are seeking permission from society (who is this society, this people who never cooperate with them; is it the fear of society, the fear that they might be beaten up, boycotted?) to fulfil their sexual desire. Are they both not enough, by themselves, to trust each other so they don't have to restrict themselves in the name of marriage. It is the same with having children: do we really need only biological children? Why can't we adopt, make a child happy? Why does a woman need one man always: father, brother or a husband? Why is she is not capable of living on her own? And who makes culture? Does culture make society, or is it society that makes culture? As per my lens, cultures don't make human beings, human being make cultures.

Culture needs to change with time and today our culture, our religious practices should change according to Indian constitution, which says all human beings are equal whatever their caste, class, sex or religion. Do we live for society or does society live for us? Today in our society there is so much hatred, jealousy, ignorance, inequality, exclusion, injustice, and slavery etc., which are all against the constitution. The constitution tells us about justice, liberty, equality and fraternity but we do not follow the the constitution; we accept the society which taught us violence and discrimination. Can we live without society? I don't think so. If there were no society, where do we communicate, where do we make our relations and sustain them? We need a society which doesn't harm us physically and emotionally. Do you feel we need to change society? Do you as readers feel we can change it? If yes, then firstly we need to carefully listen to our inner voices. If we find any negative traits we need to change our minds first, then think about others; and one day we will meet a prosperous, equal, free society. That day we will be born again with emancipated minds and that will be a perfect day for humanity. I recall here what Ambedkar said: ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality.

I share here a few verses that I composed, requesting society for its betterment:

Dear society, you are a bunch of rules and norms..

I mould myself for you but yet you judge me..

Dear society, why did you divide us in the name and fame of degraded systems..

We need equality and sovereignty in all spaces..

Dear society, why do you make us betray each other and why do you drive us to a point of committing suicide?

How do we enjoy this society where there is too much pain, misery and various burdens, restrictions in all domains?

We aren't able to endure anymore.

Dear society, why do I fear you, are you evil; I want to live fearless, unafraid of danger.

Dear society, why do you put yourself and us in a box, just free us and break the glass ceiling..

I want you to convert rigid society to become a society without chains, an ideal society..

Dear society, please, try to understand that I am here to call all change in a positive way that will take us all towards fresh, free days...



Shivani Waldekar is pursuing her Masters in Social Work in Livelihood and Social Entrepreneurship at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

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