Just a few months back, I accidentally clicked on a silent video. A young girl’s restrained silence seethed through the innards of my heart. Every placard she held up reflected some pain, some anguish. A daughter of a martyred father holding up a placard saying she had less, if any, memories of the father and more of how it is to grow up without one. As you are about to be engulfed by emotions of overwhelming sympathy and pity, she picks up a placard that says, ‘Pakistan did not kill my father; War did.’
I don’t question it at that time, neither does the nation then. In fact, I draw strength and swell with pride at the bigger message she was attempting to convey. I had felt like saluting the mother who raised her in a way that she is neither spewing venom nor nursing deep-rooted bitterness. In fact, she was trying to erase it!
Here, she is today. The same girl, taking a stand as a student. She is at the receiving end of a humongous magnitude of ridicule, threat, mockery and perhaps whatever it would take to silence her. Here they are, the wisest of the wise, the most celebrated and followed ones demeaning not just her present stand but linking it ruthlessly to one placard she raised out of a series of those she held up months back.
The bigger shame is that many of us targeting her with acerbic vendetta are parents of young children. If not parents, we have certainly passed through this most vulnerable age. It is at this age that youngsters idolize, form perspectives and even question status quos. In doing that are being laid foundations of right, wrong and characters. In nipping and pinning them, are being laid foundations of them growing up as hollow, soulless characters.
My, barely 15 year-old has a volley of questions as he picks up the paper in the free mornings or watches us glued to some T.V. news. Going back in time, I remember growing up in a state undergoing a turmoil during such impressionable years as Gurmehar’s. I read books, made notes on editorials, scribbled vents, wrote poetry to give way to my perspectives. I clearly remember the urge to take stand or so to say, to figure out things. With age and developments, I might have amended my thoughts a dozen times. That’s the way you grow your mind and self. Perhaps, I was luckier that back then, social media wasn’t a free-for-all, trying to father/mother every youngster with a whip of trolls. It is heart-wrenching how social media is being used to lace things and rip a young girl in the most caustic tones, first accusing her of feeding of her father’s martyrdom, then begetting him shame and finally vilifying her for lacking courage and withdrawing from the campaign.
To those trolling Gurmehar, I wonder what course she should have followed that could have given them solace. That she could never rise above her personal tragedy to have an opinion ever? Why did the fact that she could have one and voice it too, rub the mockers at such wrong places that they her questioning her life choices, her upbringing and even coming down to rudimentary crassness of telling her that she owes her admission to country’s most prestigious college through a quota her father’s sacrifice made her eligible for.
Counter placard or tweets could be great ideas to send across your message but to those with huge fan base (the cricketers and the celebrities), you have unleashed a fury by each one of your followers interpreting it in their own sweet way and getting so venomous. It is these interpretations that are doing all the damage. When she condemned ‘WAR’ she didn’t mean to invite us to dissect that word and give it a 100 new meaning and contexts. She wasn’t even trying to deliver a discourse our inflated egos couldn’t take. She was perhaps trying to give a positive message rising above her personal loss midst the age-old bitterness between countries that changed the course of her life. Doesn’t a yearning for peace, a hate for campus vandalism come naturally to most of us?
Give the girl her due in not being cynical enough to conclude that she can only be a pawn and not have an opinion without a hidden agenda. In doing that, we are undermining the wisdom and sensibility of an entire generation that brings along some hope. A generation having a ‘least bothered’ approach to issues around them could also not be a good idea for a nation.
To Gurmehar, to Zaira Wasim and to others – Go dream and express! For in your expression is that flickering ray of light at the end of this dark tunnel of construed motives and interpretations.
For heaven’s sake, lets let a soldier rest in peace and derive some solace from his grave that the girl he left at two is a lady with a head at twenty and perhaps trying to uphold his legacy and make him proud- albeit in a different way!
For me Gurmehar, you are the girl I would want to be at 20 if I am ever again and perhaps a daughter I would have been proud to have!
May the force be with you and guide you in your future choices. ‘Caution but not cower’ could be a learning you could take from this hate trail. It certainly has come ‘too harsh’ a way…