Tuesday, January 8, 2013

NO COUNTRY FOR WOMEN?!

The rape and murder of the young 23 year old in New Delhi on the 16th of December, 2012, has unleashed an uprising giving vent to the suppressed angst of millions of men and women in India and has led to endless debates and discussions across all media, confabulations which are not going to finish too soon, but will die down nonetheless, over time.
Meanwhile, rapes, molestations, sexual harassment and abuse continue to happen at the same rate as they did before the 16th of December, 2012, and morning papers carry reports about them on a daily basis, like they always did.
I am a bit foxed because the least that the outrage should have achieved, in the days that the storm continues to sustain itself thanks to the foolish remarks of our demented politicians and their superiors alike, was a reduction in the rate of rapes of women and children which happen by the hour, minute and seconds everyday in our nation, but not so.
So, as usual, those who should be listening and responding to the revolution, are not.
There is something that is missing in this discourse and after seeing Barkha Dutt's show 'We The People' last night, which raised questions about the enemy within, I realized what it is.
Last night the discussion was about what measures we should take to prevent rape, what laws should be amended, which new laws should be established, how the police force should react, what filmmakers should do, and what role television must play.
Here it is that I realized, where we lose the battle every time that the monster raises its head and why issues always remain unresolved after the dust settles.
Every time there is angst and rage on the streets, we begin to accuse everything around us, but talk only to each other, amongst ourselves, even if through segmented media.
This could have happened to us, so lets treat it as a moment to experience catharsis, deal with our fears and then go on with life, and pray that neither we nor our near and dear ones have to ever face it.
We still, after so much crime, bloodshed and so much inequality and pain, have not understood that the enemy within, is us, 'ourselves'.
Not the law, neither films, nor television.
And what is to blame for our apathy, is our politics, which we allow to continue as it is, which we submit to.
A politics which thrives on appeasement, a politics which defines leadership in the most warped idiom, a politics which holds leadership still, as in inaction instead of propelling it towards driving change.
Today the most silent section of our country is the Government, its oppositions and its allies, and we need to understand why, and we need to do something about it?
The polity playing silence is where action really needs to be, where the uproar, the disturbance should be palpable, but the shock can be witnessed everywhere else but in the corridors of power.
Lets not forget, that the outraged maybe in millions, but the votes that count from the 1.2 billion population of this country, do not think that anything wrong has happened.
They cannot understand why such a hue and cry is being made over a woman who should have not been out with a lone man on the streets after it is dark.
The piece of the pie which matters to the Government of India is that piece of the pie which actually believes that the 23 year old was wrong in having defended herself, instead should have either surrendered herself to the rapists or else joined her hands and asked for forgiveness by calling the men who were threatening to brutalize her and treating her like a piece of flesh, 'bhaiyya' (brother), and begged them for their mercy.
They believe that this kind of thing happens in India, not in Bharat.
They think that all those women who are expressing angst are dented and painted, and no more time should be wasted upon the issue.
Why?
Because in the India where numbers are unimportant, women and men express their angst and in Bharat in which numbers count, women suffer in silence and men do as they please.
Is that the real difference between India and Bharat?
Is it that women in India are dented and painted, and men in Bharat take vicarious pleasure to hear the son of the president of India say it to them with such shameless bravado?
How outrageous are Asaram, Mohan Bhagat and Abhijeet Mukherjee?!
However unacceptable what they say may be, we have to realize that their words are the harsh truth about our larger society and let us make no mistake that the people whom these ridiculous men speak to, in the language that they understand, are not us, but certainly the majority, the greater numbers of our populace.
Those people who matter to the Asaram's, the RSS Chief's and politicians like Abhijeet Mukherjee's of our world, are ones who will vote to bring their parties, their chosen leaders to power and are the ones who will elect sick men like them as Members of our Parliament.
Lets get it straight.
These men, Asaram, the RSS Chief and Abhijeet Mukherjee, are appeasing their voters and saying what their voters would like to hear them say.
Because the larger section of our society believes that a woman should stay indoors, should be protected by her father and brothers, and like my friend Divya Radhakrishnan honestly puts it, maybe also get abused by them, and if she goes astray, which means if she asserts her independence, she should be taught a lesson, which means that she should be brutalized and raped, and her protectors i:e: her father and brothers should kill her to save their own honour, which means, that is how women will continue to stay in the place which a horrible section of the majority of the men in our country have allotted to them which also means that therefore women will not dare to ever defy the rules put out for them to follow.
Come on, lets not be naive.
That is the very constituency our Government and its oppositions and allies are addressing in the wake of this horrific crime and that is the people our Government, its oppositions and allies fear losing if they so much as speak against their culture and for us, however perverted, convoluted and however pathetically archaic it may sound in modern times.
So we should know why they remain silent when it comes to us, why they are guarded when they react to our anger and why they are terrified of saying anything in our favour which can threaten to tilt the faith that the majority has entrusted upon them.
How can the men and women whose votes that matter be put off by our leaders?
How can the khaps be told that they are medieval, bordering on insane, and that they should be punished for opening their mouths in present times?

And if the majority of people are this way, let us not forget the role we play in making them that, because they also aspire to be like us, therefore the perception we create of ourselves for commercial reasons, is how they imagine us to be.
I have amidst me and my circles of friends, people who believe that had Nirbhaya not got into the bus, and even if she did, had she submitted to those horrible men instead of fighting them, she would have been alive today.
People who believe that every woman in India goes through this at some time of her life or another, that all of them bear it and remain silent so that neither is anybody in the family or community insulted, nor is she made to suffer more humiliation than she already has.
These are educated, accomplished and evolved Indians.
When I was in my teens, I had gone cycling to Pinjore from Chandigarh one day with one girlfriend and two boyfriends whom we used to play lawn tennis with at the YMCA.
I had no clue that my girlfriend had not told her parents that we were with two of our boyfriends. We got delayed and it got a bit dark by the time we returned. My girlfriends mother called up my mother and told her that she was worried and to that my mother told her to relax because we were accompanied by two very nice guys who would see to it that we got home safe.
My girlfriends mother was aghast to hear that we were with boys and that my mother was aware of it, and a bigger horror than that to her was that my mother was also cool about it. She actually told my mother off and my mother had to shut her up by telling her that she should be aware that YMCA stood for the Young Men Christians Association and by permitting her daughter to play lawn tennis there, she should know that she would be interacting with people of the opposite sex.
When we got home a little later, my girlfriend got it really bad from her folks, was never seen at the courts again and could also never be my friend openly.
To be with me she had to lie to her parents.
To be with boys she had to lie to her parents.
To smoke she had to hide.
To drink alcohol she had to hide.
These were very well educated parents. They had lived in the US for over 15 years before coming and settling down in India. They had seen the world but believed that their daughters could not, should not and must not be seen openly with boys.
Our lies and hypocrisy starts from our homes. We make our children lie to us.
Once when my friends mother caught us together, exchanging notes from school, after she had banned us from meeting each other, she blew me up and told me that I should keep away from her daughter, that I would spoil her. Then she felt sorry for me and turned around and told me that nothing is wrong with me but it is my parents who were at fault for not stopping me from playing tennis with the boys, for not stopping me from interacting with them, for having them over and also for going over to their homes.
I was hurt and threw a tantrum when I got back home. I was angry with my parents for not being conservative like other parents were, for not being strict, for being liberal and allowing me to be independent.
My father smiled and told me that he was very proud to be the way he was and that one thing he never wanted that we should ever do, is to lie, and that by leaving things open to our discretion, he had seen to it that he had delivered four honest kids to this world.
It has bothered me ever since then as things remain the same today.
I know that most such Indian parents, and there are many of them, know everything that their girls are up to. They are fine with their boys going out with others' girls, as a matter of fact proud enough to gloat over it, but not fine with their own girls experiencing the same liberation as their brothers.
I know that in their youth, such parents were the same as their kids are now.
I know that they too lied to their elders who knew everything about them, and now find more comfort in having their children tell them lies, rather than being unafraid and guilt free.
In this they are able to retain their authority and keep fear instilled in their children, but in this they don't realize that they bring up kids and they collectively deliver a generation to the country that justifies the hypocrisy that it maintains as status quo.
When this veil of lies subsists almost in every Indian home, then everything that cannot be talked about openly is forgiven, forgotten and swept beneath the carpet, and the constituency of society that suffers the most in that darkness and silence is women and children.
I don't know why I am saying all this but I do know that our hypocrisy, our consistency in justifying double standards as an acceptable social norm is the root cause of why we are in a confused state like this.
The attitude cuts across all classes and strata's of our society and men get away with murder in every walk of life and the women who dare to break the silence, suffer alone, deserted and ostracized.
Is this what we can call a country for women?