In our civil society, in tougher times, group dominance dictates the rights and freedom of the weaker “Others”.
Let’s start with what we know best. We are living in very challenging times. But then, are we? Throughout ages people have concluded that the time periods they are experiencing are the toughest of all times. Yes, we are living through an anomaly of sorts. Something that brings out the shining armor in some, while also in certain cases, it gives us a sneak peek into our actual true selves. Of late, during these extra long hours of social distancing, isolation and loneliness, we have reverted to the concept of stonewalling ourselves behind our inherent theories of good vs bad. Living through these daily tussles inside our minds, all of us have formed a designated category of what the “Other” is and why we should steer clear of the them.
The obvious is, distancing ourselves and our loved ones from those who have happened to been infected. That is one form of the Other, then the category expands to assimilate those that have an increased chance of being infected, even if they haven’t proven to be so yet. These would include airline staff, healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, basically anyone engaged in providing necessary aid. The vanguard or the front line workforce. You would argue, if we isolate the healthcare professionals, how do we hope to survive without care, if and when the unthinkable happens. But consider this, classification or labeling focuses on the “because” and not on the “what then”.
Then there are obvious other subsets of the “Others” that seem to overlap each other, sort of like a Venn diagram. The religiously inflicted Others, the socially dependent Others, the household help Others, the migrant worker Others, the non-essential Others and so on and so forth. If push comes to shove, in a couple of weeks these so-called disjointed sets would increasingly intersect one another. In our civil society, in tougher times, group dominance dictates the rights and freedom of the weaker “Others”. This is not just an Indian phenomenon, to an extent even racism abides by this principle.
Indian society is so caught up by the caste segregation, through generations, and these days by religious divides, that we often tend to ignore or gulp down the subtle forms of “Other” divides. Take for instance a very basic case of being a tenant in a rented apartment. More often than not, young and unattached professionals are viewed with a certain degree of skepticism. If you’ve rented an apartment in a metropolitan area, you know the drill. The interviews, the look of being a social outcast, the feeling of having to convince perfectly rational people that you are perfectly likable and rational yourself. We’ve almost all been there. We’ve been the “Other”.
Women might be better familiar with this idea. We are treated as literal second tier humans in some or the other way, all our lives. Some rank higher on the scale of misfortunes, some prove lucky to be mildly dismissed and asked to not worry our pretty heads for nothing. It’s always in good fun and we are always encouraged to take it in good spirit.
If I go down further on the privileged road, the “Others” crowd around your car each time you enter a small town or a village. These “Others” are the ones walking hundreds of miles to reach their villages, braving this intense heat and acute hunger. The “Others” are of the untouchable creed, the lowest, the hungriest and the poorest. It’s not that we don’t intend well. We are helping, we do come forward. We are doing all we can as a society to help them stay afloat, in times of utter despair. But only in times of despair. On a normal day, do we think twice before creating even these verbal divides of one and the “Other”? What we are not, or that we deem unworthy in any way, is always the “Other”.
The fact remains, that we almost never, view this discrimination as something we need to progressively work towards fixing. The status quo remains molded to suit our senses. It’s ironical that one of the most coveted jobs of the Indian society, of being a doctor, is slowly becoming somewhat of a stigma. That too, when we are bemoaning the fact that there are so few of them to cater to the vast population. By a comical twist of fate, the doctors are also a part of the “Others”.
A pandemic is unpredictable. We had never thought a healthcare crisis could rise up to global proportions. We don’t live day in and day out with uncertainties and that makes this all the more scary. However, there is a degree of hope in randomness.
Predictions say, we will get through this for sure. And when we do, we might need to re-look what our tempers and attitudes have been through this period. Showcasing inclusiveness might be need of the heroic hour but holding on to that promise would be a lot more challenging. The “Others” will return. What remains to be seen is, would we give them the required breathing space? Or would we take one step forward and bring them in.
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Manojita loves to write alongside her regular 9-5. Flair for language, poetry, art etc
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