Friday, April 20, 2018

Behind the "Experiment"


Since there are many enquiries about the reason behind my "experiments with colors", and when will the "experiment" end, I thought I will post a blog. Let me start with the note that it is just not an experiment for experiment sake. That is, I did not start this experiment just to see how society reacts to someone wearing black, what is the impact of wearing only back on myself etc. though I was observing all these and interpreting the data! It is an unemotional decision for an emotional cause!! It is unemotional decision as it is grounded on the theory that visual reminders that are "seen" everyday have better impact on the action. Emotional Cause was so strong to push me into this and I still have not resolved it.

To give a context to those who don’t know me well, who have not been following my earlier articles: I decided to wear only black, forego my habit of applying maruthani, make my reasonably long hair to shoulder length. (Just "black only" became more visible and became more popular as an experiment, however. It is interesting to observe that even those commented on all three, did not/could not connect these three!!) It is exactly one year and two months since I started this - on 25th February 2017. The state of Tamilnadu was so pathetic at that time (it still is, unfortunately!). It became so obvious that there were no leaders to think about welfare of the state. It is not that we had leaders before and we lost them recently. It is just that, it came out in the open and stood as the most hurtful ugly truth. It felt as if I am living in a soak pit / septic tank! I can literally feel the smell on my body even now as I write this sentence. The pain was/is unbearable. On one end, I am what I am because of this country and on the other end, I felt completely let down by the country for all the genuineness I had!!

When I reflected back on what I could have done differently to contribute to a better state, it felt like a problem I do not own sometimes and felt like a problem I should have owned sometimes. It felt like a solvable issue sometimes and a unconquerable monster sometimes. Sure, I was a sincere citizen who voted in all elections, who voted for good candidates only after careful background check (they did not win in most cases though), who travelled 600 kilometres just to vote, who paid tax promptly, who did not pay any attention to the tax exemption clauses because I thought tax was to help build the nation and getting exempted felt incorrect. But I was also a person who had an opportunity to be part of administrative system and political system that we blame today but did not take the opportunity in the pursuit of my personal choices and preferences. How can I blame a system that I did not contribute to fix or create properly? The counterargument that ran in my mind was civilization functions at the very premise of exchange of services - that I contribute to the society in some way and enjoy the benefit of being in the society in some other way. Where did it go wrong in that case? 

The more and more I thought about it, it is just not politicians but it is the way the whole system is working today. It is just that I was in a protected environment I did not get exposed to the ugliness of what was happening… I was ignorant… and the ignorance was torn… the filters were broken… Sure I was seeing many gaps in the system earlier too but they were so mild compared to what I could see now… corruption in every possible aspect of life - starting from a bus conductor charging luggage fare to illiterate women but not charging literates for the same sized or even bigger sized bags, electricity board employees charging extra money per card as collection fees while government is paying them for playing the role and so on… It felt as if I am a stranger in my own country

Dwelling in the past too much is not a good idea especially when you know there is nothing much you can learn from it. So I thought instead of thinking about what went wrong, why it went wrong, I should focus on what I can make right even if it is only a small contribution. It would be like adding fresh water to our sewage ridden rivers… when we start, filth will be more than the fresh water and the river will be dirty; but seeing a few of us doing, more people will start adding more and more fresh water, at some point the filth will be less than the fresh water and our river will become usable again is my logic. I don’t know if I will live long enough to see that tipping point but I wanted to try.

The next dimension I considered is about my starting point: I did not/ do not think that becoming a politician is the solution because people in politics are only a representative sample of  the entire population, we need to clean the whole population with both bottom up and top down approaches. Since, I don’t have the circle of influence to start top-down, I will / can go bottom up.

I also realised that there are many things that hurt us badly but in the run mill of everyday life we forget the hurt and go with the flow. I did not want my pain and my urge to act on it to be forgotten. I needed a strong enough reminder that will make me never forget. As a person, I never like to be generalised or constrained. A constraint that is so obvious and make it easy for others to generalise will help me remember it, even if it is not every day, at least every week. I chose to wear only black, forgo maruthani and cut my hair short - this is how my "Operation Black" started and as described in my previous posts, it is a powerful tool - I am reminded constantly and continuously.

Last year, I did not know what to do and where to start but I knew I have to start somewhere. Now, I am working towards making a positive change to the morale and morality of younger minds. When I touch a few communities through these young minds and there is evidence that the communities turned around I will change to colours… Sure, there are stories of Asifas, Hasinis & Anitas and stories of Nirmalas to make dent in the confidence and hope but there are also Malu Sheikas, Rifath Sharooks, and Preethi Srinivasans who build it back. With a lot of ups & downs and mood swings, my Operation Black is going on.

Looking forward to all your support and contribution so that I can change to other colours… Your action or contribution need not be same as mine… the questions in front of us are

  • How can we make a mentally, ethically, physically, economically fit/sound society and how can we make a sustainable culture of integrity
  • How can we create a safe environment for humans and other lives and how do we leave a better planet for tomorrow

I see more and more people are stepping in to make it cleaner and answer the above questions in their own way. I am hoping to change to other colours before I leave the planet!!

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