— Debdutta Paul
Many days back, what now feels like ages ago, a friend of mine had asked me, “How does it matter?” This was in response to my frantic attempts to convince her that although her intentions were pure, what she was about to do would not be received well by the society: people would talk, and take it the wrong way. She ignored all of that and went ahead with what she felt was right. Not in a manner of wanting to show off, not in any way suggesting that she was trying to prove anything to anyone. People talked, she didn’t care. They called her a snob, she didn’t bother. People shut up after a while.
Those were days when I was not, as I like to call it today, ‘open-minded’. Ages have passed and I am amazed to think how much I myself have changed over the last few years. I wouldn’t say ‘matured’, because that is a word not applicable to adults beyond 21 years of age: they are already mature. I would rather say that these days, I can appreciate what my friend had meant back then in her nonchalant “How does it matter?” while chomping on a samosa. You simply do what you think is right.
In the immediate society that I live in today, it is easy to spot an outlier — people like my old friend. Which means the society hasn’t really been thinking along the same lines. The society has been stereotyping at some level or another; at some point, everyone is being judged by ‘standards’ set by the ‘norm’. Deep down, we are not being as open to diversity as we think we are being. We are not being as accepting of people who are different from what our predefined idea of normal is — despite them being within their rights of being so. And that is not a great sign. It’s not a great sign that anyone’s preconceived notion of the normal gets projected into another individual’s attitudes, because then the individual stops being who they truly would want to be.
It is my belief that the most prized possession of the human race is its diversity. Let us leave out the racial, linguistic and religious diversity, and wonder for a moment how different two siblings born to the same parents are, how different are your personal choices from your colleagues. Some of us love pets and some don’t — we have to be more understanding of the other’s choice and accept it; some like to party while others don’t — let not one kind’s idea of enjoyment be thrust upon the other kind, let not one’s actions disturb another’s choice. I do not see many examples of such acceptance in the people around me — and that saddens me deeply. I see outliers. Forget not, these are fantastic beings — they lead their lives in a “How does it matter?” way. Occasionally, they will forge deep bonds of friendship with other outliers, and these friendships are very different from what the society recognizes.
So, hello world. Open up. Talk. Accept. Wonder. Embrace diversity. Otherwise, one day outliers will become the norm. And then, I will choose to be an outlier.