Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pink chaddi to you!

(Warning: angry, graphic, uncensored post dealing with unpleasant realities of my country. If you are easily offended or have a weak belly, do not read and do not post comments that are irrelevant to the matter of this blog. Comments are moderated.)

I am not a fan of protests and candlelight rallies. I try to keep away from mindless jingoism and shouting hoarse on issues when nothing is likely to come out of it. I don't believe hanging or castrating rapists is the solution. The present laws, I believe, are enough to deal with the crime, if only implemented. And yet, last Sunday, I joined the small group of students shouting anti-rape slogans at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. Because I don't know what else I can do.

Gory details of the heinous gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi refuse to leave my imagination. But even worse than the lump I feel in my throat every time I hear of her condition worsening, is the sickening realization that being thrown out in an unconscious state, so battered and bruised and unable to speak for herself, is what has earned her the sympathy of a nation and treatment in a hospital abroad on government tab. As pointed out very knowledgeably by a certain well-meaning female scientist“Had the girl simply surrendered (and not resisted) when surrounded by six men, she would not have lost her intestine." And verily become another statistic.

Maybe she would have kept mum about the incident, gone back home and resigned herself to a life of shame in a small town that is quite unforgiving of its transgressing daughters. Somehow, what happened to her would have been seen as her own transgression. Or maybe she would have tried to register an FIR at the nearest police station, and the police officer would have blamed her for being out at an indecent hour wearing indecent clothes and bringing this on herself. She might even have been accused of trying to pass off a consensual orgy for rape, because that's the kind of things "these girls" do. By these girls, I mean girls nowadays who dress immodestly, interact freely with boys and eat too much chowmein. All those chowmein jokes don't sound so funny now, do they?

My scientist sister has even questioned the appropriateness of the girl being out at 10 pm with a guy. Rather than be angry at her, I'm angry at the fact that I can't completely dismiss her statement. Two days ago during a visit to my hometown, I was walking home after dinner at my uncle's house with two of my nieces, aged 10 and 13. I couldn't shake of a feeling of uneasiness and couldn't help question the wisdom of walking that one kilometer late in the evening with two young girls. This, in my home town, in the very streets I used to pass on my way to school since I was 7. 

But that's not even where that anguish begins. The one trigger, one comment that has disturbed me the most, that haunts me and gnaws at my sanity was from a conversation I overheard among some female colleagues in office more than a week ago.

Three very modestly dressed women in my office were discussing the relative garishness of girls in Delhi, and the conversation quickly moved to the gang rape incident. One of them suggested that it is quite likely that this girl who was out at the ungodly hour (according to the victim, it was actually 9:30 pm when she boarded the bus. Yes, you can't be safe on our streets at 9:30 pm!) was probably "at it" with her boyfriend, the sight of which aroused the men into action. The lady who made this statement is a doctor.

If you are that lady, I'm sorry to report a bit of conversation that I wasn't even part of, but I couldn't turn a deaf ear that day. I'm sorry I'm venting it out here on a public blog instead of talking to you and updating you on the actual facts of the case, but I can barely look at you any more. I cannot tell you how much your words, that weren't about me or even addressed to me, have hurt me. I worry for your daughter, and more so for the son you might have some day, who'll grow up on the values you pass on to him. I worry that he'll grow up thinking that if a woman doesn't live up to his ideals of good dressing and modest behavior, then he would be forgiven for molesting her, defiling her and impaling her with an iron rod. He might do all this, secure in the knowledge that his mother approves.

So while I know that my shouting "Stop Rape" at passers-by outside CST, lighting candles, or a parliamentary session to debate capital punishment for rapists, or even the harshest punishment to the accused in this case may not change much in our country, and there will always be sick people among us doing sick things to women, I still stood there among the protesters that day. If an equivalent of the inane pink chaddi campaign is launched to make a statement against rape, I'll mail a piece of innerwear to whoever they're all mailing it to. Not because I think mailing undergarments will change the world. Just to announce that even though I'm helpless to help 'Amanat' and the thousands of girls like her, even though I'm clueless as to what I can do to change anything around me, even though I don't know how to channelize my anger to make anyone's life better, even as more incidents reported every day are slowly chipping away at my free spirit and my confidence, the one thing I do know is whose side I'm on.

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