Courage in proportion to fear

| Author: Shirley |

Today we got to meet our Indian counterparts at St. Joseph’s College (SJC), the people we perhaps would have become had we been ambitious enough and born into middle-class families here in Bangalore rather than in the U.S. They were wise, worldly, and well-spoken (usually in several languages). We discussed a book we had all read (Democrats and Dissenters by Ramachandra Guha) and mutually shared our thoughts on it and politics at large in India and the U.S.

I was shocked to learn from some of the students that normal, everyday people can be killed for criticizing certain politicians on social media or for just trying to order a plate of beef in certain parts of India. Yes, the book we read alluded to these possibilities, but hearing these examples and stories from the Indian students in person just made everything so much more real, concrete, scary.

Later, after formal book discussions were over, I was even more shocked to learn from a female student that the women she knows and associates with won’t even walk around alone within the city during the day, let alone nighttime. She reminded me that India has consistently been ranked the world’s most dangerous country for women and though she wanted to stay and make a difference at the grassroots level here after graduation, she wasn’t sure if it was really worth it because of the need to live in a constant state of fear.

How does this background level of fear, whether it’s of speaking your mind or of others speaking theirs or of walking alone or of having to cross a busy street during rush hour, wear on the Indian subconsciousness? How much energy does it take up on a daily basis, especially for women? To me, it seems to be too much. But perhaps I have the mechanism all wrong and instead of letting fear get the best of her, the Indian woman has simply grown her courage and determination in proportion to her fear. From the amazing women I’ve met here so far, yeah, I think that’s it.

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