Speaking in cliches is an easy thing to do. Sometimes, you let slip a few words that are supposed to be spoken in particular circumstances like a programmed machine. You trust they are appropriate and don’t stop to ponder about what they truly mean. It is a call for action, they say, or May her death not go in vain. In a moment of hatred, of protest and rebellion, you, inconsiderate reader, start to accuse everyone; your blood curdles on hearing cliches. You despise the random bloke who made sexist remarks, it galls you to think of Prime Ministers who gaffed inadvertently while addressing nations, of grey-haired Chief Ministers who make speeches that count for naught. In the heat of rage, you, thoughtless reader, turn misanthropic and ruthless in your criticisms.
God forbid, had the tiniest part of the unfortunate event that occurred in the moving bus in New Delhi two weeks ago happened to me – I am sorry I can’t finish this sentence because I don’t have the courage to even think of the possibility. Yes, unkind reader, it is of fear that I speak. Abashedly huge fear, nothing poetic and great about it. Not of darkness, but of the people who are its whelp. They have a heart black as coal, they don’t feel the slightest prickle on their skin when they hurt another and they have enormous physical strength. Much greater than my own.
As I write this, I realize that you are all I have, blog. I am not able to organize my thoughts into 10 bullet points in which I explain “What are the steps to be taken to make Delhi safe for women?” on Quora. But, folks there have covered everything. They write beautifully, boldly and thoroughly. They give complete answers and shout out their opinions from a pedestal. Much like the protesters out in the streets who demand that justice be got. Again, brave folks who struggle to push a car that doesn’t seem to start. They propel it forward with all their strength hoping it will get to ignition with a jolt. You, dear blog, don’t rise in response as I bore you with a quagmire of thoughts and mostly impulsive ones interspersed with humorless jokes and everyday trivialities. You lie here on the internet like a cold cadaver, filled with odd words that have no fight in them. The words that I feed you which have no direction and strangely, are meant for no one. You reek of me, speak excessively of me and you don’t complain that I am a nobody myself.
My thoughts return now to where they were when I hesitantly started to hammer down keys to fill the first words on this post. Why do you, reader, suddenly pounce on the buffoons you elected to rule over you at their smallest slip? Why do you growl so ferociously that the leaders that were lumbering down the streets fearlessly yesterday now hunker safely in their homes? That’s because, you, not unlike me, are a slave of the media. The media are the muscles that turn your head. They decide what you look at and more often than not, how you look at what you look at. That’s why you shed tears when the girl you worried about the last 13 days lost her ultimate battle and that’s why you didn’t notice that something similar happened to someone else yesterday or the day before. It’s good that the media managed to get your attention to the gangrape which was of unprecedented brutality and I will give them their share of credit. And when you say your prayers and the may-her-soul-rest-in-peace for this girl, you will keep in mind the others and pray for them as well, I know. And, the harsh critics among you were going to blame the media anyway. If they had not covered the issue tirelessly and dismissed it as something that has happened to Dalit women in rural India before, you would have called them crazy and said even they have begun playing the minority card that Indian politics loves. If they had, as they well have, you will frown at them for not giving equal attention to other victims of such crimes especially in villages.
But, right now, what’s important is not how the media have fared. If you ask me, I will name only a precious few among the TV channels and the print media who even understand journalism,what it represents to the society and how they should go about it in a professional manner. There are always bad workmen in every industry and every profession. But, right now, what I think about the media is also not important. We are two parties that cannot begin to imagine what that girl must have been through. The ToI has named her Nirbhaya( fearless) , supremely tasteless reader who likes news with all the masala, and I regret that I got to know that piece of information from ET. I was sorely tempted to give you one more reason why I hate the newspaper before I shut my mouth on the media matter (or how it doesn’t matter) and I did. I will not even begin to speak of Times Now, but you should know, witless reader, that Arnab shouts so loudly that I can hear him even if I am on the previous channel, safely watching NDTV’s newsreaders punctuating wrongly and stressing every article, verb and gerund(observe if you don’t believe me).
Today, I enjoy the comforts of my room back in R. There’s no one who can make me watch news on TV. So, I left home and traveled safely, unnoticed and watchful, all the way through. Woah! Hmmm! I reached. Now, scared reader, if you need my advice, all you need to do is be careful. Look at the list of rapists that NCRB /state police websites will publish soon and try to avoid them. And the places in which the rapes took place. Private buses, beaches, parks, schools, colleges, hospitals, homes etc. It’s only that simple.
Now, Now! This kind of sarcasm is silly and speaks of pointless anger. And as I mentioned before, it was you who were angry. I, on the other hand, was the one being scared and unnoticed. I am the one who will bolt my door securely and avoid stepping outside as much as I can. I am the one who will stay home and act upon instructions. I am the one who will take all the precautions to sail through life safely. Now, wise reader, you may be tempted to ask, aren’t we all the same? We also avoid unnecessary common colds and fevers, don’t we not? We men also have gun shots that make us cower and what’s more, women who might accuse us of rape. My god, should laws get stricter tomorrow, some girl who we were simply stalking for the fun of it today, might well send us to our graves with one swift trip to the police station.
I hear you, of course, sensible reader. If tomorrow, the media were to advise us, show us animations and extensive coverage on the many perils of sore throat, I am sure, the boggarts for most of us will turn into giant ice creams. So, surely, man or woman, you and I have a lot of things to fear. You see, sarcasm is an easy addiction to fall prey to, especially if you are hurt or angry. But, I am neither, I am only scared. You, respectable reader, are angry.
I am, on the contrary, trying to take responsibility that comes with freedom. One particularly clever reader notes that we got freedom at midnight and yet, we don’t keep going out on the streets at the first stroke of the day now, do we? I appreciate his logic deeply, I must admit. No, I don’t. Rape is not sex, you moronic reader, it is an act of hatred. A cold-blooded, bestial act of hatred.
It is here that I see no point in furthering this habit I seem to have taken a liking to , half way into the post,of slyly ridiculing you, expressing a part of what I feel in uncertain terms, taking to satire which veils and minces words which must have gotten typed here in clear strokes of the keys.
It’s true that I am scared. But, the last two weeks didn’t mark the beginning of fear. And why did I choose to talk only about fear and not social change, death penalty, castration, respect for women, better tomorrow and so on? To hear me say the truth, such talk is when you are in warm summers. When you see bright light and your audiences are human. I know your kind, reader. You lobby your friends,tell them that females must be respected and no sexist japes in your vicinity will be tolerated. Your friends might think that “Agla station, molestation” is funny but they dare not laugh at the witty wordplay in front of you. Your chivalrous friends tell you that they are scared of you. My god, you must be their nightmare. The minute they utter a sexist remark or even an expletive, they know you will call for battle. You savagely beat them up and get your share of blood. Hell, they must be terrified of you. You are the feminist.
Habits die hard, reader and the sarcasm refuses to leave me.
Meanwhile, back in a tiny village in Tamil Nadu, a mother shows the burial ground behind her farm. That’s where, the uncouth lady tells the cameraman, she buried her 8 female infants, without a hint of remorse. How in seven hells is you being a fearsome feminist among your well-educated, nice, friendly, urban colleagues ever going the wake the dead children? You are not a fearsome feminist, I tell you, you are a phony.
People have said enough about where the respect for women should be inculcated. In the families, when the boys are young, yes. If, the mother asks her to wipe the floor, her brother’s turn should come too. But, how canyou ensure that the mother feels that the male child is meant to wipe the floor too if the female is? After all, they walk on the same floor and they might as well take turns to wipe it. They eat the same food, they might as well take turns to cook it. Say this to your kind friends and they will (secretly) laud you for being the new age woman. Give a fiery speech to explain all your new age ideas to the maid auntie who works in your house and you get only the disgusted stare reserved for rebels and sluts.
You do nothing, you know that as well as I do. I will leave you to your revolutionary speeches that cause no revolution, your tireless street protests that change nothing, writing of beautiful pieces on quora which will get upvoted virtually but not in real life and to your rebellious blog posts that you assume are so powerful that they will wipe the male chauvinism off human brains.
A feminist is someone who believes in equal rights for women. It is not being a feminist that is uncool you rabbit-brain reader, it is, not being one, that is shameful, sad and makes all your education worthless. Yet, you will continue on and your opinions will get stronger with age. You will not even realize that every time you subdue your wife, your sister or your mother, every time you exert your authority so naturally, you fling a dart at the society. You hit close to the mark and every tiny missile lands on a spot that trickles blood. You may not have raped or molested women, you may have stalked a few on facebook and discussed a few with your friends. That’s not culpable and yet you are a criminal.
I will live on too, ducking and hiding just as naturally. I was born alone, I shall pass alone but I won’t forget to not travel alone. I will call home when I reach places, note down taxi numbers I travel in and call home to tell them, make friends carefully, choose words to speak with care and be respectful. I will play my part in the mummer’s show and speak of empowerment and freedom to my educated friends. I will only dream of visiting places on a whim, taking a bag, riding my cycle up hills and exploring caves, chewing on fresh carrots and smelling the breeze. I will prefer to just to spend my life in a safe, squat home and reserve my Columbus spirit for ticketed travels with family, friends and loving escorts. And, one day, when I grow old and toothless, when I surely will have all the time to fall to day dreams at will, I might sit and wonder , with wetness in the bags beneath my eyes( I am sure I will be all too emotional when senility beckons me), that I lived my life safeguarding it. And of course, I will feel lucky and grateful.