Shaheen Rajan

These have to be the most chaotic times of all of my 30 years of life on this planet. Thankfully, this time, the chaos is all outside. And, it is not all bad. Societal reforms and increased access to platforms where your voice can be heard has forced people into being more careful about what they say, how they say it, what they do and how they respond. There is accountability and social justice prevalent now more than ever before. Movements have forced culprits of crimes committed behind closed doors to face the music for their actions – on public platforms.

I call it chaos only because the practices are still a little ad hoc. It works sometimes, but it also falls onto deaf ears every now and then. Many issues are brought to the surface, only to be settled behind closed doors, with money changing hands and justice being put on a back burner. Others never get the attention or resolution that they deserve, because they lack star power. Not all lives matter when it comes to social justice, just yet.

While the lack of system on a macro level bothers me, it is the blurred lines on a micro level that are of utmost concern. The pressure of saying the right thing, the politically correct response, preference of shush over voicing the unpopular opinion, the ultimate surrender to the fear of offending another – isn’t that the way to stinted personal growth and veiled obstacles enroute betterment?

The lack of respect for critiques and viewing all suggestions for betterment with a judgemental eye is a problem. We stop growing when we close the door to alternate opinions. Equally problematic is the shrinking circle of who gets to have an opinion, especially when you have chosen to place yourself in public eye and opened lines of communication. More the merrier is only limited to words of praise; as soon as it gets less than flowery, it is labelled offensive and something that should have never made it into the world.

I am not denouncing the presence of haters and people who might be jealous of your success. There will always be people who’d love to see you flat on your bum on the floor than spreading your wings to soar high towards success. But to discount every critique as a product of jealousy and cultural conditioning is not the way to grow an inch beyond where you stand.

Another thing that I have realised only until recently is that language is a barrier, and sometimes things are lost in communication. Recently, someone messaged me about how I have dark circles and looked tired. English was not a language she was comfortable with but she still made an effort. It lacked the finesse and came across borderline rude/judgemental. I was amidst move back then (from Cologne to Berlin), too exhausted for communication and did not respond until much later. In that very moment, I felt attacked for being less than perfect. I was tired, struggling to stay afloat and could only see the comment one way.

But then I had a conversation with N, and as someone who was not a part of the exchange, he could see things in an altogether different light. He could sense the concern and struggle with the language. It was only then that I realised that I was not being attacked but had someone 400km away, in Germany, concerned about my wellbeing.

What I want to say is that before jumping down another person’s throat for voicing out less than pleasant opinion, let’s take a step back and understand the motive behind their comment/advice. When someone only intends to ridicule, exploit your insecurities and overstep into your personal space, I hope we all have the courage to call them out. Similarly, let’s try and also remember that not everyone hates you, not everyone is out to get you, and not everyone wishes you unwell. Let’s not allow distrust to become part of our DNA, and accept that critique is not always venom.