Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rape. And the woman who gets stuck in the middle of it.

Delhi: Rape - the name the city has come to go by, not just since the infamous Amanat/Nirbhaya rape. As we, as a society, try to grapple with the situation, we tried to get an all-round, clear understanding of all issues at hand. Dispassion helps, especially when more-than-justified rage will just only make the cycle bigger, all the while remaining equally frustrating. What you need to do is break the cycle.

Anger-fueled punishment for rapists will only give us temporary redemption. While the chorus rings that stricter punishment will deter the instances of the crime, if not abolish the crime itself, it is clear that future rapists are not/will not be deterred by almost anything. Factors that contribute to this are the far-reaching rural areas where laws don't reach usually. Sheer ignorance and a non-understanding of the concept, benefit and rationale of civic compliance defeats obedience and fear of law. Add to that the quick and stern action and taken by the police, and you have a situation that one peaceful protest or one well-drawn law can start to undo with the snap of the fingers (note sarcasm).

We went around taking stock of the people's opinions to get the right understanding of what the true ground reality is among women, since the men get all the attention these days. There seems to be an unanimous ring to the collective opinion of the women in the country.

Sheila, a vegetable seller, who toils from the early hours of the morning to the evening around Chandni Chowk says, "Every morning near the Metro station, I see young college boys come dressed to kill and every other moment as they pass by, I sigh. How I'd love to hang with them, but what can I do?" She is but all of just 18. The average age of these children and sounded almost helpless. She has crushes on a few boys who pass by daily because they fit her perfect prince charming, and their tight bodylines made evident by their stick-on t-shirts and jeans only send her in a tizzy - she sometimes forgets to take the money her customers hand her. When asked if she will ever act upon those feelings, she replies with a firm, "No."  It's taboo, she feels, and certainly not a privilege she has. We were not able to make out why she started to suddenly ignore us when we asked her why she felt so - if she felt she had spoken out of turn or that she had indulged herself enough.

Down south in Bangalore, in one of  MG Road's swanky branded showrooms, Prathiba deals with many high-class clientele. Most of them well-groomed, or really rich, almost take her breath away when they come to pay their bills. What just gets her are their fancy suit cuts. That tugs at her like an elephant's pulling at her heart, and everything else along with it. Unfortunately, she fights it every second as response times with servers the swipe machine is attached to work in time units less than those seconds. From a poor family, to have a handsome man (which her job gives her much viewing access to) who is rich enough to flash cards like that is her dream. Her dream, in the last year she has worked here for, has been to find a handsome man with that perfect suit cut that comes along the perfect heart of gold that deserves it. Despite the constant war that's raging inside her, she has chosen to stick with such a dangerously stimulating environment. We asked her what drives her to stay in an environment that makes her constantly vulnerable but she funny-eyed us while the next customer came forward. You could almost see her fighting inside, like there was a battle zone in her eyes as she routinely swiped the card and delivered a, "Thank you, sir" with ultimate poise. You'd only have to be there to see it.

Mamta, a 3rd year college student from Kochi's prestigious Maharaja's College, has gotten used to tingles every time she goes to college. With the college full of hot, cute boys, she admits she should hardly expect to feel any different. A student of theatre, she likens the feeling to her experience with over-coming stage fright. Just like her master used to push her onto the stage to overcome initial hiccups, she feels a hand pushing her out there every time the hordes of cute males enter the canteen. It's worse when hordes of boys enter the library but she has garnered enough self-control to pin it down. She is not sure yet whether it indicates that she is sapiosexual or whether it's the same hand-pushing-her-from-behind effect. She didn't shy away, like Prathiba and Shiela, when we probed further. She said that sometimes it starts to feel right, as opposed to the other times that when it's generally supposed to feel (or be) wrong. She does act on tingles some of those times. 

Roopa, 35 and quite the socialite, was unlike all of the above. She's at a party every day. She keeps enough male contact, and even dances with them, to make an entire Khap Panchayat go insane in a second. She celebrates her tingles. For her, it's no big deal. She's never been taught to lie about the truths of life, and she doesn't see the need to now. She said that individuality is important in society, individuality of all kinds. Society is made from and of healthy blocks, not the other way round, is her philosophy. We asked her at any point if she felt unsafe or was abused while so, she replied in the negative. She did admit, though, that many people like her are abused - those who have learnt to enjoy, appreciate, relish and celebrate the freedom in individuality, sexual and otherwise. To them, she said, there is no consolation except revenge, of which there is only empty hope from the authorities. In defense, she questioned the logic of keeping women away on the basis of the probable atrocities per rapist, as opposed to actually putting away the cause i.e. the rapist (she made that very clear) and not just the symptom. When it came to the root of the cause, she said that the roots has too many ends which rapists use when they find best convenient. They even make new ones to justify the act.       

All across the nation, we asked women across the spectrum of age, colour, caste and economic status. It was like standing in a hall with reverberating effect, just in a different language, in a different tone - but all spelt out the very same thing, loud and clear. One thing that we asked the three of them, and the others whom we spoke for this report, was whether women are isolated in feeling this way - having to fight a war inside more than once a day. They resounded with strong, "No." We then asked them whether their male counterparts also had a struggle that was going on inside them. And they resounded with a stronger, "Of course", but they added more before the excitement of the echo ended. The added echoes implied - "At least we admit it. They wouldn't ever. The shameless among of them only justify it and we end up being the victim!"

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