wanderlust

What It Feels Like To Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

Illustration by Anders Røkkum

Illustration by Anders Røkkum

About 8 months earlier, 18 regular college girls, with their regular lives, decided to do something extraordinarily courageous. Being in India’s top arts college, our minds were disturbed by our classroom discussions and by our privileged positions, and our hearts would skip a beat at the slightest probability of effecting a change in anyone’s life. Only this time, we decided to step out of the classroom and see what we could do. “Normalisation of Patriarchy” is one theme that had governed our lives since we entered the world, and this time, we wanted to fight to govern our own lives, in our way, and we were willing to do anything along the way. 

 
So we made a play. From questioning notions of beauty and marriage and female envy in fairytales like Snow-White, to popular culture propagating sexist comments, to the caged and webbed lives of transgenders and homosexuals, we looked around in our lives, in our homes, and made this play the place where we kept all our secret wounds and weapons. 
 
“Why can’t girls sit with their legs open? 
Why is 36’24’36 considered to be the ideal figure? 
Why do you need to wait, for the day, when you can tell the world you’re gay? 
Why do men eat in bigger plates at our homes? 
Why can’t men wear sarees and women roam around shirtless? 
Intriguing, isn’t it? 
 
From the language we use, which has the power to create the universe, to the laws which give us “justice” and stand for equality. PATRIARCHY is normalized to this extent, that we have accepted this as the way of our lives. Through our play, we wanted to shed light upon this gross level of normalization so that we make people realise their position and rise against it. 
“Don’t be such a pussy” is often used to mock people for being cowardly, but I wonder, who ever termed the source of life – “cowardly and weak”? Many of us sideline such grievances because we think they are trivial. But what we don’t realise is that, our language becomes our thoughts, our thoughts become our words, and our words become our world, as our words lead to the existence of ideas in society. Hence, it was pertinent to reduce the gap between “saying” and “doing” in people’s heads. As activists and artists, it was more than necessary, to create cognitive dissonance, and make people scratch their heads. 
 
When we first took our play to the streets, it looked like people were completely blown by our courage, by the surprising strength of the “voices of a girls’ college” and by our ability to stare them right in their eyes and shamelessly question their very existence. With the inevitable passing of days but the changes we enforced in the world, we have grown stronger, louder and bolder. We have made ourselves and our cause -immortal. Circumstances have often been way less than ideal, but we’ve always found the courage, to fight against all odds, and to, carry, nurture and protect our cause, like our baby with each breath of ours. Over time, it was no longer just a play, but a way of living. 
 
8 months ahead, it feels impossible to have found a place in people’s heads, to have been etched forever as a powerful part of their psyche, but nothing is impossible, when done with love and faith. These 18 regular college girls, have been present in blood, flesh, bones, sweat, and spirit, to create this play. And anything in this world is unbreakable when it comes from within, and we have actually drawn our power from all the deeply buried wounds in our hearts. This play has caressed us in our most vulnerable moments and has changed the dinner table conversations in our own families. Now, our fathers aren’t always the one’s occupying the chair of “head of the family” and having the first and the last say in every conversation. Moreover, now, our fathers, somewhere, have started, voluntarily giving away parts of the power, ascribed to them by patriarchal forms of being, and our mothers have started coming to terms with their own denied positions. 
 
More than giving us answers, it has given us the courage to QUESTION. And we’re the primary subjects of this questioning, for we are questioning our own thought process, our own conditioning, we’re questioning everyone and everything responsible for putting thoughts into our head, and last but not the least, we believe that personal is political, so we’re questioning (and answering) our own fears and doubts, about our power and ability, to effect change in our lives, and consequently, in yours. 
 
Yes, we haven’t had regular lives, but I’m so proud of us, for missing classes and yet LEARNING the most, to holding each other’s hands, to sharing each other’s sorrows, to being the 18 voices of the unheard millions, to having a smile on our lips with tears in our eyes, to reducing the gap between who we are and who we aspire to be, and to being the change we wish to see in the world.
 
I’m immensely proud of each one of us for being so outrightly courageous, for being stronger than our fears, and for being driven by the cause instead of the applause. May this powerful light continue to shine a million light years ahead and illumine everyone along it’s way. We know now that whenever we are questioned in life and when the foundation of our hopes and dreams starts shaking, all we have to do is, think of these eighteen undeterred footprints, think of the lady who hugged us after the play and said “thank you”, think of the little girl in the slum who wanted to share her story with us but was told to shut up, think of all the love we’ve been able to give to the world, and we will find our courage again. We will find our will to live and change again. 
 
Written by Avnika Gupta