When I step out of the door these days, I don’t wear a mask. I blindfold myself instead, because to see is to want to talk about it and eventually write about it. Incidents have been whispered into my ears – the very media I revere has frightened me as I walk down this street. The trees on either side of me seem protective, and I feel comforted for a moment.
Returning home in the evening – because as the sky gets dark so does my confidence – I sit at the edge of the bed. My tired eyes hallucinate a book on the wooden table, the title of which reads The Power of Storytelling Through The Female Voice. I love these moments because they give me an explanation of why I started my selfish revolution in the first place. They assure me that I am not mad to want to lend my voice to others.
I remember a time when us immature, half-baked young writers looked up, eyes brimming with hope, at the reporter on television who talked into a microphone courageously while chaos ran rampant in the background. Then we hurried every morning to be the ‘newsreader’ for our families, updating them on the day’s happenings and nurturing the importance we felt.
There are stories everywhere, someone once told me. You just have to tell them.
“I will do what I can and I will say what I should,” said Gauri Lankesh in an interview with Chaitanya K.M. in 2017, a few days before she was assassinated. “These intolerant voices find strength in our silence.”
Returning to my narrative – because there is no better way to tell a personal story than to be hopelessly self-centred – how is a 15-year-old aspiring journalist supposed to react upon learning that one of her biggest inspirations had been murdered? I ask because I stumbled for days after her murder – physically and emotionally. The rosy picture I had painted for myself to look forward to had been disfigured by red streaks tossed mindlessly onto the canvas.
Once ,while compiling a report about the number of press freedom violations since 2014, I wondered whether these are signs sent to inform me to choose a more traditional career choice. What will come of writing? Danger, discomfort and certainly not money. At such times, I tell myself that it’s only crime and war reporting I need to stay away from. The very next day, I read about Masrat Zahra in the news, detained for standing up on social media. How many times have I voiced my own concerns on Instagram?
Aap chronology samajhiye.
If women are an essential half of our nation, shouldn’t their stories be told by women themselves? If not, this just becomes another door closed in our faces, because we have a duty to the younger generations too. We have the right to not just seek inspirations like ourselves, but to be an inspiration for those who come after us.
Is it the fact that we discourage our girls to engage themselves in active professions, that drives our need to suppress female voices in the industry? Does it hurt our ears to hear the female storyteller? I wish to write for all of you to read, not to be told to change my ambitions and stay perennially safe. As a female teenager, staying safe is advice that makes me angry and rebellious.
Today, I remove my blindfold because the surroundings have permeated through the cloth and burnt my eyes. If I don’t see, I will dissipate into a void.
If I don’t write, I will not be heard.
Aliyah Banerjee is an avid writer by both passion and profession, also assuming the identity of an artist when inspiration strikes.