Sunday 9 September 2012

Fear Within

Today an incident took place when I was walking towards the station in Byculla after visiting the Byculla District Prison. Outside a school gate on the footpath (only for pedestrians) I witnessed a scuffle between a mid-aged woman and a young man on his bike. The woman stood in front of his bike restricting him from using the footpath asking him to use the road if he wishes to ride the bike. The young man refused to obey her request and responded with rage ordering her to get out of his way or else he will not be responsible if she is hurt. The argument heated up with constant exchange of words. The woman was a teacher and her students were standing nearby including other bystanders; school watchman and I.

She requested her students to come support her and stand next to her reminding them to be courageous and do what is right. Many faced their head down and none of us came ahead!! At the same time the young man on the bike continued to threaten the teacher to hurt her if she refuses to move and exhibited anger by pressing the accelerator and moving the bike an inch back and fro. A few students were standing next to the woman, fearing the man would run over the bike, they moved. The man tried to use that space but nothing seemed to hinder the woman’s assertion and she held the steering and stopped him. Thank fully the drama ended when two mid-aged men walked towards the young man (he knew them) and asked him to use the road. The woman asked her students to promise not to do the same when grow older and said to the guard and others, “this is the respect you give me after teaching here for 15 years”, and walked away.

I was standing right there but acted just like any other bystander and did not have the courage to step ahead and support her cause. Many thoughts went by, I knew what was the right thing to do but my body seemingly was handicapped by the fear of unknown or unexpected. I study social work in a reputable institute, day in and day out talk about individual responsibility and how change can come if we act. Somewhere I feel I and many others have got so used to analyse situations, rationalize them and use politically correct words to escape responsibility. Maybe analysing is good and vital and what TISS is teaching is profoundly essential however only reading the laws and pointing out the loopholes is not enough unless I rid myself of the fear lying within me.

When I looked back at this incident a video (PSA) came to my mind that I had recently viewed. It depicted a traffic jam in Mumbai when it was hard hit by rain. But the traffic jam was not due to the rain, it was because a huge tree log had fallen out of it place restricting the traffic from moving. On the other side of the road a police car was stationed with police officers resting their head on the steering wheel. While everyone sitting in the car caught in traffic was abusing the state authorities, a child wearing a school bag on his back walked towards the log and tried to single handedly push it out of the way. Witnessing this act of courage many stepped out of their vehicles and supported – mission accomplished, advertisement ended with a melodious song praising nationalist feelings. I remember I and many others liked this video, shared it with friends and it spread like a viral on social networking sites. We all discussed about it and felt good !!

But today I knew when I should have acted I refused to do so.

I hope I overcome this fear within me the next time!

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