Dear Mr Sibal
I’ve been remembering you so much lately, I thought I’d write you a letter. I had a yen to talk to you about my parents. When I was a kid we’d be transferred to a new base every few years. This meant leaving best friends behind resulting in full-scale viraha feelings appropriate to youth. So the first question before my schoolbag was off my shoulders each day was — meri koi chitthi? Then the voluptuous immersion in a private cocoon would follow — re-reading those fat pillows of letters, full of innermost thoughts, anger at our parents, the world, our keen adolescent conviction that the most unjust life had been meted out to us alone and so forth.
My parents would cast uneasy glances at this hectic, near-erotic activity. One can guess their thoughts — what was this that drew their child so far from them, into an individual world? Did seditious thoughts, forbidden fantasies and dark plots about the future throb in those pages? The answer? Yes, many. These friendships and forays outside the family were of course the path to dissent with what was around me, and eventually, to adulthood.
Sensing this, and tempted as he might have been, my parents never opened or read the letters. When letters were replaced by interminable phone conversations, the uncertainty about what might be afoot never led to stealthy eavesdropping on the extension line. As children, my dad had told us clearly — you never open other people’s letters. They’re personal. It’s private. So now, even if his principle might have been tested, he had to stick to it, right? So he did, even when dissent became the norm at home.
Perhaps he believed things would turn out for the best. Despite this individual, private activity his daughter would nevertheless emerge as a doctor with husband and a wardrobe full of pressed salwar kameezes. No such luck, alas. Did all the privacy he afforded us have something to do with it? Almost certainly. Allowed to have many spaces without scrutiny, I had the freedom to plot a rather different script than my parents might have liked. But scrutiny never followed in all the time it took to figure things out. And I think that helped with the figuring things out bit.
Mr Sibal, if my dad could do it, I reckon so can you and your government. I reckon you can junk this ridiculous and wrongly parental plan to create a government-run 50-member body, empowered to oversee all Internet standard bodies and regulate all Internet-related disputes, sidelining any “equal say” process with civil society, that you are proposing to the UN.
I know that some parents decide everything unilaterally, including their kids’ spouses, just like you guys have taken the proposal to the UN without any public discussion. And I know the government is confused about the difference between public and private from the way they use public resources to help private profit and also allow private corporates to block public sites like Vimeo and send notices to bloggers like Vidyut Kale to take down her expose of the alleged financial hanky-panky of Marine Solutions (henceforth Sailgate) from her blog www.aamjanta.com.
I know you think you are doing it for our good just like some people’s parents beat up their kids for their own good. You think, in the end we will see you meant well and see the love behind the bullshit and censorship, the father behind the fascism. Thing is na Mr Sibal, we can’t choose our parents. But we do choose our government na.Reply soon. Me.Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.