The British punk culture of the '70s & the '80s somehow found its way into my system when I started discovering the music of the "underground". Bands like Discharge, Napalm Death, Deftones and Sex Pistols were part of my late night jam-sessions. Whatever happened over the next 5 years, changed my outlook towards both fashion and life.
The fashion oeuvre took a diabolical turn. I started ordering a lot of punk and metal t-shirts. I was a young kid of 18 years, having started my freshman college year. I started growing my hair and started wearing torn jeans to college.
But I soon realized that people didn't take too well to how I presented myself.
"Dekho charasi ja raha hai."
The unnecessary stares actually get irksome, irrespective of whether one is in the cafeteria or the metro. There were times I would get into altercations after listening to all the bullshit being spewed at me.
"Iske maa-baap nahin honge, tabhi bigda ja raha hai. Iske sanskaar kidhar hain?"
I could hear totally degrading things being said about myself. Forget the random people on the streets, even the people hailing from the echelons of the "babudom" clan started taking digs at me. Which sanskaars are they talking about? Am I passing lewd comments at women? Or doing drugs?
Just because I'm dressed in a way that doesn't reflect a theistic "Hindu upbringing" doesn't mean I'm a "threat to society".
"The man has tattoos. He probably is a criminal"
Going under the needle, all of a sudden, becomes a crime? What about those rapists who roam free? Or those bribe-fiends who still haven't gone to jail despite mooching people off, bigtime? Just because I have skingravings doesn't mean I've served a prison sentence in Guantanamo Bay!
There are thousands, who've gone through the same. People who've read extensively, heard artists from the world over, broken free from the "societal hegemony" to pursue their passions that have given them a distinct identity.
There are long haired people and tattoo enthusiasts who do two jobs only to earn enough to pursue their dreams. There are so many accomplished artists who've lost their identities, merely trying to "fit into the system".
There's so much talent, but that latent talent fails to brim to the top, because people who dare to go beyond the convention are frowned down upon. Budding filmmakers and artists have to coerce themselves into working 9-5 jobs, just to get enough money to make ends meet. But that again comes with a price to pay: the zeal for art slowly dies out!
People need to realize that not everything boils down to credentials and not everyone wearing torn jeans, having long hair and flaunting tattoos, is a criminal. We're in the 21st century, the stereotype must end.