I am a well-educated woman. I make sensible decisions (for the most part) and am reasonably well-off. The squalor on the streets constantly reminds me that I am a minority. I don’t have much of a right to protest issues affecting the ‘upper-middle class-ness’ of my life. As long as I get three square meals, a warm bed and a paycheck every month, I have no right to complain. This is what I am made to believe every day when I see people less fortunate, struggling to make ends meet.
But I disagree. I work hard, I earn my right to celebrate little victories, I make sure that my night of letting my hair down at a pub for a couple of drinks is well deserved and, every night, I make sure that I go to sleep feeling like I have achieved something. I can’t help it if my background afforded me the kind of exposure to western culture that our ‘moral police’ finds so offensive. I can’t help it if my view of the world is slightly more liberal than that of the Mumbai Social Service Branch that seems so hell-bent on terming me a whore. Wanting to have a drink with my boyfriend does not make me a prostitute. Greeting an old friend with a hug and a kiss on the cheek does not mean I will sleep with him for money. A man carrying drugs on the next table, unbeknownst to me, does not make me a user.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that this branch does some good. Often, they do find real victims and real criminals. Stopping the trafficking of women, drugs and children is something that needs to be done. And, if that is the sole purpose of Mumbai’s Social Service Branch then I am all for it. But I am not in support of this ‘guilty until proven innocent’ attitude towards some people, simply because their idea of having fun isn’t approved of by the governing authority. And I am certainly not in support of using loopholes in the law to uphold it, based on the blinkered mindset of a few men in power. Tell me to pay my taxes. Tell me to do my job honestly. Tell me to be a responsible citizen. But, unless you have reasonable evidence to accuse me of being unlawful, don’t tell me how to have fun when I’ve done all that.
-Eshwari Pandit, 21 Freelance writer, Andheri