Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Prisoner of Consience

"As you look at me and listen to me, please remember the often-repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many" Aung San Suu Kyi
It was just another exhausting day in my life where I had to travel almost three to fours for my internship in this sweltering heat.First it is the hurry to make a giant escapade from the blaring horns, the bad traffic into my air conditioned office where people abuse others as if that is the best way to go about it. They assiduously try to over shadow each other when it comes to their knowledge of politics and sports.And that's it. They talk about news feverishly but it stops right there, they don't do anything else with that truck load of information except swallowing it with an air of smoke and a bottle of rum which Rajeji(the canteen-man)gets for them whenever he leaves office. But yesterday was different. For two distinct images I witnessed while going to and coming back from office. Images which made me shudder balefully at the dichotomy in the life of a 19 year old who happened to be a media student and believed that activism in the press could be practiced as well as preached. I got down from the train, uncomfortably late and started moving hurriedly towards the nearest sub way. I was stopped mid way by the sight of a woman, sitting against a pillar on the platform, her saree was pulled up to her knees and above her waist she was, as they say, au naturel. Her face was peaceful perhaps unperturbed by the numerous men staring at her ostensibly and the women chuckling in disapproval at her audacity to expose herself in such a manner. She was almost expressionless and I could not help but wonder what was the reason, the story behind that vast expanse of oblivion which clouded her eyes. In spite of being an alleged as a feminist by strangers and friends alike, Like any other woman I kept questioning, "Was there none she could call her own (as if a woman needs to be taken care of constantly)? As a woman what was my duty towards another woman who could clearly do with a glass of water, if not anything else ?" But like everybody else, I moved on, towards something I thought I loved doing, something which beckoned me incessantly, something which prevented me from helping out that woman, but then again what could a 19-year old have possibly done, no ? That very evening, I was outside Howrah Station at 9 29, running frantically to catch the 9 30 train. I was already a bit cranky after battling a 50 year old pervert's continual attempt to bang me in an unbelievably crowded mini bus. Thankfully, I got the train and again there was hardly any place to stand properly. The train had already started moving when I saw a black hand grabbing hold of the newly polished steel pole. As it turned out, the young girl (12) finally managed to board the train with her mother and her young brother (7) who hands were similarly smeared with an ostensible black lubricant almost up to their elbows. She wore a torn salwar kurta, her hair was tied up in a pony tail, she was clearly exhausted but every time her brother chose to fall asleep whilst standing on his feet, she grabbed hold of him, ensuring that he did not get hurt. People boarded the train, people got off and all I could observe were here two hands, fragile yet petite , covered in black oil. In an almost immediate flash back I was reminded of those n number of classes in college where the we discussed about the Right to Education for every child in India. For what ? What did these children ever do to deserve a life like this ? To work in factories, mines and dark dungeons in the most inhospitable atmosphere for children and adults alike. I returned home very disturbed and I am still clueless about my role playing as an literate and informed individual. For I am but a prisoner of my conscience and I know not where my duties lay.


  1. What you do as an individual does make a difference. But you help one and there are a thousand more. It isn't as effective as giving one or two hours a week to a worthy NGO. It doesn't make you feel as alone, helpless, ineffective and sick to the heart as you seem to have felt in this post. One or two hours a week and a single cause seem realistic to me.