The Hashtag That Hurts

23rd August 2020

If I asked you what were you doing on that day, chances are you may not remember. If I tell you it was a Sunday, you might say— Oh it was just a usual lazy holiday, catching up with family, enjoying a hearty brunch or some such.

What was I doing, you might ask? In all probability, I must have been worrying or cribbing about the lockdown that was making our return from Mumbai difficult (with the hasty disclaimer: I am grateful that my husband and daughter were with me and we were with my family who still love me despite my mood swings.)

For someone in the not-so-distant Gurugram, this day would forever be etched in her memory. Every year from hereon, she would recall the events of that morning in the minutest detail, when the world she had built with a lot of love came crashing down.

I read about her, few days later, in the news and then on Facebook. Since there were a few common friends, I got curious and clicked on her profile. Her description read Mihika Wahi Gupta, runner, rider, fitness influencer. She did look the part considering her latest few posts had her posing and inspiring people to participate in a fitness event that happened around August 15, our Independence Day. I scrolled further to find pictures after pictures of a beaming family of four, until my eyes teared and I couldn’t go on.

There was something so relatable about her. A girl who fell in love and married, had children, was surrounded with friends and was living her life pursuing her interests; until the morning of 23rd August when two drunk drivers racing and over speeding their MUV rammed into her husband’s bike. The husband, 49-year-old Alok Gupta, didn’t survive the crash. The drivers were both minors.

I kept revisiting her profile in the days that followed to find the brutal change of tone in her posts. Now her posts carry a fresh hashtag every day to signify the number of days that have gone by since that morning (as I write this, it must be #Day88).

She is running again but this time between the proverbial pillar and post to get justice. She is looking for answers where none are forthcoming. While we occupy ourselves with the inane, her days are now consumed in following up with the judicial system to register the case under more stringent sections of the IPC- 279, 304(2); numbers her life now revolves around while they may make no sense to us. She has found support—there have been vigils, solidarity marches, appeals to the police and judiciary, media coverage, all of which has resulted in some action but clearly not enough.

Why does it bother me?

One as I said I related to the lady but beyond that I think it is the unfairness of it all. I still haven’t forgotten (or forgiven) those incidents when my whole class was punished because of a few mischief makers. I remember coming home quite angry because I had been wrongly punished for a mistake someone else had committed. It sounds in trivial in comparison but the baseline for me here is that Mihika’s family has been wrongly punished for someone else’s mistakes. Another thing that gets my goat is what I have often called the Dhritrashtra Syndrome —one’s blindness in the name of love for one’s child. The drivers who killed Alok were minors. How did they have access to car keys or for that matter alcohol? If they were old enough in their parents’ opinion not just to drink but to drink and drive then they are old enough to bear the consequences too.

A lot has been discussed in terms of parental responsibility, about safety and about justice but we all know that it is a long road ahead for Mihika; and an extremely lonely one. I don’t know how we can support her and I am not even sure if writing about her helps but I live in the hope that so long as we discuss it, her case will stay relevant in a society that otherwise has a short memory span. I hope that our collective conscience sends the culprits behind the bars and their parents are punished as well for the vicarious responsibility that they tossed away in the name of love for their children. As she hashtags her days, let us try in whatever capacity we can, to let her know she isn’t alone in her vigil.

Dr. Shivani Salil

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