Power of narratives

Power of narratives
Rohini Vaishnavi

When you keep an elephant inside a dark room full of people and ask them to feel and thereby state what object it is , wide range of answers pop up. But the truth is that it is an elephant. In a democratic society respect for subjectivity is essential indeed but the objectivity does exist in the same way as the elephant does inside the dark room. History is always seen through the eyes of it’s writer. Same incident can mean different things to different people. Story lines may be varied whilst the events surrounding them could be the same for each story. As the time goes by, the story line is edited and depending on who edits it perceptions are moulded.

I was browsing through Facebook seeing videos and photos posted by people while they watched the film, “The Kashmir Files”. One person who I know, was in the cinema hall with his family. His sons barely 20 and he in his late fifties. Son was taking a selfie and father posed, utterly confused, unable to show the excitement of having come to watch a movie with popcorn and the coke. It seemed as if he had come for the first time into a cinema hall. Though there was no excitement on his face but his eyes reflected the curiosity and the nervousness of a student who had just stepped into the examination hall. After all watching on screen the enactment of destruction and devastation of his own life was the last thing to be imagined. Watching the ditto cinematic version of the life changing misery of one’s own life is unexpected . His family and society would never ever have talked about how to deal with a situation like that. Moreover after 32 years, this gentleman was re-living the worst horror of his life at a place which is meant for entertainment. There could be no bigger irony than this.

There were other set of videos popping up on social media, of those who had never lived or been to Kashmir and they never knew the details of the terror which prevailed and still prevails in the beautiful valley. While the gentleman I spoke about earlier was frozen like a stone in the movie hall, the second set of people were shocked. To them it felt like a snake sleeping under their own bed for 32 years , spreading the venom which had not yet affected them but had bitten many others who were not known to them. They could only scream on top of their lungs and curse the snake. Such scenes were totally uncalled for at a place which is meant for entertainment. But never mind there is always a first time.

The other day my friend spoke to me about a new kind of feminism raising its voice in America, according to which we should say the words like Pregnant people and not pregnant women; we must say chest feeding rather than breast feeding and instead of using He & She we should use the word They. There is much more to this feminism which is attempting to erase the gender discrimination by giving everyone a right to claim oneself to be a woman in case that person feels that way. My immediate reaction was that women world over face same challenges with respect to childcare, pursuing career vs. the family responsibilities, getting funds for entrepreneurial ventures and even face the same treatment in the board rooms. There may be varying degrees though. My question to him was whether this new feminism could take care of such issues which women have been facing for centuries? How would this feminism create gender parity?

You must be wondering why I am hopping from a movie to feminism, both being unrelated. Well let me tell you both are related in a way. It is the magic of narratives and words flurry to combines in various permutations and combinations to form a thought, a perception, which moulds the minds, controls how people perceive what they see. But remember the elephant is real and it exists ! It was the same elephant which remained in the dark room for thirty-two years and was given different names by different people but now they all call it an Elephant.

Now the mystery surrounding the elephant has been cleared by the Kashmir files in such a way that it stands naked under broad day light having come out of the dark room. But the mystery creators will not give up, they are relentlessly working towards creating new elephants and the ambiguity that surrounds them.

On one hand we have the perception creators and on the other hand, there are screaming voices in the cinema halls and others who are frozen and watching their own death and destruction enacted on the celluloid screen, scratching the wounds which they had barely nursed.

Narratives have the power to destroy or build civilizations. Kashmiri Pandits are not only the victims of terrorism but also of the narratives. It could kill the voice of this miniscule but resilient and hardworking community for thirty-two years whereas a different narrative after more than three decades flipped the coin and the world is shocked.

Rohini Vaishnavi
Promotes women entrepreneurship & Education, Founder R V Learning Foundation
Editor – The Chronicles of Kashmir – Biography Of Pandit Amarnath Vaishnavi