Nandita Das

Who are ‘they’?

  • April 1, 2013

They say if your ears and feet are covered, you will never catch a cold. They say this year will see the hottest summer ever. They say it is good luck if the crow shits on your head….

You probably have heard all of these and many more. For a long time now, I have wondered who really consists of the constituency called ‘they’. Not just grandmothers and wise old men, but it seems anybody and everybody is part of ‘they’. It is quite an equalizer!

Barring very specialized views where the proponent’s name needs to be quoted, everything else falls in ‘their’ ambit, covering almost every subject under the sun. But as most of it is pure hearsay, the fact-fiction ratio is rather ambiguous.

It is interesting how we all use ‘them’ with ease, authority and confidence. Often, it is a reflection of one’s own existing faith or view on the matter. We tend to believe things as fact when they resonate with our own beliefs, and disregard them, when they don’t. Of course, it also matters who first voices the thought on behalf of ‘them’ and how much faith we bestow on him/her.

From the time I decided to write about this, I began noticing how often we quote ‘them’ and hide behind them, to give our own views a greater legitimacy. I guess using ‘they say’ makes our own arguments stronger and gives the solitary ‘I’ more weight. But I wonder why we shy away from owning up to our own insights and beliefs? Once I remember replacing all my ‘I’s with ‘one’, as in ‘one feels this and that…’ and my friend pointed out, how I was subconsciously avoiding owning up to my own views. Sometimes there is no ‘they’ and it is just a convenient ploy to get the point across, as it helps in blurring the lines between fact and opinion.

Then there are times I find ‘their’ ideas so compelling, that I want to submit to it on an impulse. For instance, when I heard someone saying, “They say that the collective consciousness shifts if just 7 per cent of the population believes in a certain thing,” I was fascinated hearing this and did some research and found out that there was fair amount of fact in it. Imagine the possibilities! If only we can get 7 per cent of world population to believe in no war, no discrimination, less abuse of the environment and all the good things that we want for our world. I am sure that 7 per cent already exists, but the challenge is in joining the dots, to create a critical mass. But when we do speak up, we often realize that we are not alone. I feel less lonely and more empowered, knowing that even a minority can influence the larger good, when we come together. 

But then ‘they’ also say that it is one thing to believe something conceptually, and another to lead your life by those beliefs. Thus, I wonder, that even after we get that 7 per cent, can we assume that the actual change will automatically follow? To take a real example: for a long time a plurality of people have believed in equal rights for women in the abstract, but when it comes to actual behavior, on a day-to-day basis, they do not seem to live it. This gap is true across countries and societies, despite many more people believing in gender equality in principle.

‘They’ say contradictory things and that is ‘their’ beauty. Like they say distance makes the heart grow fonder and they also say out of sight is out of mind. They say history repeats itself and also experience makes you wiser. Thankfully we have the freedom to quote one, at one time and the other, at another. And neither can be questioned!

Virata Parvam


Director: Udugula Venu

Language: Telugu

Character Name: Shakuntala

Key Cast: Kundan Alexzed, Chakrapani Ananda, Banerjee

Feastivals and Awards: NA

Film Stills: 9

BTS: 11