When I chose the title “Dead Men’s City,” I was both skeptical and scarred to use it. But, in the hindsight, I think just apt and perfect for the situation. As a human being, I am ashamed of what has happened in Guwahati just a year ago, as we conveniently forgot about it. A girl was assaulted and molested by a bunch of hooligans in the heart of the city. Yes, the law took its course, thanks to endless social scrutiny through the eyes of media, at national level. And, there goes a media channel and, an array of media stories to follow, to air this gruesome act. Yes, you will agree, as like any reasonable person, that the sense of justification and reasoning of airing such a video only displays the lowest journalistic ethos like getting the prized byte from a victim who gets molested in front of the crew as they remain busy covering it. But, we should not ignore, especially in a consumerist society, which the media, that it is a reflection of the society that we live, is driven by market forces and people find it amusing (?) to watch such barbarism on television channels. There is a sense of urgency in this particular incident. While the justice has been delivered in this case with such swiftness (in a matter of months, that seems impossible to dream), is our justice system only lends its importance to those matters of excessive public scrutiny? Yes, I can understand the motives of the politicos or the bureaucrats as their ulterior motives can be understood. Are we heralding an age where justice is delivered and not delayed? People may have their own judgment here without a lesser intelligent citizen opining on their behalf. We heard it. We know it.
Now, I have a very unusual or, if I can use the word, controversial question to it. Like Ceaser, we, the society of righteousness and crusader of wrong, may claim & exhort ‘veni, vidi, vici.’ But can we really? Why is it that we woke up then? Why is it that when the incident was shown on national television that people were hitting the street to demand justice, and not before when it was repeatedly played in regional channels? Why we are not shammed to death for any other, unreported incident but widely known among people, cases of molestation? People have been questioning the ethics of the media. This is good. But are we questioning our own sense of morality and ethics? Do we question our conscience when we may have ignored such an incident happening when you were travelling late in a city bus, or a lonely road in the afternoon, or in a dark alley in the neighbourhood? Did you stop, raise a protest, took it up with the law? Can we lay hands on our souls and tell the truth to our own self. You got your answer & I got mine. That is where we can call ourselves as hypocrites, and no. I am not saying that I am not a hypocrite. I am you.
Thanks to media, we are seeing the exposed value system of our society. We are only shouting our voice when we were shammed in public. We have lost our face and we are facing questions from people who would haunt us for our boasting claim to fame about women dignity in Assam. However, we also knew that this is not entirely true. With those disturbing images doing rounds across the country and the world, we are running for covers, from pillar to post. We don’t know how we will continue to live in the fake blown-up-beyond-proportion ego of culture and social identity that is long dead. We are still drawing inspirations to boast about a cultured society from a bunch of sacred heroes who are increasingly getting diminished from the moral map of the present society. As we tried hard to escape from our gory, ugly face, did we try something in last twelve months to improve these scars? Like rising a voice against any injustice & taking it to its logical conclusion or helping a destitute to preserve its honour & dignity, even when there is no pressure of ‘social conformity.’ I did not. Did you? Or, you are me!
All that we love to do is to jump the bandwagon and remain loyal to the ‘way of social conformity.’ As we increasingly compromise our own identity, I wonder if we, as a society, will have another hero in near time. It’s appalling that we are starving for heroes and we shy away vehemently to ignore such a reality. We love to live in a world of myth and materialistic bling. We are hardly bothered about what goes out there as long as I am ‘safe.’ This atypical idiosyncrasy of the present society has led me to question us. Where do we stand as a society? Why did we fail as a fertile society that stopped producing heroes from whom we draw strengths to fight? As we cling on to those legends from yesteryear, there is an urgent need for newer heroes in our lives. Someone contemporary, someone who instills life, someone whom we can feel! Are we ready to find that person? Are you ready to become that person rather than being someone with a job in MNC, a trophy spouse, an iPhone, a Sedan and a flat in the Millenium City blessed with an unknown old age death with no ramification? Do I at least want to try? Do you?
Till the time, it was not aired in the national television; this incident has not insulated such a reaction. Because we love our fake identity and take magnanimous pride in it, this incident shammed us or we are shammed because that the lie that we live in is exposed in front of the world. The foundation, the mascara and the kajal of the society were washed away by this tragedy and the aging wrinkles and horrific scars of our society lay exposed. We don’t know what to do or how to go back to our old fake self. We are challenged by an array of questions. Are we bold enough to lend our ears to these pressing questions & try to look for an answer? Are we ready to have our guts back to fight for our own glory & honour? Am I?
Consumerism and materialism has so much consumed our society that even our values and reputation need to be kicked hard so that it can wake up. Today, sadly, even one’s individual self respect and ethics are driven by market forces. Because, it will have negative impact on the overall reputation of the society we should now join in. All that we care about today, is a good mark-sheet so that one can get admitted to Delhi University (Let the Assam education system go to hell), get a job in an MNC (let the entrepreneurial kick die), get a trophy wife (who cares about love anymore, we need someone who can mingle with my social class), get a hatchback, midsize or sedan (because it’s not only about commuting anymore) and a home as early as possible (because I can move to a bigger house on a bigger loan on a later date). In our mad rat race, we forgot to think about our surrounding and ignore the catastrophic implication that it may have on our individual personal lives, our own identity (provided we have one) and an honour (if we care to own it). Am I thinking the way it should be or am I the only one? Are you thinking alike?
With passing days, we will get back to the machine that we love to log on to, and keep on doing things that were being done. We will post a “RIP” if some elderly looking gentlemen dies without recognizing the contribution that he had towards the society. This is how we remain true to the ‘Conformity Movement’ and we will come out on the street wearing black T Shirt (because we love Metallica) only when it’s not too shiny or hot to walk out, is a Sunday and more importantly our fake image is not tarnished and our dirty liens are not washed in front of the nation. Otherwise, we are doing just fine and we are happy with the shopping malls, swanky cars and bikes and five star hotels. Who talks about Assamese language, or its identity? Face of protest? Kalaguru Bishnuprasad Rabha, Ambikagiri Raichowdhury? Who are they? They are passé. We are talking about the changing the world, bringing communism by wearing black, man! How about Ernesto, oh! Sorry! Che! Gueverra? He is kind of cool to be worn. But, what the heck? We aint grabbing national headlines for any wrong news now. So, let’s just sit back, sip my beer and watch my EPL & La Liga matches! We are happy till our shallow selves are covered. Am I? Are you?
Are we living in a Dead Men’s Society? I am. Don’t know about you. Just pinch yourself and you will get your identity. I knew that I am a dead men before I pinched to realize. Did you?