Scared for Tomorrow

I feel a slow fear burning up my insides.

I am scared.

Of being sexually harassed on the dimly lit streets of my city and the brimming-with-anonymous-hands public spaces of my country?

Well, that too. That is a familiar fear – I have known that one ever since I was old enough to understand what it is to feel violated, and it is now an invisible fifth limb.

But this week, I am scared anew.

Of the voices I have heard this fortnight.

These voices, I am told, are of the common man of this country.

The common man of this country wants a ‘martyr’ to inspire him. Made forcibly of a young woman who wanted only to live.

The common woman of this country cries for death by hanging to rapists – in public view.

The common angry person of this country bays for chemical castration of rapists.

The common angry youngster of this country feels entitled to instant action, instant punishment, instant justice, instant change – a magic wand in each hand – and NOW!

The common voice shouts for ‘justice’ – in the form of ‘revenge’ to ‘satisfy’ the victim and ‘quench’ her family’s rage.

The common citizen of this country thinks it is okay to hold democracy at gun-point and extract laws that he fancies – with no debate, with no patient thought, with no disagreement. Whether it is the Lokpal bill or death/castration for rapists.

And the pointless government of this country thinks it fit to let the lowest common denominator of ‘impassioned’, ‘angry’, ‘popular opinion’ to dictate what laws it proposes to walk the country by – for years to come.

Today, it has come to this : The government mulls adding a provision for chemical castration as a punishment for rapists.

Hence legitimizing the myth that rape is a sexual crime – not a crime of oppression, a weapon of power, and a deliberate act of brutality just like every other act of brutality.

Thus encouraging more ‘intelligent’, ‘well-meaning’ people (who have mothers, sisters, and daughters) to come out and dole out ‘advice’ about how a woman should take care not to ‘provoke’ the sexually-overactive, hormonal-imbalanced, neurologically mis-wired men with unmanageable libidos and out-of-control hands and penises – for her own good!

And reinforcing the idea of gendered, sexualised ‘honor’ – virginity/chastity is to women what ‘manhood’ is to men. Looting a woman of her virginity/ ‘chastity’ and a man of his ‘manhood’ is the highest form of punishment!

So, once chemically castrated, would violations of women’s/children’s bodies by such perverts be ‘accidents’ ‘misinterpreted’ because they are biologically not capable of being ‘sexual’? Well, that is what many of our ‘educated’ policemen, lawyers and judges would argue.!

Where is the rational thought?

Where is the Ahmisa of our Gandhi-led society?

If this, really is the voice of the average Indian..

I am scared for my tomorrow.

Very scared.

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Discovery of the Week

I now unveil to you, my discovery of the week..

The men of this country, including our Honorable Prime Minister, are sad about brutal rape incidents in the heart of the capital city of the country because..

Applause please!

Because..

They have daughters. They have sisters. They have mothers.

More the number of daughters they have, the more they want  the ‘rape-culture’ to change.

Also..

We women are against rape only because it could happen to us or our daughters too, and we are scared – very scared.

Which means..

Wait for it..

Which means..

All men out there who don’t have females in their immediate family, or are orphans, can either rape guilt-free, or at least be least bothered about sexual crimes against women.

[drumbeat, trumpets and confetti]

P.S. : When can I expect my nobel prize for this discovery, please?

My Case for E-books

Point 1 : I can read in the dark – in bed, on trains, on buses, on the swing under the big tree.
Point 2 : I can take long night-walks – just to read to the moon walking by my side.
Point 3 : I can doze off reading and open my eyes to the same page – no bookmarks between us.
Point 4 : I can touch words. And they explain themselves to me and become my friends.
Point 5 : I can command books to my bed at the click of a button – instantly.
Point 6 : Mom doesn’t get to see physical evidence of how much I spend on books! B-)

 
Do I need say more? About how I can carry so many books with me, how it feels good to be a consumer of lesser paper, and how they are easier on the pocket?
Nah.. superfluous!

 
Thus, I rest my case.
And pick my e-reader up.

I have a genuine doubt..

I swear – no sarcasm or smart-ass-ism here..

 
What are we protesting for?

 
Now, I get what we are protesting against. But what are we protesting for?

 
Immediate action on this particular case?
Well.. to me, it looks as though all 6 accused have been arrested and the fast-track courts are very much on the right track. Plus, since none of them have political or financial clout, they aren’t going to be let off – certainly not after this outrage.

 
Action against policing lapses?
OK.. seems to be happening to some extent.

 
Security measures to be strengthened?
Promises are pouring in day by day.. Though, I don’t see how banning tinted windows is going to change some bestial insecure men’s mind to brutalize women to ‘teach them a lesson’.

 
For police to suddenly open their eyes to gender-equality and be gender-sensitive?
Not happening in the short-term.

 
Amendment of the law? Passage of the sexual assault bill?
a) Ain’t gonna happen in 1-2 days
b) I wonder how many of those protesting know what the present law is, what the proposed law is, or what they want the law to be. Frankly, I don’t.

 
Death penalty, chemical castration, torture for rapists?
Every time I see that hot-headed demand, my heart breaks a bit.. and some more when I see it coming from young and old, informed and ignorant alike!

 
Assurance from the government?
Really? Do we even believe what our politicians say anymore?

 
Token action? Token resignations at higher levels of the government or police force?
I don’t see how that can help.

 
For our society to turn a new leaf and treat its women how they should be treated?
a) Not happening in our life-time, forget short-term.
b) Change has to start at home one’s own head.

 
For the government to instill confidence in our women that they are safe – on and off the road, day and night, from the known and the unknown?
Impossible. Such confidence comes only from what one experiences – over a long period of time.

 
Then what?
I just don’t get it.

Ashamed to be an Indian?

If you are one to take cues from the media, this is a time to feel ashamed.

[gives you two minutes of respectful silence]

Okay.. finished with working yourself into a state of shame for being an Indian?

Good.. Let us proceed then.

Now and again, we see people proclaiming that they are either so proud to be an Indian, or so ashamed of being a part of this messed up society.

National pride usually rides bi-annual waves – once on the Independence day and once on the Republic day. Sometimes, very rarely, it makes a cameo appearance if someone/something Indian beats someone/something First-world – Team India wins the world cup, Abhinav Bindra or Mary Kom  fetches Olympic medals, Sunita Williams becomes NASA’s poster girl. (P.S. : Emphasis on First-world. I can’t remember the last time I saw India’s chest swell with pride when someone/something Indian beat someone/something Ethiopian or Turkish. You are free to remind me if the problem is my memory.)

National shame though,  is a frequent visitor – it comes and goes, comes and goes.. whenever a gang-rape or honor killing happens is reported in a big way, whenever a self-proclaimed revolution-maker unearths Qutb-high mounds of evidence of corruption, whenever communal riots burst out, whenever the state machinery fails in spectacular ways (which is always, but yeah – if you are Indian, you know the specially spectacular ways I am talking about).

 

What is the deal with pride and shame?

Typical conjecture girl analogy time..

Scenario A :

I have a house.

It is an ancestral house with heritage value. It has been revamped to suit modern tastes and conveniences wherever necessary. The decor shouts sophistication and chic. It is filled with highly successful, accomplished and special people as family. It looks amazing, it is maintained amazing, it feels amazing.

Should I be super-proud of the house? Is it my achievement to be proud of?

Scenario B :

I have a house.

It is essentially a one-room house. It has paint – wherever the paint hasn’t peeled away. It has a roof – wherever I don’t see the tarpaulin when I look up. It has electricity – in one plug-point. It has water – as much as I could rush and push, grab and drag during the ‘water hour’ at the local water pump. It gives a warm shelter to others – cockroaches, lizards, mice, and a lonely bandicoot.

Should I be ashamed of the house? Is it my mistake to be ashamed of? Even if it is in some way, does it help to be in shame?

If you were my neighbor, you’d probably put a hand around my shoulder and tell me that I should not. Especially if it is the shame scenario.

 

Taking house = nation.. The same applies? No? Why? How? Step-by-step batao mujhe.

 

My question is : If we are to be ashamed of being Indians, what exactly are we ashamed of?

For that, I’d typically get a list – dramatic stuff put in bombastic and clever words. Great. I heard you there, darling.

As I see it, pride and shame are very personal emotions. One feels pride about one’s own achievements, one’s own ability, one’s own attitude. One feels shame about one’s own mistakes – real or perceived.

If I happen to feel proud about being an Indian, it is an emotion that arose not from within, but from being told since childhood that one should feel proud about one’s nation. It is taught. Just as many Indians feel shame about their dark complexions. Just as many people around the world feel shame about being introverted. These are not the raw emotions. The raw ones are – pride about feeling ‘correctly’ patriotic, and shame about the daily humiliation one faces from an insensitive society ignorant about melanin and introversion.

So, when one peels away the outer layer of ‘taught’ emotions, real pride & shame have deeply personal triggers.

 

My next question is : Are all those reasons for being ashamed to be an Indian so personal that they trigger such a personal emotion as shame?

If you are put together enough not to label me to be cynical, insensitive and elitist-philosophical-types, I expect the response to that question to be  on the lines of : “Of course, it is personal! What happened to that person today, could happen to me or my loved ones tomorrow. All that corruption and state failure is wasting my hard-earned tax money. All this mess is in my society, of which I am a part of. Of course, it is personal!!”

Umm.. yeah.. I shall turn a blind eye to the hell load of “me” and “mine” in that. Because if I tell you that the overload of “my” in that indicates an undercurrent of self-centered attitude, you are going to jump up and down in closed-minded rage. So, let us quietly forget that I wrote and you read this particular paragraph. Thank you.

 So, everything is personal and everything evokes shame. Fine. It is apparently fashionable to feel ashamed to be an Indian.

For how long does this fashionable shame have to last?

Two days? Ok.

A week? Hmm.. to each, his/her own.

A month? Ah.. well..

Do I hear ‘everybody will forget this in three days and go back to their lives. Is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta. Mera bharat mahaan!’?

Do I hear ‘for as long as it takes to solve the problem’? Really?

Darling.. negative emotions such as shame & anger have to subside – by nature. A healthy mind ensures and asks for that. If you keep that diya of anger & shame lit for long, you are most probably edging towards depression or maniac obsession. Forgetting negativity is natural and healthy. The human mind has only so much capacity to process such things. So do news channels. Every  firework rocket that goes up, may be to burst into a spectacularly colorful shower of sparks, has to fall to earth – along with the ashes.

Do I hear ‘THIS is the problem with this country. Nobody cares. We are numb. No change can come without keeping that anger and sense of shame alive.’?

Ok then..

 

My next question is : Did extended shrinking-with-shame and jumping with blood-at-boiling-point-outrage – instead of letting the taught emotions take a back seat and approaching the issue with a problem-solver’s mind – help solve any problem? Ever?

No.. don’t say ‘all revolutions in history’. Revolutions may stem from collective anger, but have always been led and taken forward to fruition by pragmatic intellect and leadership. I see neither deep thought nor much pragmatism in the recent protests. So.. what else?

 

[Takes cup of tea to mouth, sips, and waits for an answer.. while watching with an amused smirk, more protesters holding posters asking for castration & public hanging for rapists, and more state authorities coming up with not-the-real-point solutions. Isn’t it funny to watch knees jerking all around, and repeatedly? ]

 
P.S. To all feeble voices saying “Woh sab theek hai.. magar kuch toh karna padega.. something has to be done and something has to change!” :
Yes dear, soch rahein hain.. kuch toh karenge hi. Tab tak, baito. Please stop jumping, sit down, relax, and let us think rationally to see what sensible courses of action we have before us. Kya loge? Tea?