Who Are We…?

I always ask myself why I was born a woman. Was this the best of God? Why did God create a woman after man? Why not the other way around? The journey of a child from girl to granny is not easy and is not a story of a joy.

I left my country many years before and settled here for nothing. Now I don’t belong to neither here nor there. Then where am I? I remember one saying, “the size of the world is the size of his heart”. I was always asking myself as to why I cannot make my own world – the way other people do – bothering themselves to have their own home, cars, businesses etc. Answer is yes; if I need I could. That is why – that is how – I selected my world – researching the role of women, in changing the world through art. I have not studied about art or films, so, I need to make a confession that the story behind everything I write here is my useless teenage, where I got unlimited opportunities to read books and watch movies.  I guess I was well influenced by many Indian films.

I had to find answers to the questions ‘what is social change and why social change?’; ‘why women for social change?’; ‘what is art?’; ‘what is the role of women and art in social change – is it different from what is the role of art in social change?’ – and the answers I am surely going to share with you.

I used to ask myself as to why we have to change this existing system. What is wrong with it?. Do I think to change it because it is not fair or is it because I feel, that I am not well accepted by the system? I remember what I had read once COMMORI – Chief of the Latookas an African Tribe has stated that:

Most people are bad;

If they are strong, they take from the weak. 

The good people are all weak;

They are good, because, they are not strong enough to be bad.

My understanding is that, change is for a better world than what it is today; a world with no war, no deaths on the road, no discrimination, no pollution, and with governance and democracy. I have to admit that it is not a dream – but an expectation of an ordinary man on earth.

I have studied that “social change” is an alteration in the social order of a society. The Wikipedia says, Social order is a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce “normal” ways of relating and behaving. The social change discusses change in the thought process in humans – what we think and how we think to move forward our society by evolutionary means.

The world’s population is today more than 7 billion out of which 50.25% males, 49.75% females – in other words half of the world population is women. Further, it continues to add 82 million people to the world population per year. It is crystal clear that women have a role in all the ways to change this world as a better place for all of us.

Tolstoy defines “art” in terms of the good, truth and beauty; and according to him art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience, one that “affects” the viewer. Thus, real art requires the capacity to unite people via communication (clearness and genuineness are therefore crucial values – see Wikipedia). How can we understand while one argues that art is for good, and another argues that art is for art. I take the side “art is for art” – but that art is the art of peace, art of equality, art of security, art of harmony and finally art is for the “art of social change”.

To me, art is a grievance absorber to those who do not have one to listen to; art is a messenger for those who do not have access to information, or who do not want to see or hear the truth; art is an advocator for voiceless people to bring their message to the person concerned and art is a guide for those who do not have leaders who are genuine.  Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the popular English romantic poets says in one of his poems –

“We look before and after

And pine for what is not

Our sincered laughter

With some pain is brought

Our sweetend songs are those

That till of saddest thought”

I’ll go back to my main point of this discussion; how films – as one mode of art bring changes in life of women as well as towards social change – change is what we think and how we think.  Do these films we watch make people to think differently; make people to think creatively about social change.

I have suffered a lot due to an ethnic conflict in my country that lasted for decades, and which  led to millions getting affected – some displaced and some forced to leave their loving country and seek refuge in another country that didn’t belong to them.

I watched the film ‘Bombay’ while I was moving around displaced. “Bombay” directed by a veteran film director Mani Ratnam in India, in 1995, with music by A R Rahman and starring Arvind Swamy – the most loving and smiling face I have ever seen – and Manisha Koirala. The story behind the film are controversial events which took place during 1992 – 1993, surrounding the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Bombay [now Mumbai]  in India and its subsequent demolition on December 6, 1992 creating a religious tension that led to the “Bombay riots”.

In the film, Arvind Swamy acted as a son of a traditional Hindu father in a village in Tamil Nadu and Manisha Koirala as a Muslim schoolgirl in the village. Arvind, a journalism student studying in Bombay, once visits his home to see his family and on his return to Bombay, lays eyes on Manisha. Initially shy and seeking to make a distance, she, gradually begins to like him, which ends up in love.

The story is common; the strong love affair comes to the stage of marriage proposals where both the parents refuse as their in – laws, as they belong to different cultures, and religions.  Unsolved problems eventually led to violence.

Arvind leaves his family and village for Bombay as a reaction of his father’s refusal to accept Manisha, and later she too joins him in Bombay. This tells us the romance of mix marriages, which at times may even make a few jealous for not having similar experiences.

Later, when they give birth to loving twins – and give them the names Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer – Hindu – Muslim mix names, the relationships with their families is naturally refreshed and both the grand-fathers begin to visit the happily settled family for the first time in six years.

The film directs us to rethink the role of a woman as a young girl, wife and mother in the social change. Mix cultural family life brings solutions to the ethnic and religious conflicts. As a wife she has a role to play in balancing cultural requirements of her partner. When one gets married to another, is it not an ethical responsibility of each other to learn and respect their partner’s culture when they are not from the same. A mother has a major role in change. Change begins with how we think and what we think. We do only what we think; and what we do becomes a practice and finds us our destinations. A mother can make the children to think the desirable and correct way.  Manisha plays the role of a mother where she makes it clear to the children, that they cannot be differentiated as Muslim or Hindu. I think, this is the most valued role of women in our societies, to teach their children what is wrong and what is correct. Ethnic conflicts seen in many countries today would not be there, if every child grows up having this in mind; and for this to happen a woman should play her role correctly.

The core of the film – the story of human relation – begins with the growing and continued Hindu – Muslim riots, and the safety of “Kabir” and “Kamal” who have been brought up in both Hindu and Islamic culture. Leaving the most important story for the last part, I need to share how fundamental principles of humans work even at a crucial stage. According to the film, this loving family could not escape from being victimizing by inhuman acts. Though both the grand – fathers are with the family they do not speak to each other.  But when the Muslims come to attack the house the Muslim father protects the family, and this takes place even with the Hindus. There is one thing that still sparks in my memories – it is how these grand-fathers protect each other by willing to give away their own lives.  The film ends up showing us how the two children become victims of extremists and how they save their lives by becoming both Muslims and Hindus – one at a time, to save each other from death and harm.

I watched this film many years ago, and my old age does not bring back all memories of the film, but there is one thing I could never forget – which is still bothering me at all the times, and telling me that it is the role of art in social change – it is the question both children ask from their parents “Are we Hindus or Muslims”?.

Who Are We…..?

Sedi | United Kingdom