Breaking stereotypes

One thing I want to do with my life is to break stereotypes. There are some that I can't do much about like the ever-so-in-the-news stereotypical view about north east Indians, which I am very much also a victim of. This reality won't change overnight. It is too complex a matter and it is going to take generations before a tangible change is brought about; but I believe the change is starting.. slowly. And I'd like to think I am a part of it, in my own small way. I deliberately use the term "north east Indians" over the more commonly used "north easterners" because somehow I feel the latter is just a way of conveniently segregating the north east from the "India", if you know what I mean. It is as if there is an inner protest that wants to exclude north east from India and that resonates in the language. It sounds like that to me at least. For some, perhaps, it is an intentional use guided by whatever motive(s) while for some others it is something of the subconscious, but whichever form it may be it is a thing that has pretty much taken residence in our minds. I guess this gives us a glimpse into the subtle power of language in as much as it affirms and reaffirms reality, and maybe we should all start learning how to read it and read it well. I am hoping there will come a day soon when "India" wouldn't just invoke the figure of a sari-clad goddess in the minds of foreigners and some of my very ignorant fellow Indians who seem to think India is all about that. The real India is so much more than that, even though some might hate to agree considering they have a "dominant culture" to preserve. I am hoping there will be many more Mary Koms who will knock the arrogant reluctance out of such people, and if need be do it over and over again. That is my hope for the "developed India".

Coming to the smaller things that I can do much about, it is my intention to live my life the way it fits me uniquely and not the way it is "supposed" to be lived. I am not going to do something just because people think it is an appropriate choice for me given their "evaluation" of me. These are stereotypes that have arisen specifically in the context of myself and my life. People expect me to be a certain way. And not only that, they expect that that is all I am going to be or should be. Of course it is never actually said in such and such words. But we're all capable of simply sensing these things, and that is how it is with me too. These water-tight definitions of myself are what I want to break free from. I am not a bad habit of mine as much as I am not a good habit of mine. I am not what I studied at the university and I am not my hobbies. I am not my interests and the clubs or societies I am a part of. I am not the job I will have in the future. That is why no one gets to be shocked if I make very unlikely career choices. I am not saying I will, it's just that I may. Please don't put me in a box, is all I am saying. Further, there are also stereotypes associated with being a woman and like the rest of my gender-kind I have been subjected to them too. There is nothing much I can do about these either except for just continuing to act like myself even though it might be considered "unladylike". "Speak softly like a lady", I often get corrected. How is it my fault if God arranged my vocal cords to not sound so delicate and sweet? But anyway, I still like the way I sound. And then even within this category of women there are the different "types of women" we have been neatly organized under. I would be giving no news when I say being north east Indian women invites more stereotypes into our lives, because someone along the way decided that we are all "loose". It's sad how ignorant even educated people can be.

I've had my share of unpleasant encounters with perverts in the streets of Delhi. I wonder at such times how naive and stupid or "loose" they must think I am to get into a stranger's car just because I look the way I look. My blood boils inside me but all I do is ignore and pretend like they're invisible. There is a particular bus stop in Munirka where I frequently waited for transport during my JNU days. I didn't bother counting how many times a car passed by me during those waiting periods with the driver hoping and expecting that I'd want to get in. At such moments I want to kill all the perverts in the world, and at the same time I die a little inside for being so objectified and disrespected. Again, I am powerless faced with this stereotype and I don't know if I can hope for things to change. I definitely can't control what people think, but I guess what I can do is prove these perverts wrong one humiliation at a time. But maybe they will never get the point because having an educated mind is the least of their concerns. Anyway, in complete contrast to my apparent "loose" nature as a north east Indian woman, I am the "holy" type in the context of the christian churchy setting. This goes to show the immense unreliability of stereotypes in forming opinions about people and institutions. I think the main problem lies in the fact that stereotypes are so incomplete. By the way I don't like being called the "holy type" either, because being the "holy type" usually implies you are either judgmental or a freak, or both. It excludes you from the rest of the crowd, and I don't think anybody likes to be excluded. This stereotype is also uninformed like the rest and not based on kingdom principles. Stereotypes, in the end, are all the same: uninformed and incomplete ideas. What they essentially do is generalize and rob the uniqueness out of individuals. That is something I won't allow in my life and therefore is my personal motivation to break stereotypes. Breaking stereotypes in my life is how I will assert my individuality.


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