Meghali Roy‘s essay: Other

‘Other’ this word elicits different ideas and reactions in everyone. As a Social Science teacher, every time when I hear this word, am reminded of different conversations that I have witnessed or have been part of. During a class discussion on the blatant display of economic disparity during the pandemic last year, one of my students quipped, “maám if there are no poor then who will work in factories?” Some gasped in my class, while others looked visibly horrified. I took a moment to gather my thoughts before I replied. I posed a counter question, if that was true then why is it that there are plenty of individuals working in factories in America who are financially stable and do not need to be ‘poor’ ’to work in them? The conversation continued to veer in the direction of labour laws and welfare schemes. Long after that class had ended; that query kept on ringing in my ears like a siren. As the year 2020 turned from bad to worse and 2021 ushered in more losses all around, I could not escape the idea of the ‘other’. 

How easily do we create these silos and decide who can be deemed ‘us’ and who can be the ‘other’? Binaries are not only founded based on economic disparities but are part of our day-to-day news cycle. Farmers, Dalits, migrant workers, Muslims and so on, a target has been largely placed on their backs labelling them as those who are juxtaposed against the idea of us. Physical violence, trolling online, misinformation has created a monster which asks regularly for a sacrificial lamb. A farmer whose hands were chopped off because he asked for his wages, Dalit parents fined by the village panchayat because their toddler had crawled into the temple, a women’s forceful abortion because she had a married a Muslim man. The list goes on and has kept growing. We pride ourselves on being ‘tolerant’ yet in the recent past I have been forced to reexamine the true meaning of it. I reached this conclusion that being tolerant largely implies that given a choice one might not prefer to be tolerant, that there is a deterrent whether it’s the laws of the land, moral or social expectation that prevents intolerance. As I scan through the news every day, I fear that I see a growing clamor for the removal of this deterrent. Conversations are often embedded with assumption of privilege which till now has protected many of us from being thrown into the category of the other. I am constantly reminded of this famous quote that I happened to chance upon quoted by a prosecutor in the fictional law court of a TV series ‘Boston Legal’. As a teenager, it made a fleeting impact on my psyche. Years later while preparing my notes for the undergrad exams I came across that same quote again and it has left an indelible mark on my existence. It was the post war words of Martin Niemöller “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…”

Some day soon if some of us don’t speak out, in the natural order of business we will be declared as the ‘other’ and there would be no one to attest to fact that we were once deemed as ‘Us’.



Meghali is a history teacher in senior school. She is an archaeologists by training, finds joy in reading everything under the sun. She landed in the teaching profession by turn of fate and stayed for the love of the children. She is foodie by nature and loves experimenting in the kitchen.

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