The Currency of Fear
On a train from Delhi to Mumbai, I noticed something disturbingly interesting, though otherwise very normal. I saw a younger boy carrying cups behind a much older boy selling tea. The older boy called out with authority to passengers, getting their attention to his offering, while the boy behind him very quietly presented a cup for the tea to be poured in when called.
Now these boys were gone in a jiffy. They had come in, paraded through the bogie, and left all within a few minutes, but the image they left behind was haunting. “He must have been his younger brother”, I first thought. Or maybe he has been “hired” to carry cups around. How much would he be getting paid? If a cup of tea is Rs 5/-, what might his cut be? Has he been kept on a salary? Or maybe he has some share in the profit?
Trust me, I’d really rather see a child go to school and get properly educated, but at this point I got hit by a much darker and disturbing thought. What if the boy wasn’t being paid anything at all?! What if he had been intimidated into doing this? What if he had been threatened, maybe even beaten or harmed into accepting it as his duty to follow unquestioningly, with his eyes forever downcast, only presenting cups when called?!
Now, maybe I am being very grim or as I have been told many a times before “giving out negativity”. But this thought, actually more honestly, this speculation, since I could not actually get to speak to the boy, turned more into a picture of this reality in the world today – The powerful currency of Fear.
It’s amazing to think how we are so many times obligated or moved by fear rather than personal choice or money. Fears of being rejected, of being ridiculed, of failing, of bankruptcy, of death, these are just a few. Then there are the more legitimate ones – Fears of imprisonment, of a sentence, of a penalty etc.
Fear is employed more often than we can imagine in India. Stories of tortured women silenced by their powerful in-laws, or a rape victim threatened against raising her voice are way too common now. There are many unheard stories of people from “lower castes” oppressed by powerful “upper caste” landlords. Legal notices drop like flies at the whim of fear.
How many times, have we heard the term – “tu jaanta nahin mera baap kaun hai? (You have no clue who my father is?)”. This term is really thrown like a trump card, a threat based on power, influence and status. And many work hard to be able to use that trump card. Believe it or not then, Fear is really treated as a commodity worth investing in.
I am not here to say that Fear is bad; it would be like saying Money is bad. Because the same way, in which Money can be used for both good and evil, so can Fear be. But in no way must we allow our lives and our action to be governed by Fear, lest we are forced to slave and conform to the will of another. Much like that boy, who I dread to think, has already been. Let the currency of Fear only hold value to serve justice, and never slavery and ignorance.
Noble Luke is the vocalist of the bands Artillerie and Blind Image.