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The long eulogies, the abject misery and the grief that follows the trails of violence could be avoided. Most gun violence can be avoided. The man who shot at kids, or the singer who was shot at, all of it could have been avoided.
A very young man goes into a school and shoots nineteen kids and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
A few days later, on the other side of the globe, a young popular Punjabi singer/rapper is shot dead when he is in his car – a total of thirty rounds of bullets fired at his SUV.
Why, is the immediate question. How, is a more complicated one.
Yes, we can use broader terms like ‘no gun control’ for the former incident, and ‘gang rivalry’ for the latter, but rules or no rules, we cannot deny that toxic masculinity showcases romance between guns and their controllers, and lies at the core of all the cases of gun violence. What we fail to control are the minds and the hands of the people who carry it, and once fired, it can lead to bloodbath. What we don’t even dare to control are the minds and the hands of those who are encouraging our boys to hold and fire these guns.
In the US, it’s easier for a man to buy a gun than it is for a woman to get an abortion.
In India, it’s not easy to get a gun, but we still see men firing them in the air at baraats, and then of course, there are incidents of gang wars, which further, are glorified in our film culture.
We don’t have to go too far back in time, the films of the 70s and 80s do much justice to our understanding of this culture. The angry young man had risen from the ashes of his family ruins, his father, murdered, his mother, widowed, his sister, raped and killed, and he, who was once a happy man, now, has revenge running in his blood. He knows who his enemy is, and this man is on a mission. He is in love with a woman, who, too, would die. He, too, would be killed at the end – no surprises there. But he emerged a hero because he settled scores.
Everyone hoots and whistles and claps in the theatre, and leaves teary-eyed. The pattern continues in other films with minor, comfortable shifts.
In the late 80s and 90s, the directors wanted to keep our man alive. So him, and his sidekick (added for a dash of humor), and his heroine, they all successfully make it to the end of the film and it’s a happy budget film with a happy profit.
Image source: still from Ishquiya
Then we suddenly started experimenting with gangwars – from Satya, Vaastav, Gangster, Company, Ishquiya to Gangs of Wasseypur, and the recent, Mirzapur – we all learned to adore the gun language.
According to official data, in the US, a child is injured by a gun every 32 minutes.
For the figures in India, I would like to quote a few lines from a news18 article, Guntantra, by Rashmi Singh– “India might not be trigger happy but it has its own misfiring when it comes to gun ownership. One, strict gun laws restrict access to licenced weapons but unlicenced firearms form about 85% of the civilian-owned stockpile. Second, India too has its ‘gun hubs’ – areas with a higher gun ownership and fatalities.
It’s difficult to put a number on the unlawfully held guns, but a look at the licence status of firearm seizures made in the past gives a clear picture of how prevalent unlicenced guns are. Sixty percent of more than 100,000 firearms seized in India between 2014 and 2015 were found to be unlicenced. With just about 10 in 100 homicides using guns, Indians are less likely to be killed by firearms. But more than 90% of deaths by firearms have been caused using an unlawfully-held weapon- a trend noticed year after year.”
All this does come into perspective when we are suddenly reminded of that one case where a woman was repeatedly shot at because of the property she held in her name, or that woman who was about to go for varmaala at her own wedding but an ex-lover decided to barge through the crowd to kill her because ‘agar woh meri nahin toh kisi aur ki bhi nahin’ (if she can’t be mine she can’t be anyone else’s).
Because when control doesn’t work any longer, violence equals power, as per the law of toxic masculinity.
Guns (and the associated violence) are marketed to young boys and men. This is often seen as their ‘door to manhood’ in many cultures.
The ‘swag’ quotes – live with guns, die with guns – by fans of the singer would hold no value if they dare to visit the home and witness the loss of the relatives of the young man, especially his mother. He was controversial in the way his songs seem to encourage gun violence and drugs, as he did a ton of good to the people he was rooted in, in real terms, even in his short life. Even if we say that he was just expressing a lot of what his fans felt and related to.
There is an evidence of that on his social media page too. A man with millions of young followers, a man who was a young, talented singer, and who should have had nothing to do with guns, has photo after photo and reel after video, where there is a sad allure that desperately cries for attention, all the while trying to hide a crisis that eventually unfolded the way it did. It doesn’t matter if it was a gang war or his alleged connection to someone else’s murder, a culture of gun will never bear roses.
The young gunman of Texas was known for his aggressiveness and rage. He used to threaten and fight with fellow students. Today, his mother weeps and says that her son was no monster. We are sure he wasn’t born one, but one assault rifle did make him one. Just one assault rifle.
And this is why it’s time we urge everyone to see the signs early – yes, company does matter, but what matters even more is what values they grow up with.
Why is there so much rage in young men? Why are they not expressive through words or any form of art? Why does the rebel in them choose violence to seek attention or attraction? Why are guns so easily accessible? And who are these people of the gun lobby making money on this rage and the bloodshed that it leads to?
Violence tries to trap young boys, all the while, assuring them of their man-card. It’s lethal to them and those around them because it taps on their insecurities – there are false, empty promises of power and style. And the road leading to this violence can be shut, and it can be shut early.
So next time, when someone tries to buy a toy gun for your child, make sure you either stand in the way, or take full responsibility to explain to your child what a gun is and what it can lead to.
Because that person is no ‘Godfather’, and your child doesn’t need rage or attention or false style to prove their worth.
Header image source: Instagram/ Sidhu Moosewala
Mostly writing, other times painting. Here to celebrate little wins. I am on the same page as you, just a different book - you read mine, I'll read yours.
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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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