Why I, a Malayali woman, won’t speak about the Sabarimala verdict
I knew it was coming. Sooner or later, somebody will ask me this –
As a Malayali woman, what is your opinion about the Sabarimala verdict?
I knew one day I will be faced with this query. After all, I write. And all writers have a social responsibility to shape public opinion. Robust opinion that has the power to uproot citadels and shake up dynasties is our forte. Add to it the fact that I have been an opinion page writer for many years. Surely, I must have a view, a square and fair one. One that will be popular and in sync. Popular with whom and in sync with what, I have no idea. But I was prepared to take the questions head on, whenever they would come my way. One has to be prepared for battles of all kinds these days and must have one’s defenses in place.
Anticipating it early on, and primed for it, I took the question with aplomb. I knew what exactly to do. I smiled and said politely, ‘How does it matter what I think of it? I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve for all the world to see.’
It gave the questioner a free rein to voice his/her opinion and I was happy. I had so much less to speak. It was easier to keep nodding and agreeing to whatever was said. I was least worried about the right and wrong of the words spoken. To me, right and wrong are relative, never categorical or conclusive. ‘Realities’ are fashioned by contexts and circumstances and there is some amount of certitude on either side of the fence. Total truth, however, could be very far from both.
It must have got a bit queasy for the speaker to have me agree to everything, and so I was asked after a while, ‘Don’t you think it is wrong to flout age-old customs and break ancient beliefs? You are a writer, you must have a definite take on it.’ It was a direct salvo. I smiled again and refused to give anything away. Neither concurrence nor disagreement.
Yes, I write and I may have my opinion on issues. Or I may not. If I have, it is not imperative that I broadcast my opinion and feel authoritative about it. I need not claim ownership to fleeting thoughts that are construed as beliefs. I need not give credence to ideas that might be popular but not necessarily true. My participation in inconclusive debates is only going to unsettle my mind with needless deliberation. I find no meaning in such an exercise. Because eventually, even this will pass.
If there has to be a reason for me to voice my view with relentless aggression and join either of the bandwagons, it is only to give my sense of self-righteousness a glorious rubbing. It is to hoodwink myself into believing that I matter in the larger scheme of things. I am of consequence to the rest of the race. To let the world know that I exist. And that I have what it takes to redesign human fate. To influence and alter mindsets. To bulldoze people into towing my line. My line, the right line. My convictions, supreme. My sentiments, sacred. All else, invalid.
What a travesty of reason! What a warped sense of individualism!
Before I succumb to this absurdity and become an advocate of one or the other side of the divide, I want to be convinced of one thing – that all the hollering I spend my time and energy on will bring me peace. My proclamations, my assertion of faith or lack thereof, the altercations and my exposure to the chaos out there will not dump distress on me. That proving someone else wrong and putting my conditioned thought in spotlight will take me to the path of lasting happiness. Let me be convinced of it and then I will take a stance.
Yes, there must be serious discourses to reset faulty world orders, but if they become viciously virulent, then spare me the agony. To me acquiring mental peace and thereby inner happiness is more vital than engaging in verbal fisticuffs that cause undue stress. If staying silent will fetch me a fraction of the peace we all genuinely crave for, that is what I will do. I will keep my trap shut and merely smile when asked to opine. It is easier to work on my internal variables to keep my life on track than to regulate an almost incorrigible world with my thought.
This much I am certain – in this season of chaos, raising my raucous voice won’t give me solace. Only my reflective silence will. I am an ordinary human being. I have no desire to stick my neck out and speak on things that I am not much acquainted with. Also, I care immensely about my inner stability. I will not let any wayward conversation stoke my sentiments and any virtual mob vandalize my peace. I will speak if and when I am needed to. Till then, let me be.