Wednesday, January 9, 2013
When HE was born, HE spread happiness all around.
"Ladka hua hai", (Its a boy!) the nurse screamed. The joy of HIS parents knew no bounds. Sweets were distributed in the entire colony. Relatives, from regions far and wide, graced the occasion with their presence. After all, HE was born after the couple had had a string of daughters. Daughters- who were nothing more than failed attempts at having a son. Very soon, HE became the apple of everybody's eyes. As a toddler, HE would jump about, pull hair, bite, screech and be adored for each of HIS actions. HE played with toys and broke them. HIS parents chose to get new ones for HIM. When HIS sisters did the same, they were severely reprimanded. HE hit his sisters with all his might. HIS parents chose to scold the daughters for provoking HIM. HE was praised for HIS boyishness instead.
School didn't change much for HIM either. Every other day HE would be sent home with a note in HIS dairy. Sometimes it was about HIS disinterest in studies, at other times, it was about the fistfights HE usually got into. HIS parents laughed it all off with a meek warning. Time, slowly produced a surly teenager. HE would come home late and argue with HIS parents. On one occasion, HE almost hit HIS mother. However, none of this produced any effect. "Ladke aise hi hote hain", (Boys are like that) HIS father would remark.
One fine day HE was booked for eve-teasing. HE was standing with HIS friends on the bandstand and a woman happened to pass by. The guys could not have let the 'item' pass peacefully. The teasing begun. When she objected, HE called her a 'Ra**i' (Whore). She slapped HIM. HE could not take the humiliation. HE pinned her down and decided to teach her a lesson. Had the police not intervened, HE would surely have shown the B***h her place. HIS parents bribed the officials and got HIM released. They subtly conveyed it to HIM- No matter what HE did, HE would always be protected.
Soon, the marriage of HIS sisters was arranged. The entire affair wasn't much of a problem as they had already been trained to be a good wife. They had been explicitly told," Ek aurat ki jagah uske pati ke charnon me hoti hai" ( A woman's place is at her husband's feet). No matter what their husbands did, they were meant to be forgiven. A woman should merely seek solace in the fact that her husband had decided to keep her. With this object in mind, HIS sisters were wed to wealthy houses. Despite their overflowing wealth, the houses asked for more. HIS parents made sure that every demand was properly catered to. After all, the wealthy houses were getting such a load off their chests. Moreover, whatever they had 'lost' in their daughter's wedding, they would 'gain' during their son's marriage. The system was simple- quite close to the barter system of ancient India. Nevertheless, the piously fateful day arrived. Their daughters were dressed up like sacrificial lambs. They were taken to the altar and the marriage was solemnized.
Once the ceremony was over, another one began. HE and HIS friends drank away the first half of the night. By the second half, they were stoned. In all their ecstasy, they left the venue early morning and headed aimlessly in the city. They saw a bus and boarded it for fun. An unfortunate girl, at an unfortunate time, in an unfortunate dress, was seated in the bus. It didn't take long for them to connive with the driver and conductor. An object of pleasure could just not go un-enjoyed. Isn't that what 'items' were for? Playing, enjoying and dumping?. When HE mounted the girl, his mind replayed the visions of that woman on the bandstand. This was an appropriate moment to teach her 'creed' a lesson. When HE was done, HIS friends took a shot. When they were done, the driver and conductor made their move. After having thoroughly satisfied themselves, the object was thrown out of the moving bus and left on the streets to rot. A lot of Homo-sapiens passed by- some were going to the office, others for a walk. In their hurry to reach their destination, they cast a quick look at her and moved on. Who had the frigging time to get involved in matters of this nature? The hassles of police, the roundabouts at courts- Ah, NO! After an hour or so, a Human saw her. She covered her and took her to the hospital, where she "passed away peacefully".
In the meanwhile, to escape the outrage and uproar, HE was sent to America. It was a moment of sombre pride for HIS parents. They knew what HE had done was wrong, but then "That's what men do". They were happy that they had been able to keep HIM out of jail. Today, HE is married and has two children. HE routinely beats up his wife, abuses HIS daughter's friends, inappropriately touches HIS son's mates and leads a lavish life. Yet, HE is not a rapist or a pedophile or a criminal.
Because HE is a MAN- superior and sacrosanct.
Those who brutally raped Jyoti Singh Pandey on 16th December were probably not brought up in the same atmosphere. Those who disrobed a tribal girl in Jharkhand had probably not seen similar lifestyle. Those who molested and killed a 3 year old in Maharashtra were probably of a different mettle altogether. But there is one common thread which binds THEM with HIM- A distorted Mindset and a false notion of Manliness.
In the outrage that followed the heinous Delhi Gang rape, India was shocked out of its wits. Its conscience was shaken and its inhabitants were distraught. Protestors lined the streets and at places, violence was reported. The world witnessed India waking up and responding to a previously unheard and unimaginable- inhuman brutality. However, at times, I am forced to think, was our response justified? Are candle-light marches and street plays enough to deter rapists? Would protests being held in urban India guarantee the safety of women in rural India? - They may or they may not. What matters is how we look at, think about and address the situation. Let me take the opportunity to break up each of my concerns into easily discernible parts.
1. This wasn't the First Rape!- The Indian civilization (if you can call it one), has been a hotbed of forced sexual intercourse since time immemorial. Tales and fables in Hindu mythology are replete with men trying to embarrass women, on account of their gender. Sometimes a Draupadi was disrobed while the kingdom watched and at other times an Ahilya was discreetly made use of. The situation hasn't changed much today. Draupadi's are still being stripped while people close their eyes and walk away. Ahilya's are still being used as an object and are being forced to spend their lives, living (if at all) like a rock. The horrendous details of Jyoti's ordeal shocked us. But why are we not bothered about what happens in remote corners and dark alleys? Why are we not concerned about the daughters who are exploited by their fathers or the sisters who are raped by their brothers? One incident in the capital city jolted us to action but numerous incidents that occur across this nation only force us to sleep. Some intellectuals begin distinguishing "India" and "Bharat" while others start to blame the western culture. Why is it so difficult for them to understand that rapes are not bound by limits of culture, dress, provocation, food or lifestyle? A rape is the product of a sick mentality which has been brought up in a strictly patriarchal mindset. This further leads to male chauvinism, superiority complex and thus the need to "teach them a lesson" or "show them their place".
2. Is capital punishment the answer?- NO, It is NOT. Capital punishment has never been and can never be the answer. If it was an effective deterrent, crimes would never happen in the first place! Today,in India, a rape happens every 30 minutes. Most go unreported and those that are reported, go un-convicted. It happens regardless of the place, gender or age. A 70 year old woman is as vulnerable to a sexual predator's attack as is a 3 year old child. The problem essentially lies in our system of 'procedure' and 'perception'. When I say 'procedure', I refer to the entire chain of events that occur from rape reportage to deliverance of justice. Sadly, there are visible flaws at each step. At most times, an FIR is not lodged. If it is, the accused are bailed whereby they can easily threaten the victim or tamper with the evidence. If a victim is lucky enough to be heard in a court of law, the decision takes years to come. No wonder, the conviction rate in our nation is way below most developed societies. THAT is what rapists make full use of- the loopholes. Before executing a crime they are well aware of what may become of them. But they are also aware that laws are meant to be broken, officials are meant to be bribed, cases are meant to linger and their getting away unharmed is indisputable. Similarly, the 'perceptions' prevalent in the Indian moral fabric, stand in the way of justice. Rape is associated with "loss of honour" and that is precisely why most victims fail to report it. After all, it is much better to stay quiet and protect your "Izzat" instead of making a mockery of it in a public place. We, as educated-liberal individuals need to understand that "Izzat" does not rest in our genitals. It lies in our attitude, our character, our courage. If we have all these, no one in the world can snatch our 'honour' away from us.
3. What can we do?- A lot more than taking to the streets and trying to damage public property. We can channelize our anger on constructive discussions and chalk out a strategy which includes both- prevention and cure. Currently we are focusing only on prevention. Yes, we need new laws. Yes, we want them to be strict. Yes, we want speedy justice. However, none of this should come at the cost of the sanity of our collective civilization. What we truly need to do, is to find a cure. And that cure must emanate from within the society. We have to stop treating women like cooking, washing and sex machines. We have to stop encouraging our sons when they indulge in 'manly' activities. We have to stop accepting female characters on TV whose ultimate success in life is measured by how rich a man they marry. We have to learn to differentiate between open expression of female sexuality and crass entertainment being served in cinematic platter. We have to reject the viewpoints of subservience, inferiority and 'weaker sex' (Try giving birth to a baby. Weak, my foot) which are embedded in our minds right from when we are born. It is only if we can do this, that we may be ultimately able to find a cure. Remember- Rapists are not born, Governments do not create them- They are bred and we, the society, creates them.
Insanity wants us to ignore. Sanity forces us to think. The reason I am writing this after almost a month of the horrid occurrence is solely this fact. Let us calm down and act decisively. We have, over time, been failed by numerous people. We can not let this moment pass by. Our words must be strengthened by our actions. A lot of bodies have been raped, Now, we can not let our soul suffer the same misfortune. As long as the likes of HIM would be created, WE will remain insecure.
However, there is one thing we all need to clearly remember- No Messiah will ever come to save us. We need to protect our society, our women, our humanness and our character- OURSELVES.