Indian Woman's Musings · Life in India · Opinionated

Why I can’t sleep after seeing India’s daughter

On 16th December, 2012, a final year Physiotherapy student was brutally raped in New Delhi. Brutally. The rapists not only gang- raped her, one of them also inserted an iron rod into her vagina, pulling out her intestines. They threw her body out onto the street, but she still survived. She battled for her life for 13 days, finally dying and saying these last words to her mother, “I am sorry.”

Am I angry? Yes. Have those who raped her been brought to justice?? No. The world hasn’t allowed India to forget this incident. Indians have a very short memory, scandals are scandals for a month, and then disappear into oblivion. But this time, people didn’t forget. They got out onto the streets, and the whole issue became a criticism of Indian society’s outlook towards women. I have grown up being told that I shouldn’t travel alone at night. Why? Because there is a possibility that I might get raped!

I remember talking to a friend about molestation one day and she told me how her experience of molestation made her feel so violated, even taking a shower couldn’t wash away the feeling of disgust. I just tried imagining how a rape victim felt. Death seems like the worst thing to happen to humankind. Not death, but dying while living is the worst thing to happen to humankind. And the structure of Indian society is such that once a woman gets raped, her life is finished. She is walking corpse.

Sex is a difficult topic in Indian society. People don’t want to discuss it, but we still are the second most populous country in the world. Simple life events like menstruation are treated like a disease. Menstruating women aren’t allowed to enter temples because they are ‘impure’. I don’t understand how we can consider ourselves a cultured society. What kind of a culture do we have? Where some places we have kanya puja (girl-worship), another place dalit women are treated worse than animals.

When the Nirbhaya case happened, I remembered reading the newspaper and imagining, for two seconds, if it was me in her place. It could have been anyone that day. But it was a young girl, aspiring to be a doctor, who was her parent’s only source of support. And it had to be her. I have stopped believing in religion. Because no God, Prabhu, Allah, Mahavira or Christ was there to save her that night. She was raped in the most brutal way possible. There are worse rape cases around the world, but India needed to learn a lesson. After 60 years of Independence, what have me managed to establish? We don’t even have 100% literacy. Our Ministers are themselves convicted of crimes. Despite having a woman Prime Minister, did we manage to topple US when it comes to Women rights? What do we have to be proud of, apart from our engineers running Microsoft and Google? Could those engineers save Nirbhaya?

India’s Daughter, a documentary on the 2012 rape case is made by a British lady, and a rape victim herself Leslee Udwin. A lot of people might be sceptical to see the video, given Danny Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire, which made India immensely unpopular. The Indian government banned the video, stating that it might create a culture of ‘fear’ amongst women.

My question is plain and simple- Why are we running away from the reality? We know our society is screwed up, men have a mis-conception of power. Men in smaller cities grow up believing they can OWN a woman, they have a right over a woman because they are a MAN. If a girl refuses a man’s love proposal, he can throw acid on her, so that she can never be with another man. If a woman speaks out of line, either her father or her husband will thrash her. If a girl in a village decides to wear jeans, she will be eve-teased by the local men. And if she walks out after 10 in the night, men will rape her, irrespective of her being 15 or 50.

We have a culture of male misogyny. We have a culture of sexism. We don’t have a culture at all, we have a screwed up conception that we have culture in the first place. All those politicians claiming that India is “pure” because we aren’t like the West, aren’t they the ones watching porn in Parliament and sleeping with prostitutes, or forcing young women to sleep with them because they are politicians?

While watching this documentary, I couldn’t bring myself to face Jyoti Singh’s mother. We collectively failed her a society. We have failed her. Plain and simple. Even if she had lived, she would have been crippled for life. It doesn’t matter which government was in power back then. The Sheila Dikshit led UPA or anyone else. The fact that something like this could happen and the perpetrators not be hanged immediately, is the collective shame of every government. AAP, BJP and UPA. Everyone.

We all have daughters, sisters, mothers. Would we ever submit them to this level of horrendous violence? India doesn’t need an anti- corruption movement right now. India needs radical change when it comes to making the country safe for women. That can be done even without educating people. It doesn’t need a educated man to know that women need to be respected, it needs a human to know one. By “safety” and “respect” I don’t mean, like the lawyers in the documentary said, keeping women at home. I am unable to sleep because I know if I ever land in India after seeing this documentary, I can’t trust the cab driver driving me home. I can’t trust the local shopkeeper. I am scared, not just for myself, but for my daughter. She will grow up in such a world and society where being a girl is the root cause of all problems.

Teaching women Taekwondo or giving them pepper sprays isn’t the way out. It is easy to hand a girl a pepper spray and teach her to use it, but when ten lecherous men try to gang rape, they can simply overpower you. Why doesn’t the government accept this harsh reality and make policing stricter? Why can’t we go on the lines of Singapore, where every rapist is given capital punishment?

The United Nations has been advocating that India rid itself of capital punishment. But what has the UN to say for SUCH a heinous crime? Such a heinous rape? Ban Ki Moon or Barack Obama, if you’re listening, please put yourself in Nirbhaya’s place and re-live the rape. Lets see where your advocacy for revoking capital punishment goes. It is very easy to read a legislation in the UN, much more difficult to do something for those hundreds and thousands of women getting molested and raped everyday.

I don’t care if the rapist was a juvenile. It’s been over 2 years, why haven’t the rapists been hanged? Did the UPA government, for vote politics and show business give those people a death sentence? And then we say lets make India safer for women? kahan se safe hoga! How?? If those rapists aren’t hung openly in Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, if their penises aren’t castrated and their intenstines taken out, then what kind of justice can we even espouse for Nirbhaya??!

Buddhism and other religions advocate that revenge is wrong. But we need revenge. It has been too long that Indian women have taken molestation and rape with a pinch of salt and moved on. Changing cities for a rape victim won’t reduce her trauma. Young girls who are molested don’t forget the molestation experience for life.

India has a golden opportunity. It can change things, become an exemplary example for other nations. But all Narendra Modi’s government cares about is NaMo’s image. Listen to me BJP, putting women in Parliament isn’t the solution. Rid the Parliament of people who pass comments like, It is the woman’s fault. Don’t blame Bollywood and it’s item numbers for rapes, discipline the people YOU elect into the Parliament who pass statements like, “it’s in men’s nature to rape,” “chowmein and mobile phones cause rape.”

The rapist showed no remorse while saying that they raped Jyoti Singh because she stood up to them. Even if the argument that Leslee bribed him is true, why is he even alive to say these things? He considers his case as no exception. It is not education that we need, we need the goddam men, the politicians to go to the villages, and start hanging all rapists from the nearest tree. India isn’t Europe or the USA, we can’t go around trying to impress the Western world and show them that we have Ipads and the newest technology in our country. A country which can’t safeguard its women can’t call itself a democracy. And women don’t need men to safeguard them, women need the society to support them.

Pre- marital sex is a taboo, any woman in a live-in is a slut, a widow or divorcee is the perfect person to be harassed for sex, because she isn’t a virgin anymore. I am not saying such mentalities are not present in other societies, but India now has these glaring into her face – these are cracks that have been exposed. And we need to change. Hinduism isn’t about purity of the woman, all those RSS activists or renowned personalities like Katju who claim to know everything about a woman, should put themselves in Nirbhaya’s place. I can’t sleep, eat or think after watching the documentary. Because I know a few months later I will be going back to a country where I will be scared, every day will be a battle for me.

And the saddest part is- there are women who support their husbands/sons who are rapists. Love for your kin is fine, but if your kin murders someone, you are also a partaker in the crime. Crying for your kin’s fate or blaming it all on the girl is cowardice. This is where our society has come to! I know that if I am ever eve teased in India for wearing shorts, everyone will blame me first. After all, its the basic right of men to stare and comment, isn’t it? Wearing short clothes is an invitation for rape! For how long will women take the blame?

All mothers – especially those with only sons, I urge you to please make your son watch this documentary. All I can do is write right now, but you can make a difference. Make your sons sit there and realise the extent they can go to if they wield the power granted to them. And schools should make this documentary compulsory viewing everywhere. This video is a slap on our democracy, our facade of “culture”. I don’t care if India has hundreds and thousands of achievements, as a woman I think every achievement is baseless because India isn’t a country for women. Its a soul less society today. And I am ashamed to call myself a woman from India.

I can’t sleep. Sleep won’t come to me anymore. Because I know that while I am sleeping peacefully at one corner of the world, another woman is getting raped in my country.

Life in India · Opinionated

If you are not Indian, then don’t talk about India

I understand that the title of my essay is a very harsh one indeed. But it has arisen after much observation.

India is a very beautiful and different country, it has so many colours and shades that it is impossible to know which one we should adorn. One can be a Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, or Jain, and still live in India. But there are a lot of problems within the nation, plaguing it, threatening to tear it apart. It’s a very difficult country to survive in, but a country which will make you realize the importance of everything you have earned.

Unfortunately, the people who talk about India the most, in the most derogatory way, are none other than our beloved NRI’s (Non- Resident Indians). I don’t have anything against NRI’s, but there is a certain kind of them that believes that their first world country is absolutely awesome and India is a shit- hole from which they are glad to have escaped.

But the thing is – if you visit your ‘home country’ on vacations, you will see the dirt, the poverty and start calling India ‘backward’. I have had people asking me, “can you speak English?”. It’s unfortunate how little people know about my country, and it is even more surprising when these questions come from a fellow Non- Resident Indian.

The thing is – if you don’t live in India, then don’t talk about it. If you don’t know what people are going through here, then don’t try and interfere. India is not a “completely” corrupt nation – our democracy is so strong that it tolerated a nation- wide anti- corruption movement against it. I am aware that there are many “Indian- somethings” out there who make use of India’s destitution, India’s poverty in their art to garner praise and receive adulation in the Western media, which is obviously really ‘mesmerised’ by this ‘third world exotic country’. Take for example, Slumdog millionaire. I loved Mumbai, but I started hating it after I watched that movie. What if the director had tried showing the better side of Indian society? That wouldn’t have got him the Oscar, would it? So ironic that the movie was labelled the ‘feel good film of the decade’. I am surprised that no ‘Indian’ movie (Bollywood is currently the biggest film industry in the world, quantitatively) has ever got that tag. Was it because this movie was an unadulterated western portrayal of a poor, backward and socially conservative and completely screwed up country, full of thieves, prostitutes and illegal child trafficking? Agreed, the writer of the book is Indian – but honestly speaking, a book does lesser damage than a movie – a movie reaches out to the world. No wonder India is a dream tourist destination for it’s slums. Has anyone ever given a thought that maybe some slum dwellers aren’t that poor in the first place? One of India’s first colour televisions came first to a slum, then to an apartment block. There are rehabilitation apartments for slum dwellers, but no one ever writes about that!

Source: Wikipedia

Another good example of world adulation of India’s destitution was the award of the Man Booker prize to Aravind Adiga for his absolutely undeserved book, ‘The White Tiger’. Compared to Kiran Desai or Salman Rushdie, the book was poor in prose, lacked coherence and was absolutely lacklustre in terms of story telling. So I am surprised why the Booker prize awardees decided to lower their standards for once. Aravind Adiga is an Australian, educated in Oxford- what does he know about a poor driver who killed his owner and the became a millionaire? If doing this was so easy, then our streets would be filled with convicts. But unfortunately, India still has loyal servants- people who can kill to save their masters’ lives. No one ever  writes about that. We get a Man Booker winner, but that too someone who again talks about the ‘dark underbelly’ of India. Thankfully now the writer lives in Mumbai – lets see what his next book is going to be about. Hopefully it will be a better critique of India, rather than the one we have been fed too much already.

Source: wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

India has brought out over 5 million people out of poverty, into the middle class. India’s middle class is rising and there are opportunities for ‘poor’ people to move out of their poverty. There are many social issues along with the economic ones because of which the poor are not being uplifted, but the world out there just looks at statistics and prefers to label Indians ‘backward’.

India’s education system is one of the best in the world – The IIT JEE entrance examination is one of the toughest exams in the world. The amount of rigour a 17 year old child has to go through to get into the most elite engineering institute in the country is commendable. Any Australian Indian or Canadian Indian claiming that India is a ‘shit hole’, should try and give the IIT JEE exam and see if they survive. Or in fact, just give the boards and try to get admission into DU.

Those who have left India, have left it forever. They are not the proponents of change in the country – people like you and me are, who have been there to see change – who know the issues the country faces because we have seen it first hand. I never say anything against PM Modi – because at the end of the day, even though I have ideological issues with him, he is the Prime Minister of my country, and I respect him for it.

How many Americans will give up their citizenship for an Indian one? Then why do we do it? And when we do, why do we keep coming back to the country, and yet keep abusing it? There are sectarian issues within India, there is an economic divide, there is gender disparity, corruption – but those complaining about it – try and do something. The AAP was the first brick in the wall – it’s now our turn to turn things around.

The new Indian generation can speak English, we study in English medium schools, we are capable enough to compete with the world’s best candidates anywhere. Indian students even watch Hollywood movies and American TV shows. We have already become enough westernised. But what is still constant about India is the togetherness. One never feels alone. I have experienced loneliness abroad, and I understand the need of always having friendly people around you – people who are as deep emotionally as you. The Western world is very different in its approach towards emotions, and for us, its very different. But its sad to see Indians going abroad, discarding their heritage and then saying things like – We love the concept of India but what it has degenerated into is depressing.

If you don’t live in India, don’t talk about it. Stick to your own first world country. I may sound like a right wing, Samajwadi party type person here, but honestly, if someone doesn’t see everything first hand, nor experience it, they should not go around brandishing their ‘book or newspaper’ acquired knowledge like a sword. I once met a man, who claimed that India was full of perverted men, to which I told him, “are you even a woman to have faced any kind of perversion? Because I am a woman, and I never faced anything”. India is now becoming a hot destination for foreigners who are revelling in Hinduism and ‘ashrams’. I am so used to seeing a foreigner wearing rudraksha beads and chanting ‘hare rama hare krishna’. But Indians tolerate these things because we believe this improves the image of India. I have met foreigners who love India because it loved them back. But it’s sad to see our own people slaying us from the back. They will talk about India, attend international conferences, write plays, do theatre, but talk about India’s “rubbish” everywhere. It’s as if they are carrying this huge burden of shame which gets lighter when they dispel their own heritage. Wow. Amazing that this is what they learnt in their ‘first world’ country.

India is full of contradictions yes. But educated people nowadays are rising up against fascism and fighting against it. We all want to create a better country, not see it degenerate into a failed state. If you can join India in it’s fight against everything, then you are more than welcome. Otherwise just have fun in your own “first world” country.