Boarding a metro on a station and sitting on the floor when it is full is a routine that we all are aware of. The same thing happened to us when we- me, my baby and his nanny boarded the female coach of the metro on Saturday evening. The metro was occupied by many women sitting comfortably on the floor. We got a place alongside the seats and since we had lots of luggage, we opted to sit on the floor. My baby dislikes being seated when he has the opportunity to interact with so many people, so my nanny sat there with the bags and I started taking a walk with my baby in the coach. After some time, he became restless, so we started playing with other kids to distract him. We were offered seats to sit by many generous ladies but I knew he wouldn’t sit in one place for long and declined the offers.
Meanwhile, as and when there was space in between two women, I made him stand there to see the lights and traffic outside to distract him briefly but to no avail. Eventually, I decided to feed him. As he has recently learned to eat by himself, he happily opted for the option and sat next to one of the girls (there was no vacant seat, only space created by the girl). Soon, that girl deboarded and I sat there continuing to feed him as we were just 4 stations away. But just before our station, he jumped down asking me to take him outside. Thankfully, our station (MG road) was next to come and we all happily deboarded and headed off to our home.
Little did we know that this journey will become a victim of sick journalism and haunt us thereafter. During the time when I was trying to calm down my baby, a lady (Ms. Sanya Dhingra, a journalist at ThePrint) boarded the train between Malviya Nagar and MG road. She asked my nanny as to why didn’t she take one of the vacant seats, just when we left that station since that time the metro had many unoccupied seats. Our nanny, who is a very nice and simple lady, told her that she is comfortable there but since Ms. Dhingra kept staring at her, I told her that we are about to get down and we are with lots of luggage so we are ok, thanks for asking. After that, our station came, I took one of the bags and baby;, the nanny took two bags and we got down on MG Road. Ms. Dhingra who was standing right there at the door witnessed everything.
Since I am not very active on social media, it was only later that I learnt that Ms. Dhingra tweeted a picture of us in the midst of all that confusion, our nanny sitting on the floor with the caption, “Seen in Delhi metro: Mother and child take seats while the child’s nanny sits on the floor on a fairly empty train. Caste/class discrimination really is space-agnostic.” As if this was not enough, an article appeared on ThePrint on Monday written by none other than Mr Shekhar Gupta, with the now viral picture at the top, being used as an example to “tell us more than a thousand words on our class differences and the way we treat our domestic workers”, as the author himself put it, quoting our example, and clubbing it with other harsh cases of “servant” exploitation. I was left dumbstruck and furious at the same time.
I decided to confront Ms. Dhingra and called her, asking her how she could such a hideous and unethical thing to us when she has witnessed everything with her own eyes. She saw me struggling with my child, she saw us shifting from one window to the other just to pacify him, she saw him cry to get down on the train. Moreover, when she asked my nanny, she without hesitation told her that she is comfortable sitting on the floor and then I explained to her that we have many bags as well and we are about to get down. She saw us struggle to carry those bags together and she still went ahead with all this. She took advantage of the situation, took our picture without our knowledge and proceeded to accuse us of something we didn’t even do. The bags were conveniently removed from the picture for her benefit. She said she was sorry for putting me in such a situation but whatever she has done, it is part of her job and she has full right to do so since our legal system gives her the right of free speech and expression. I requested her to please remove the picture from social media so that it is not used by others again in an incorrect context but she refused and made it clear that she would neither remove, nor apologize.
This now puts me in a difficult situation. A person who doesn’t know either me or my nanny, who doesn’t know the other side of the story, will carry the most repulsive impression of our family. It’s heartbreaking that this picture will continue to be used without any context and portray us as exploiters. How can journalists go around indulging in such irresponsible behavior without any consequences?
I am a doctor at AIIMS, Delhi and we, at this premier institute, continuously serve the poor and others who find themselves in a severely challenging time in their lives. We interact with these people day in and day out; then, how can I, being in public service, misbehave with a lady who stays with me, who takes care of my baby just because she is poor. We share equal household responsibilities. We, stay in a rented flat near AIIMS so that we can be easily accessible in needs of emergency and here we do not have any separate servant quarter- there goes the “space discrimination”. So she stays with us, eats with us, laughs with us, travels with us and even sleeps where we sleep. It pains me that all it takes to be maligned in this day and age is one out of context picture and an irresponsible journalist.
And what am I supposed to do now? Spend my time figuring out how to tell people the real story or give time to my patients? I didn’t have any twitter or facebook account up until now but because this started becoming overwhelming and unbearable, I had to bring the whole story before everyone.