If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
The whole of India and the world is watching the bold documentary ‘India’s daughter’, made by Leslee Udwin. Ok, maybe not India, because the honorable minister decided it was a disgrace to the nation and should be banned. The video- a disgrace; not the rape, the rapists (who defended his and his partners’ actions and thought Nirbhaya and her friend was at fault), the lawyers’ derogatory remarks, the outrage of the entire nation!! Because, other than the video, just about everything else was presented before everyone, everywhere and nobody thought it necessary to budge.
So every person who isn’t a Facebook user would not have watched it, but otherwise, I guess, just about everyone has watched it. And what do we feel?? Uhhm, nothing much. Just as we breeze through the recipe videos or just for laughs or TEDx Talks, we breezed through this as well!! Thank God, we have the ability to shut our eyes and leave back what’s unpleasant. Yea, thank God!!
As long as we are not Nirbhaya or Saumya (the rape victim who was thrown off a moving train in Kerala) or some other unfortunate victim, we are okay. We do not like the video as it particularly doesn’t make us feel good. We discuss about it. Some of us tweet, post in groups and on our walls. And then we just let it go.
But I just couldn’t. Today, I just couldn’t. I cried for Nirbhaya. I didn’t even try to think of her pain. I would not be able to comprehend it, I realized. I cried for her parents, thinking, what on earth would comfort them. I cried for all the others who would’ve experienced the worst. I shuddered at the thought of me and my sons and daughters going through such hell.
I felt the video was gut-wrenching. It was very difficult for me to sit through the entire video. I did feel disgust at the remarks of the rape-accused; his lawyer who thinks that ‘we have a great culture, and women have no place in our culture’. How wonderful! A country where women are worshiped as goddesses, a country with strong family-based-value-system, where woman is the centre-force of her family and she has no place at all!! So where do we belong?? Who is even talking about equality here! It is not about equal rights or sexism. What happened in this case was so barbaric or even heinous enough that the human mind cannot perceive it. My hubby always reminds me, at this juncture of my argument, that the accused weren’t in their senses and were under the influence of alcohol. Yea, ok. So does that mean they should be pardoned? Does that wipe away what they did? Can anything at all be undone!? No. A big, blaring NO.
They shattered lives, dreams, aspirations, hopes. A woman who was hard-working, who had big dreams, who was sensitive and compassionate to her fellow beings, her family who loved their daughter like their 2 sons and earned nothing out of it but the wrath of their neighbors and relatives, the rapists and a good portion of the community who think alike. The documentary interviews her parents, who have an integrity of steel, I must say. For her father to talk like that, I guess, he must have had a million daggers inside him. I cannot even remotely fathom what her mother would have gone through. From the moment, a new life forms in your womb, you nurture it, you wait for it to grow, millimetre by millimetre, into centimetres, inches, metres and much, much bigger than you, holistically. You give that child nothing short of yourself. That child, that daughter was tormented to death. Let’s conveniently forget the rape. But the gruesome way in which she was killed?? How can a parent not embrace death after all this? How can a parent live on, sanely enough, after lighting your child’s funeral pyre?
My grief and anger is nothing compared to theirs or anything what Nirbhaya went through. The disgrace is over the video; the outrage over the banning and the surprise at how a documentary maker got access to the Tihar jail and arranged for all these interviews. I haven’t been able to lift my jaw off the floor at seeing how conveniently the investigating officer claims that Delhi is a safe place for women, at the lawyer who thinks that we don’t have a place in our culture, at just about everyone who looks down upon a woman and thinks of her just as a meal-maker, a dhobie, a birth-giving machine, a mule who is supposed to work and give herself up, so that a man can thrive!
When will we educate or teach our people that it is the women who decides the fate of a nation! It is not only men who think otherwise. A good portion of women as well. In fact, if we were to take a closer look, we would find within our families itself! If I were to discuss this topic with my grandmom, I am definite she would say, ‘it all happened because Nirbhaya went out at night. She shouldn’t have put herself into a risky situation.’ Though this stupefies me, I really cannot argue and win with her. She is somebody from the previous generation and hasn’t quite left it. She cannot. She is entitled to her opinion. But for me and my future generations, that is quite absurd. I will not sit back thinking my house is the only safe place on earth. I need to live; I need to fare on my own.
And you know what I am reduced to, today?!! I am reduced to the situation when I marvel at my luck at not being raped, during my 30 years of existence on this earth. I am India’s ‘ashamed’ daughter. Of course I wasn’t lucky enough to escape the gropes and ‘usual’ molestation. (We’ve become so used to it, that it isn’t any thing unusual anymore!!) I thank heavens for not coming across a devil of a being who at that moment, thought I might be perfect rape-material. I cannot thank my parents enough for keeping vigil over me and my siblings, throughout these years. I don’t believe in a system of law or governance or authority anymore, which can keep me safe in MY country. That country that I was always proud of. I like to believe I still am. But in my heart of hearts, I know I might prefer a safer country in the times to come.
These brave women (Nirbhaya & Saumya) had to give up their lives to stir us up as a nation. Why is it that, when a woman is fully alive and kicking, no one takes her opinions; no one cares to protect or talk for her. But I am still glad, we have realized that we have a voice. It is encouraging to see Javed Akhtar explode in the Rajya Sabha, Jaya Bachan and Kirron Kher in the House. One can see a plethora of emotions- of grief, rage, helplessness etc. Even I don’t think the video must be banned. We have allowed ourselves to be the laughing-stock of the world. So why not deal with it! In fact, the video must be made mandate-watching at all educational and other institutions, which deals with sculpting somebody’s character.
The common man and woman still thinks – ‘how can I change this about? I can only keep my daughter or son safe by not letting them out. I cannot control who is out there!’ It is so true. Our experiences reduce us to this primitive thinking. A cumulative effort is needed. At the government level, at corporate levels, at individuals levels. The millions one might spend for a wedding can be redirected to good use. At ensuring safety of the people in a community. No one is going to remember whether you wore Jimmy Choo for your Sangeeth or your betrothal! But they will remember you if you touch their hearts. If you make their living on this earth better.
I look at my sons and my mind glides into a coma- ‘Will you take care of yourselves? Will you be nice to your fellow beings?” I close my eyes to shut out the unpleasant thoughts and bring my racing mind to calmness. I sit still in the coziness and safety of my home and husband and the stringent laws of this country (of course, abroad), and decide to get back to my fast-paced life. I am India’s ‘ashamed’ daughter.