Why am I ex­pected to be a hero?

With her de­but book Small Acts of Free­dom set to re­lease next year, Gurme­har Kaur, who has been la­beled an 'ac­tivist', as­sures us that she is just another girl who loves spend­ing time at Star­bucks and can’t live with­out Zara.

India Today - - FEATURE - _ By Sukant Deepak

Tol­stoy’s War and Peace rests on Gurme­har Kaur’s bed­side ta­ble. She is ex­cited that Jane Austen will fea­ture ex­ten­sively in her sec­ond year lit­er­a­ture stud­ies at the Lady Shri Ram Col­lege in Delhi. And she just fin­ished Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz (and loved it). She tells us a se­cret—that she is no left­ist, loves hoard­ing money and can’t live with­out Zara. One day, she wants to be known as a writer and maybe work at the UN too. No, en­ter­ing pol­i­tics is nowhere in the pic­ture. “This is de­spite the fact that I al­ways tell tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ists that I have not even at­tained the le­gal age to fight elec­tions.”

She has a close group of friends, doesn’t party much and can share where she hangs out in Delhi. “But you won’t tell the ABVP guys, right?” she laughs.This 20-year-old young woman has her weak mo­ments too. “I am no hero and why am I ex­pected to be? I can get teary-eyed when there is no one around, thinking about the kind of abuses I was sub­jected to. I was feel­ing a lit­tle low on my flight to Chandi­garh but I did my best not to let my fel­low pas­sen­gers no­tice it,” says Kaur, who was in Chandi­garh in May.

We start talk­ing about the trolling she was sub­jected to by ABVP mem­bers and how it made her a house­hold name. Did she ever imag­ine that peo­ple could be so in­sen­si­tive, so vi­cious? She says she never did. It was a rude shock. “Now I feel that we as hu­mans are es­sen­tially sadists and the on­line medium prom­ises us enough anonymity to bring that out. I feel like I sud­denly grew older by decades in those three days. I have had sev­eral face-to-face in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple from both right and left wing, we may dis­agree on many fronts, but I have never ex­pe­ri­enced such be­hav­ior in per­son. Well, so many right-wingers have re­quested me for a selfie af­ter a heated de­bate.”

I feel we hu­mans are es­sen­tially sadists. The on­line medium prom­ises us enough anonymity to bring that out.

And how does she look back at the time when the con­tro­versy erupted? How did she cope with the trolls, the ag­gres­sive news an­chors, and char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion by many stu­dent lead­ers? “Yes, I did feel vul­ner­a­ble, just like any­one my age would. It was a tough pe­riod. But my friends and family never left my side. The teach­ers at my col­lege stood by me. They would not miss a chance to as­sure me that I was not alone.”

No, she is not scared to speak out again. “Why should I be? Also, au­thor­ity has to be con­stantly ques­tioned, no mat­ter who holds the power, no?”

A new-age jour­nal­ist with a smart­phone on video mode barges in un­in­vited and asks about how In­dia should re­act to Pak­istan’s mis­ad­ven­ture on the bor­ders. “Why not wait for the day when you can have the In­dian De­fence Min­is­ter an­swer that?” Kaur asks po­litely. He leaves.

It takes her a while to get back to her nor­mal self, when she talks about her love for ten­nis. “Maria Shara­pova is my favourite”, or her ob­ses­sion with cof­fee, “How can any­one live with­out it.” Or how she will re­act if she comes across Arund­hati Roy, “I wouldn’t be able to ut­ter a word.”

Will she wear a plac­ard for the pho­to­shoot? Kaur winks, “Hasn’t ev­ery­one show­ered enough love on that pic­ture of mine?”

Pho­to­graph by SAN­DEEP SAHDEV

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