Prejudices are,it is said,the children of ignorance. There are also prejudices that are products of our latent primitive urge to manufacture an other which is subservient to our sense of the self. So the rural is not just the semantic opposite of the urban,it is also an indispensable psychic counterfoil to the very existence of the urban. To describe and mark the level of urbanity (read modernity),we needed to contrast it with a landscape defined not just by backwardness,illiteracy and poverty but by everything which is uncultured and also wretched.
The urban mind,therefore,constantly,tends to feed on these stereotypes to nurture its own inflated,narcissistic collective self. Rural thus emerges as a waste basket for all the urban guilt; a citys cloak to hide its own pathologies and wrong doings.
Recently,I had the opportunity of watching a series of plays and puppet shows staged in the city on the theme Save the Girl Child. The concern,commitment and enthusiasm for a gender-just society,as reflected in the shows,were bizarre. Let me cite a few.
First,all the plays had a rural setting a contradiction of the fact that foeticide has emerged primarily as an urban phenomenon where the rich and educated are killing their unborn daughters.
Second,the ubiquitous presence of a mother-in-law working 24X7 against the bahu,for a boy child in the family represented the now much-maligned and mischievous patriarchal argument that a woman is another womans worst enemy.
Third,there was a strong mention of super-achievers such as Kalpana Chawla and Kiran Bedi as idols of emancipation. The stories of indomitable spirit of ordinary women fighting for their rights are no less inspiring. Are we saying that if a woman has to live,she has to necessarily be extraordinary and super successful? Finally,there was too much of wailing and crying around the women characters inviting sympathy and taxing of the lachrymal glands. The projection of women as passive receptors of violence was too unreal and,in fact,damaging to the cause.
It is time to change the script and the language of the discourse. It will hurt our ego but there is no way we can behave like ostriches and continue to live with our delusions of grandeur.