One month on…

..since the gruesome incident in Delhi that shook us all from within, has anything changed?

Well, going by the stats, nothing much..

Every day there are more and more such incidents of brutality being reported causing us all grave concerns and making us wonder if ever there will be a time when our women would feel safer and freer in this world.

We are still as angry, as seething, as outraged as ever.

There still are morons amongst us who shamelessly showcase their narrow mindsets by uttering innuendos like, ‘she asked for it’, or ‘she should not have ventured out so late in the night’, or ‘rapes are on the rise because men and women are interacting with each other more frequently’ or ‘girls should stop wearing jeans, skirts or anything that is remotely western’, ‘girls must wear over-coats in order to avoid getting raped’!!!

What blows me off further and makes me cringe with disgust is when I hear people say that the 23 year old girl should have given up fighting while the rapists were ripping her apart since they were far stronger than her. “She should have just laid there and enjoyed the ride” was what an acquaintance had to say while we had a discussion on the incident. How pathetically sickening is that mindset!

Its a shame that even in today’s day and age we get to hear of our ministers blaming the ‘adverse positions of the stars’ for the crimes against women! Or those spiritual-gurus who believe that women could ‘save’ themselves if they addressed the rapists as ‘bhaiyya’ and plead for mercy..or those illusional sadhus who impart the message that chanting a few mantras would keep the rapists and the probable danger of getting raped at bay!

Here when the need of the hour is to impart the right kind of education to our children and creating more awareness in them about safety and self-defense, we are being urged to let our beliefs be governed by such regressive ideas like chanting mantras and getting our stars re-positioned et al? Are we in the 21st century still?

We still seem to be as helpless as ever.

The protests to bring about more stringent laws, the cries to treat our women with more respect and be more sensitive..havent any of this moved us in any which way to enable us to change the way we think or behave?

Well, I do see a small gleam of hope..

For one, the very fact that we are still talking about it, writing about it is a sign of change. It still is a major major talking point in my house, among our friends and family. So much so that I was surprised to see one of my friends’ 12 year old taking part in the conversation and putting her thoughts across. To my eyes, it was a good sign that our youngsters were as affected, aware and concerned too.

More and more of us are awakening to the fact that we cannot let the pressing issues of safety of women be swept under the carpet anymore. We are taking our right to question the authorities and demand answers from them more seriously which is evident in the way committees are being set up by the government to expedite the case, more policemen are being put on the roads.

More and more incidents are being reported which again a good sign because, while its extremely distressing that these incidents are still rampant, what is also noteworthy is that THESE ARE BEING REPORTED.

Yes, we need to move on, as I keep hearing from people. Life is about moving on, yes..but it does not have to be about forgetting, does it? Let us not forget what the 23 year old brave girl went through on that fateful night. Let us not forget how brutal those 6 rapists were. Let us not, for a second, forget how terribly weak we as her fellow beings, were when we just stood there as meek spectators while she and her friend lay on the road naked, mercilessly battered and bruised. Let us not forget that the one desire she had all the while fighting to stay alive was to see her perpetrators being punished.

Let us not forget that we are now beyond that stage where we could be complacent enough to think ‘such things would never happen to us’.

So yes, let us move on.. but with a purpose. The purpose to keep talking about these issues. To stop being weak. To keep demanding accountability from (ir)responsible politicians and authorities. To keep talking to our kids. To keep listening to them, to keep hearing their concerns for we never what they may have to tell us. To start teaching our boys to respect our girls, to keep telling our girls to command that respect. To keep teaching them to say NO to bullying, eve-teasing or any form of abuse. To keep encouraging our girls to defend themselves, get them to learn some form of self-defense. To keep demanding for more stringent law-enforcements, to start promising ourselves that we will speak up, raise our voices and reach out to help, even if the person in trouble is someone we may/not know.

I realize that I am parroting what has already been said, what is already being said. But I still do, because the way I see it, the more you talk about it, the more it will stay in your memory, the more you feel agitated, driven to change your own mindset, compel other around you to change their own.

Auto-rickshaw wala

The bus stops in front of Bikaner House.

Its almost midnight.

Way past the ‘decent hour’ for any woman to be out in the city.

I alight after a thoroughly enjoyable 7 hours of journey from Jaipur. Right behind follow my almost-6-year-old daughter and my mother.

We walk a few steps looking around for the best mode of transportation that would safely take us home. We have barely made it to the exit-gate, in comes a herd of auto-rickshaw drivers encircling us..offering us to drop us home. “Madam, kahan jaana hai?” “Auto mei baith jao”

We have another 20-25 kms of travel yet to cover to finally reach home.

Each of them has his eyes firmly fixed on us.

Right then, a flurry of thoughts come hitting me like a curse,“So which one of them would end up molesting us tonight?”…

“What if one of them drags us to a deserted land and rapes us?”..

“Which one of them would eventually succeed in looting us..and killing us?”

No sooner do these thoughts creep into my mind than I clutch my child tightly and hold on to my mother protectively.

I look around to see whether I can find a cab for us instead. Yet again the crippling thought seeps in.

‘What if the cab-driver ends up knocking us off?’

“Dont be crazy”, I tell myself. There has been no untoward action by any of the auto-rick drivers that drives me towards such thoughts.

None whatsoever.

Each one is merely doing his job of convincing us, persuading us to sit in his vehicle so he can earn his bread & butter.

Then why worry?

Brushing those thoughts away, I, along-with my mother and daughter get into an auto. My mother, the firebrand that she is begins to argue with the driver about the outrageous fare he quotes.

Paranoia hits me yet again and I urge her to stop provoking him lest he harms us in any way. I keep chiding her,” Stop it Ma, this is not a safe time and place for two women to get into scuffle with a man. We still have a long way to reach home”. Of course I tell her this in Malayalam. I dont want his ears to get what I am saying lest he thinks we are helpless and an easy prey.

All through the auto-ride I am alert.

The auto-driver is driving at the perfect speed. He is cautious and minds his own business.

Yet. Every time there is a sharp turn or a delay in taking a turn my heart skips a beat.

Every time we reach a dimly lit road my heart skips a beat.

In my own crazy head I prepare and plan to fight him in case he brings the auto to a stand still in those unlit roads and tries to come at us.

Nothing of that sort happens.

We, then, reach a well lit road. Vehicles plying either side continuously. But not a single soul in sight.

I wonder out loud to my mother about cities like Mumbai where people freely move around till past midnight with no fear of safety. Or so I have heard, correct me if I am wrong.

Wistfully, I wonder if I can even imagine a similar scenario in my own city. I wonder if I ever will get to associate my city with safety and security without a shudder or cringe.

On the way I spot two girls standing at the side of a road, perhaps waiting for a cab.

Our auto-driver swiftly turns to give them a look.

And my scary thoughts go on an over-drive again.

“What did that look convey?” “Did he see prospective passengers in them?”. “Did he hope to fetch them and earn some more money and retire for the day with a content heart?”. Or. “Did he have any lustful intentions brewing in his mind?”

As these thoughts play havoc in my mind, I realize that the auto-wala has safely brought us home. I pay him and walk in to the safe confines of home with my daughter and mother.

All of this sets me thinking….

Is this what my city has come to mean? Is this the city where I was born? The city that brought me up, made me stand up on my feet? The city where I didnt care what I wore, but today I stand the risk of being blamed for my dressing if I get attacked? The city where I didnt have to think twice before venturing out, irrespective of the time or day, but today I have to keep my guard up even in broad daylight? Is this MY city where I stand the risk of being blamed for getting molested because I went to the bar? Because I wore a skimpy dress? Is this MY city where I am forbidden to move around after 8 PM lest I get raped?

Is this MY city where I dont even have the freedom to walk freely as I please?

Never have I felt so helpless and unsafe in my own city.

Happy Independence Day BTW

Satyamev Jayate- not for cynics

I can stand crappy saas-bahu serials, but I am afraid I cant stand cynics who are out there on the look out for the slightest opportunity to snub even a ripple of change.

Here I was feeling all charged up and positive after watching Satyamev jayate, giving full on thumbs up to Aamir for bringing to the fore such pressing social issues like female foeticide and there I was coming across articles dissing the show already, likening it to social pornography and what not! 🙄

I mean why cant people just appreciate the fact that here is a show which is truly tapping on issues which need some fierce addressing? Yes I agree these are issues which we see and read about every other day, we already know about them, but if someone of Aamir’s stature, with such mass reach is able to bring the awareness on a far wider level then why should it not be given a thumbs up? Why not? Wouldnt you take notice if someone was to tell you that sex-selective abortions are not just a practice in rural areas among illiterate people as is perceived, but they are as rampant among educated urban families?

Ok so we may not be able to completely reverse the male-female ratio of 1000:914 or set up a fast track court immediately, but…

if even one person has been affected by the stories and statistics shown, affected enough to think twice before suggesting a sex-selective abortion to a woman

if even one family, one husband, one daughter-in-law, one mother-in-law has been able to take home the fact that a gender of the child is not determined by the mother rather its the Y chromosome of the father that decides the gender after all,

if even one person has realized the pointlessness of cursing women for the birth of a girl child, the need to embrace a daughter just a he/she would embrace a son

if even one person has been propelled into thinking that the birth of a baby girl is to be celebrated, and not cursed

if even one person has been driven to take that step out of an abusive relationship and make a worthy life,

if even one sting operation has managed to get the court to sit up and move in the direction of expediting the case and bringing the culprits to book,

if even one voice has been heard..

then in my opinion this show is worth its run. For…every voice counts. Every single voice counts.

No amount of awareness is truly enough till the time we have an answer to all the pressing issues plaguing our society, our nation. So till the time we have achieved that any awareness howsoever big or small is worth its time, I feel.

I know its too early to know for sure if the show will grab the right attention but if it intends to cover the issues with the same kind of seriousness and sincerity that was so evident in the first episode then we can hope for a huge wave of change in the mindsets of people of our country I think.

    EDITED TO ADD

this heart-rending song which wells me up every time I hear.

How free are we?

On the face of it, yes, we are a free nation. We are free of the imperialistic era. We are free to cast our votes and choose our own government. We have the freedom to speak out against any injustice for we have an impartial judicial system on which we can place our faith.
We enjoy free press,which gives us unbiased report on the running of our nation,on the happenings around the world,right at our doorstep. Yes we are free.
Free to breathe, free to talk. Free to walk, as we wish. Why, we are free to spit and even pee as,when and where we please.

But is that all there is to freedom. Are we really free?

  • Do I, as a woman, have the freedom to go out at night alone without the fear of being molested, raped or assaulted?
  • Why just night, can I walk on an empty street in broad daylight without a backward glance for any possible threat to my safety?
  • Can I walk upto a packet lying in one corner of a shop and pick it up without experiencing a chill run down my spine at the prospect of it ‘exploding’
  • Or for that matter can I have an absolute stranger come up to me for a harmless conversation and not eye him with suspicion? Why, he maybe a terrorist for all you know!
  • Do I have the freedom to feel safe in my own city, my own country?
  • Would a person from a ‘supposedly’ lower race, caste or creed feel free to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone from a higher strata WITHOUT any discriminatory glance from the latter?
  • Can a man visit a temple wearing jeans or a woman in salwar-kameez WITHOUT being disallowed for not wearing a mundu or saree instead?
  • Can a girl wear jeans or any ‘western outfits’ WITHOUT the risk of being blamed for ‘inviting eve-teasers or molesters?
  • Do we have the freedom to wear what we want to with ‘NO DRESS-CODES ATTACHED’?

  • Do filmmakers have the freedom to release a movie WITHOUT kowtowing to the ridiculous demands of our political fascists?
  • Do we have the freedom to go to a pub without the fear of getting beaten up by religious fanatics?
  • Do we have the freedom to choose who we marry without the fear of being castigated or even killed by our own family for endangering their ‘honour’?

The day I get an answer to all of these questions, in affirmative, I’ll understand the meaning of freedom in its truest sense.