So Shaheen Dhadha has returned to Palghar. Her pallu is off and her Facebook is on. She’s radiant and seems like a young woman transformed. Only 21 years old, faltering India already regards her as a new Messiah. She stands tall, while a gaggle of goons stand weak. She basks in the sunshine of freedom while a city of loutish men hide in the darkness of contempt.
For what it’s worth, some justice has been served – the three cowering police inspectors have been suspended and the judge transferred. Some of the vandals who destroyed her uncle’s clinic have been arrested. And a massive public outcry has resulted in the police case being dropped. What that young girl must have dealt with on that murky Sunday evening – a poky Palghar police station, 2000 bullies demanding she apologise. Terrified, tormented, and alone she still manages to hold them off for two hours. Even when she does finally say sorry, she’s clear what she’s apologised for.
Not for the contents of her comment. But that she may have hurt religious sentiments. One harmless Facebook post. A slap in the face for a political party. She’s truly a female Gulliver in a town of male Lilliputians. Miss Dhadha belongs to a unique generation. I watch them with a mixture of awe and annoyance. These are child adults. We were obedient. We didn’t question anything. We weren’t allowed to. This bunch needs an answer to everything. They are rebellious without being disobedient. They are curt without being rude.
They have got balls. They have got attitude. They have got arrogance. They have got fearlessness. They have got entitlement. And they have got their future.A month ago Miss Dhadha was an innocent collegian. In one evening she watched her world turn upside down and downside up. Today she is a confident Joan of Arc. Today she knows the law, enough to object to the charges being dropped under Section C...Section B would have been better. Today she understands the media. Today she understands politics. Today she understands the new ruthless, brutal India.
She leaves Palghar to visit her relatives in Rajkot. Narendra Modi, always alert for an opportunity to needle Maharashtra, fires a salvo, come live in Gujarat, he invites her. She’s quick with her RSVP - I don’t need Gujarat to feel safe, Maharashtra will always be my home. Shaheen Dhadha hasn’t just grown up. She’s come of age. Twenty one is the new 35. Adolescence is the new adulthood. I feel shock and awe.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.