I've been trying to lie low. In fact, on 10th December I said goodbye to the year 2012 and went to bury my head in the sand, hoping the year would just speed up and pass us by. I chose a cold quiet destination for our holiday, far from the noise and merrymaking this season usually brings.
But no. I have been denied that peace, that silence to lick my wounds in. For in the past two weeks in shock and horror I, along with the rest of the world, have been watching the Delhi gang rape case.
First it was the act itself. Rape is always such a dastardly crime. The thought that a young college-going girl returning from a movie with a friend could be raped on a public bus. Whoa, weren't we always told to take the public transport? "Safer than taxis, specially after night fall," we were told when young. So when did the rules change?
Secondly, I repeat, the girl was not alone; she was accompanied by a friend. A male friend. "Safer, better than being alone," my mother would have said. So after watching "Life of Pi" a serious movie, for God's sake, not even a "Dabang" type Bollyrot, the friends hail a bus and clamber on.
Now the bus. That was something. It wasn't exactly a public bus. How many times do we really pay attention to a bus that is coming on a route? Unknown to the two friends, this bus and its occupants were quite a piece of work. The bus itself had no permit or fitness certificate, something passengers are never in the know of anyway. It was used to ferry school children (a thought that makes me shudder more!) and the drivers etc had chosen that fateful Sunday to gorge on chicken curry, rice and alcohol and then decided to take the bus for a run to pick up passengers to further sponsor their party. And what a party that turned out to be!
Fourthly the men made provocative and lewd comments. The boy was beaten unconscious when he dared protest and his friend was raped. Not once, not twice but many times. I care not go into that dark corner.
Fifth, the heinous nature of the assault. The six men used rods to break the walls between the victim's anal and vaginal canals and pulled out her intestines. Is that sex!!!?
Next, the men obviously had had enough to satiate their masculinity for the time being. Both the girl and her friend were stripped and thrown off the bus. By Delhi's roadside.
Oh yes, they were taken to hospital We all know the story. We all heard the details and waited for the men to be arrested. Today they are under-trials at the Tihar jail scorned at and abused by the other inmates. I was joyous when I read somewhere that the other inmates beat them and made them eat their own shit. Serves them right, I thought.
All six men have been arrested. All await trial. One I have heard is a minor. I like to think that since there is nothing minor about the nature of his crime, he shall not be protected by reason of his physical age. If I could have my way I would recommend chemical castration. Or having an iron rod shoved up their insides. Death would be too easy.
With growing dismay we heard of the multiple surgeries on the girl, her gangrened intestines which had to removed, her statement to the police, we listened to the noises made by several politicians and we watched while the nation came forward to protest and hold candlelight vigils and marches. Not just in Delhi but all over the country. We heard the voices of the innocent, the protesters, the voices that clamoured for safety of women on the streets, the sane voices against violence perpetrated on women. And we also heard the ugly sounds of groups and factions trying to get some political mileage from the incident. Sitting in my quiet hotel in Darjeeling we watched as the protests turned violent and clashes broke out. In horror and resignation we learnt of the police man who died in the clash and then heart in mouth heard that the girl was shifted to Singapore to a speciality hospital.
She died. I guess we were hoping against hope even after hearing about the sepsis and infection and then cardiac arrhythmia and brain damage, but we hoped.
And as a nation we mourned. We were returning from Darjeeling to Bagdogra when the news hit us. It was a brilliant day like the others before it, the sun shone on the Kanchenjungha range and the hills glowed. Only I saw gloom everywhere. The mood was dark, intense and dull. With growing horror I saw my Twitter TL fill up with hate messages against our leaders, our politicians, our police and the entire system. India is mourning. And India is angry. India wants the death sentence, stringent rape laws, fast track courts for crimes against women. India wants justice.
Many people feel the government, our leaders and the police system have failed us. Maybe they have too. I will not argue with them. Not now. (But before I tolerate one more message asking me to boycott the Republic Day, I will say this is the time, if ever there was one, for us to pledge ourselves to the Republic and the Constitution which promises us, among other things, equality.) But to get back to where I was, anger is good. Having someone to blame is also very good. Very therapeutic, I have been told.
But stop. hold it right there. Think. Before casting the stone at others, it's time to introspect.
Are we ourselves somehow to blame for this?
Have we somehow contributed to this mindset of the men that they think any woman is theirs for the taking?
Yes, and the answer is yes.
Each time a girl child is abandoned by the roadside, we fail all women.
Each time a woman agrees to abort a female foetus, women are dragged deeper down.
Each time we offer prayers for a male child, we show them how superior they are.
Each time we take a girl child out of school and make her do household duties or marry her off we show the boys they are better.
Each time we showcase a daughter in the hope that the eligible so-and-so will choose her, we let her down.
Each time we laugh with the guys just to be one of the guys when they pass a lewd comment we have betrayed our sisters.
Each time we allow a man to take the decision about what we will do with our lives, who we will marry, we have failed. Each time a mother looks away even when she knows her married son is having an affair because "it's a male thing", we lose.
And each time we think the be-all and end-all of life is marriage we drag ourselves deeper into the mire.
Yes, we have harmed ourselves. We are to blame. We, our mothers our grandmothers and the ones before have perpetrated this myth for generations, that men are somehow blessed and deserve more. We ourselves are guilty of this crime and the million others against women which we accept as part of life here in India.
"Pah", you say, "this happens only in the villages!"
Look around you; I am sure in the cities, among the so called educated, among the elite, you know some of these women who dominate their daughters-in-law just because she has married her "little God"; show utter scorn that a woman has borne a daughter and titter uncontrollably when "uski toh beti hui hai"! In buses, on streets, even in places of worship we constantly have to protect our bodies from being pawed. We not only have endured this, we teach our daughters to protect themselves. I am frightened. Not only for our daughters but for every unborn girl child in this country. For unless we can change ourselves from this line of thought, we shall never be able to change the way our boys, who will eventually become men, think. It's a arduous task, can we dare to try? Can we teach our sons to respect women and not look upon them as mindless creatures that run after a man for the deo he uses or the bike he drives? Can we teach them that women think and feel and have desires and ambitions and are so much more than just a life support system for a vagina?
Have I made you think?
or am I keeping you from that party?