Imagine you are at the door of your office, ringing the door bell, people are inside, but they are not opening the door. You can hear the voices of people inside. After ringing 2-3 times you sit outside on the steps and connect your phone to the office Wi-Fi. You start your office work—checking your emails—on your phone and plan your day thinking that people are too busy inside and someone will open the door in a while. After checking a few mails you plug in your earphones and start listening to music.
After listening to 3-4 songs you get a phone call from inside the office from your boss’s landline number. And one admin person asks you some urgent details of your work. You tell the admin to open the door as you are outside at the door, waiting since the past 30 minutes. And that you can also hear 2-3 colleagues talking inside the room. The admin disconnects the phone and you get up from the steps thinking that somebody will come and open the door now. But again 4-5 minutes have passed and the door is still closed.
By now everybody in the boss’s room and may be the whole office is aware that you are waiting outside. But you are purposefully kept outside the office for a reason you are never going to know. And once you get inside the office you are given random excuses for doing so.
This incident can make you seriously angry. More than getting angry, you may feel deeply rejected, disrespected and humiliated. You may feel deeply excluded. You may feel deeply invaluable for the social organization, for which you have kept yourself available twenty four by seven, for which you have put your career at stake.
This incident may make you realize that the non-hierarchical and democratic face of the social organization is just an illusion. This incident may make you realize that the social organization may be working for securing equal respect and rights for one of the most excluded and marginalized sections of the society, but it may not be necessary for its boss to respect his/her/their employees equally. This incident may make you realize that the social organization is not at all inclusive in nature and, excessively and disproportionately dominated by its boss. This incident may make you realize that one should not lose his/her identity for the sake of any social organization and its great work. This incident may also make you realize that you should not allow anyone, even your boss, to disrespect you in any circumstances.
In the words of Babasaheb Ambedkar:
“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.”
This means that for the sake of development of the society or the organization, you should not lose and/or misrecognize your identity. Your identity is different and independent of your organization’s identity. You should not compromise with your identity and respect at all for the sake of your organization. You do not need an established movement to make your identity. You can be a movement in yourself, only after you recognize your worth and protect your dignity.
Babasaheb, once challenged by some nationalists who told him that he was “a part of the whole”, replied aptly, “But I am not a part of the whole, I am a part apart!” (Omvedt 2004: 29). Same way, you do not need to be a part of the whole, you can be a part apart!
One of Perumal Murugan’s poems ‘Enough Is Enough’ can further the anger this write-up captures.
You fill my plate with food
You make it tastier, more fragrant
You roll out the royal carpet for me
You shower me with rose petals
You give me nectar to drink
You wipe my lips with a soft towel
You shower me with praise
You put me on a pedestal
Enough is enough
Stop all of this
your antics behind my back
Ashok Bhangi is a writer and a social activist.