Dear People in Power (for I feel quite Powerless),
I have been quiet from a while on something that is conspicuously gnawing at my fabric, as the modesty, life and aspirations of a young girl have been slithered and sacrificed at the altar like goats slaughtered to please the deities of ancient times. I noticed but turned away as gory details of a gruesome crime flashed across my screen via Twitter, Facebook and messages. A coward’s attempt to close the eyes to feel that a problem does not exist-a lame mechanism of self defence! I gave up on the newspapers and the news a while back. Some people chose not to be a part of certain things or speak, for in words they live and words allow the realization to sink in. But sometimes peace that you seek creates a chaos within.
I have a three years old daughter. She smiles with impish beauty, she prances about in her loveliness, she dramatises every situation with her adorable whims and looks like a divine flower that I embrace at every possible opportunity. She attracts attention and people with her non-chalant allure. When I look at her now, I fear. I think of the parents who painstakingly brought up that twenty three year old for so many years. I think of how she would be just as precious, weaving just as many dreams in her parents’ eyes, being just as much solace to their weary minds, meandering in the worldly cares. How she must have been a responsible adult, working towards some goals! How one moment of a decision taken, turned her life irrevocably to death! It matters little perhaps to them whether the daughter's rapists are hanged or life imprisoned, their own life is now like an every minute death.
I shudder within. I cannot be around my bundle of joy 24*7. Someday she would move out of my domain and watchful range, into a world that is unknown. She would tread to live her own experiences and face the wolves with hidden agendas. Would I be able to make her brave enough? Even if I did, would I be able to ensure she is safe enough and her strength not tested beyond the limits of endurance like happened with this young girl who succumbed to death for no fault of her own?
What must be passing through her mind in her last moments? “I wish we had not taken that bus? What if we had got a little more delayed and that bus just passed by? I wish there were more people on board? I wish one of them would have listened to my pleas and be moved by my helpless cries of pain...” My mind goes numb thinking how God allows a young girl to face what she did.
As I took a shower today, the news of her death could not cleanse me off the muck that is leaving me disgusted. Flashes of a girl who wants to live because like all of us, she had just one life too, kept playing on my mind. How a hand that must be wanting to reach out just fell on the side of the bed, giving up! The thought every time chokes me till I have to breathe deeply to be able to breathe again.
Rapes have been occurring in this country since forever. Something a woman protects and treasures, her body, is just snatched away by brutes, without her consent, by greedy, lust driven men who know no gentleness but cruel force. A man cannot imagine how this could scar her body and a woman who has just experienced happy, consensual sex cannot imagine how it kills the mind. But then one can’t either imagine the brutality here of the savage minds that did not get satisfaction enough by ripping apart her body and had to insert a rod through her to satiate some beastly urges. How can civilization turn so grim and such an oxymoron? What can be done to such deranged minds? How can someone even possibly think of giving them a fair trial?
A part of me has always wished for super powers. Today I wish I had some by which I could pick up these hard-nosed characters from the protective government walls, strip them off all clothes and put them up in some open ground, allowing the hungry and enraged common man to do with them in front of one and all, whatever they like. Sadist it may be, I want to watch as angry men, women and children alike, come forward with knives, belts, stones, acid bottles and whatever else in their hands, to do these scavengers. I don’t want to think of them in terms of somebody’s sons or fathers at the moment, for they never can really be.
How would a private death sentence serve as a deterrent to an uneducated, unread man on the street, who gives in to his baser instinct any time he sees a woman he can latch on, to derive momentary bodily pleasure? These men don’t read the newspapers, they don’t know of what MIGHT happen to them if they are caught. They just know there’s a helpless woman out there and they CAN get away. Such people form the crux of these repulsive crimes. The punishment needs to be just as brutal and public so that it makes news just as the protests are. Everyone should talk about it. So that even someone like me (who gave up on reading newspapers because they only spoke of how little girls as old as a few years are raped) knows just as well as the milkman who comes to deliver milk at my house and watches my daughter with supposed doting eyes playing in the compound. I don’t trust any man, neither should you.
I agree with women when they say “Don’t tell us what to wear, tell boys not to take them off our bodies”. Totally accepted, but then can we honestly expect a government officer at each street corner at each hour of the day to ensure some letchy eyes do not get away with stripping us of our dignity? We cannot compare ourselves to the Western countries and expect the same amount of securities just because we are being educated in the same way or being flooded with brands in our markets. We must remember that till a decade back, this nation still had women covered up and men on the street possessed eyes that were adapted to watching the same. I am not justifying the rapists, I am trying to explain to you their psyche.
In the recent times, the almost-elite who have easy and ample access to skin show in movies, advertisements, porn, etc, also have reasonable sex education and exposure to girls they meet at social dos. The lot that gets provoked to hideousness often constitutes the sweat-drenched, grubby man on the street, who perhaps has all the clippings in his cheap mobile but looks at these clean women from far, waiting to catch one in a vulnerable moment.
I am not saying that rapes and molestations do not occur in richer or other stratas of the society or with three year olds, the burkha clad or the sixty years ones. But then we need to understand and work on the deranged mentality of some who get excited seeing flesh for they are not used to it. We need to warn the girls to be careful. Yes, it is totally their fault and not ours if someone eyes us with vulgarity in his vision but we must not forget caution.
It would take a while for mentalities to change even if awareness spreads and laws are passed. Till then, the girls must not expect to be protected but learn to protect themselves not just with weapons but with sensibility. I have witnessed how it's being upheld that all girls must carry pepper sprays or knives in bags. I was recently travelling by train with my family when a group of marriage revellers had some twenty year olds indulging in merry making. Suddenly one of the girls, who lost in a battle of words with one of the guys, decided to make the score even and used the pepper spray in her bag to ward him off. The entire coach within a few minutes was coughing and we had to rush out to catch breath. My daughter vomited and an asthmatic aged man had almost hit an emergency point just because a young girl wanted to prove some whims. That spray could have come in the hands of a child too.
Don’t mindlessly suggest solutions. Don’t limit but do set borders. Don’t mock the efforts of the government to shut off discotheques post 1a.m. Whatever can be done must be done to first ensure order. Once established there can be organisation. Individuals can only express their wrath, it is the government body that can act. Provoke them to act, not to suppress. Speak against corrupt leaders but check yourself too when as men you crack lewd jokes or as women allow men to objectify you. And I so wonder about the politicians-not satisfied with filling their corrupt pockets, how do they manage to live with such guilty consciences of having the power and yet do nothing?
Delhi boasts of the infrastructure but not structuring of minds yet. It is a city reeking in show-off, youngsters willing to seek attention at all costs and people moving at too fast a pace of life and morals to catch up. Teach your daughters to dress according to the time and place. Till we can’t really be safe, at least we can try not to be sorry. It’s NOT the skirts that get girls raped. But we won’t let them use it as an excuse to let go of those who do it. I will wear skirts but I will also be responsible enough to see if it is not attracting the wrong attention at the wrong time and place.
It is not the time to point fingers but time to join hands. As women accept awareness, caution and sense; as men accept respect and responsibility of being the stronger sex (at least physically) and protect. It’s a sad state of affairs if we have to fear for our girls every time we have to have them away from our eyes even for a few hours. We must talk of abuse at whatever level we face at the hands of men-at schools, colleges, workplaces, etc. Every time we let go, we let them believe they can get away with it. It only makes them more confident. Speak out. Reach out.
Here’s hoping against hope, things will change and during our lifetimes so that we live to see it happening. I pray her death does not go waste and this case serves as an example for generations to come.
Just Another Common Voice.