New Delhi, Dec 23 : It was only after 20 minutes into the conversation that she reveals she is an Instagram celebrity with more than 168 K followers. And it's only after a string of Punjabi youngsters at the Singhu border request her for pictures and bytes that you run a quick Google search on the phone.
Now, Moose Jattana is from Australia and flew to India two weeks back especially to participate in the agitation against the new farm laws . She hasn't booked a return ticket. Torn jeans, a black top -- she is 19 -- the age when dissent and love are a one-way street and as grand as a gambler's promise.
She says coming here was not a choice. There was no other option. "The moment I saw the clashes between Haryana Police and farmers, I knew I had to be part of this movement. Sometime you just know,no?" Originally from Mohali, Jattana, who migrated to Australia when she was 13, had to sleep in a car for two days when she reached the protest site. "That was no bother. Anyways, now I share a rented accommodation with a volunteer near the site, so everything is accessible." Firmly believing that the agitation is not just about the three new farm laws but what the current dispensation "stands for", the young lady feels that this trip for her is an introduction to real India. "Earlier, we would come every year to attend marriages in Punjab -- which are alike. Travelling alone was a strict no-no. This is the first time I managed to visit Delhi too. I used money from my savings and decided to come, despite numerous warnings that India is no place for a woman to travel alone." As more 'fans' approach her, she smiles that it's not really easy being a social media celebrity. "You have no idea how much abuse I am subjected to. It is insane, it is constant." She says that the attention can sometimes be nerve-wracking "because I know many who approach me physically abuse online".
Insisting that though the volunteers she moves around with at the protest are extremely warm to her but people's stares continually remind her of the 'outsider tag'.
"I have to constantly do my best to blend in. Ensure that whatever I say is not divorced from the narrative, what I wear does not attract attention. There seems to be an unsaid code -- what to talk about, how one should come across... Doesn't that completely defy the very fundamentals of a mass movement? Isn't one single individual the most important in any collective uprising?" "Why am I expected to come back at a stipulated time -- just so that those around me know I am 'safe'." Another bunch of photograph-seekers approach. She whispers that there are times when she wants to be everyone.
"I know I sound very ungrateful talking about all the attention and being under the microscope. But then, when we talk about 'change', it just cannot be about the three laws, right? At least we can dream of a change that is designed exclusively for us." It is time to take her photograph. She puts on a new white kurta she just bought over her t-shirt. Moose Jattana will now go to Delhi again for a day or two. Perhaps she knows everybody is invisible there.
-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text