I hesitated to let that woman in. I was at a friend’s flat and since both of our families were away, we were mulling a bachelors’ dinner while watching that evening’s cricket match. The friend cooked better than I did so I let him do what he was good at while I did what I was best at — I watched the match.
Since my friend was in the kitchen and I was in his living room, he called me to check who was at the door (as the doorbell was ringing). Okay, I said and yanked the door open with my eyes still on the swing of the bat by Indian cricket captain Kohli – on TV. So I didn’t give much thought when I turned my head and looked at the entrance and there stood an odd-looking dowdy old woman, hair askew and seeming to be a bit dazed. She wasn’t dressed to please and I wasn’t pleased either and I asked her what she wanted. She looked a bit puzzled, lifted a finger and uttered my friend’s name with a question mark at the end of it. Out of habit, I repeated my question.
Where is he, she asked again referring to my friend. He is inside, but you are…I hesitated. He knows me, she assured with a wave of a tired-looking hand. At this moment my friend came to the door and said, “Oh Mrs – (he uttered a name), what are you doing out there? C’mon in,” he said with a warmth usually reserved for those very dear to him. I stood at the entrance for a moment. And then I realised what had just happened. I was discriminating someone because of the clothes she wore. This woman was apparently well known to my friend and they were very close family friends; she lived in the same building. I didn’t know. All that I saw was a very old woman in equally old clothes. My eyes failed to see beyond that and the ‘friendship’ there.
Most of us are like that. We only see the clothes that others wear and are blind to the person wearing them. We see their worth in what they wear; in how they appear; in glamour we find some convoluted meaning and judge them by their designer wear or the lack of it.
We discriminate others because of their age, their gender, their ethnicity, their skin colour, their height, their weight, their language, the size of their purse and the vehicle they drive…an endless list.Don’t say no. We do. It has been happening all the while; it is happening now and it will happen all our lives… And I say this without any cynicism because I know…
I know how so many of us think in this manner, not because we are bad, ugly, discriminatory people, but simply because we are people. We still have a lot to iron out from our basic nature, which borders on the likes and dislikes based on all of the above parameters.
…And what if the one at the door was an animal? A dog or a cow for instance? What would we do to a cow that is mooing outside our gate or a dog that barked outside our door? We would have thrown a fit and raised a stick. When will realisation strike us so that we understand that a life means a child, a woman, a man, a bird, a cat, a cow, a dog… all in the same breath as all of them have an equal right to live.
Equal rights as you and I.
The day we understand that; accept that and live by that rule; that day will be the birth of a new dawn.
(Above lines dedicated to the Zero Discrimination Day – a day, which is celebrated globally on March 1 every year so that everyone lives life with dignity regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, skin colour, height, weight, etc. The symbol of Zero Discrimination Day is the butterfly.
“Zero Discrimination Day is a call to people everywhere to promote and celebrate everyone’s right to live a full life with dignity – no matter what they look like, where they come from, or whom they love. The symbol of zero discrimination is the butterfly, widely recognised as a sign of transformation.”
We would like to believe that when they used the word ‘everyone’, it also meant all the world’s animals, whose souls are no different from ours.)