I remember it quite clearly. It was the day I was sulking over a poorly taken exam; one I thought had probably end all attempts of salvaging my semester GPA (what is a undergraduate student, if not a little overdramatic?). I almost did not go for my weekly teaching session, the very first one I would miss since I started three years ago. These sessions were a part of a project, one that was aimed at teaching the support staff at my university, some elementary English speaking, writing and computer skills. Sometimes people were receptive to learning, sometimes hardly anyone shows up. But those who did were dedicated and inspiring. One of them particularly, made me realise how truly lucky I was.

While I was waiting for them to complete an assignment, to write a paragraph about their day, one of my favourites in the class raised his hand for me to check his work. From not being able to hardly write even one single line, in three years, he had brilliantly managed to write a whole paragraph on word. All the credit went to his hard work, determination and that smile on his face that remained unwavering. What he said next, is what has inspired me to write this particular piece. When I told him he could leave, after shutting down his computer, he smiled and said, “Ma’am mein aik din isi tarah parchay likhun ga. Aur phir likh ker, logon ko sunaya karun ga.” (Ma’am one day, just like this, I will write on papers, and then after writing, I will narrate them to people). I asked him what he would write about, to which he replied, “Sab kuch. Jo meinay daikha aur bardasht kiya. Aur sari khushiyan bhi.” (Everything. What I saw and what I had to bear. And all my happiness as well). A year later, I think about how he, a dining center chef, had to wait his turn, making sure he was ready for the world to listen to what he had to say. I had almost all platforms open and ready for me to take a stand against anything I found even slightly remorseful. Then, why wasn’t I?

I believe we have become somewhat indifferent, or maybe selfish to the idea of listening to somebody else, especially somebody else that might have a different opinion than us. We just do not want to give them a chance. And it is because of this, we have rendered that very person too scared to open his or her mouth. Is it because we feel that writing about it on Facebook, writing a blog about it or protesting outside with defiant banners is just not good enough? Or is it just that we truly think that no matter what action we take, nothing is ever going to change? So we sit back, and criticise those who muster up all their courage to take a stand over something they think is simply not right. Rather than applauding a group of girls who thought enough was enough, and decided to sit outside at roadside dhabas, drink tea and for that one hour feel that the public space also belonged to them… we laugh at them. Rather than admiring a boy’s courage, one that waited almost all his life to tell us about how he was abused as a child, we tell him to hush up, saying it is not manly to talk about how we feel.

Recently, I met an upcoming music band, one that had a simple ideology for why they wanted to play music; to get a bit of perspective. By naming their band Bayaan, literally meaning to express something, they wanted their lyrics, sound and videos to somehow break the stagnancy of a music industry obsessed with glitz and glamour. If one even glances at their first music video, one that does not hold back on criticising numerous elements of an obsessive society, for me, perhaps it is their way of making sure that music can be a way of protesting, or simply a way of healing. It makes me happy to see how just like them, others are trying to break the glass ceiling over talking about discontent. And not in an abusive and offending way, rather as one hoping to make others feel welcome. Through seemingly unconventional ways, like music, art, or even dancing they want to speak out about a system they think needs to be fixed. Through what they are good at, they want to play their part.

If a girl is fighting for letting the only school in her village let her study, we should stand by her. We should also stand by the woman who quits her job in protest of not getting the same wage, as her male counterparts. Why must we tell the latter woman that her ‘problem’ is silly and that she should be grateful for what she already has? Problems can be big or small, but they are still problems. Often just a change in mindset can solve a problem, a physical action is not even needed.

This is the age of mass communication, where with the abundance of social media platforms and accessibility of information, it is necessary to not devalue someone’s cause, even if we may not agree with it, but make an effort to respect what they have to say. And if we agree with it, help them get their cause out. Maybe, they become a voice for someone who cannot fight for themselves.