I was travelling in Europe for 3.5 months and the main news I came home to was a brutal gang rape in Delhi that shook the conscience of a Nation- Or so I thought. Sadly I was mistaken.

Throughout my travels I had been extolling the virtue of the average Indian. That despite seemingly insurmountable problems we were making headway towards a more inclusive progress and a more liberal future where every Indian would enjoy equal rights. The role of media and education in this transformation and the bright future that awaited us; not in the short run, for I am not that naïve, but definitely in the long term; was another point I highlighted in my discussions.

Then I return to India and in the taxi on way from the airport to my home the taxi driver says I am getting tired of Delhi. I said is it because of the rape, it was a very vicious incident that shook everyone up. He says no, the girl was out with a guy at night and they were being flirtatious so apart from the sexual assault she deserved the beating. I was appalled and during the course of our conversation he mentioned he had a daughter who was in tenth standard and who would never be out with a guy at night and knew how to behave in public.

The next day I took the Rajdhani train from New Delhi and due to the fog caused extended journey the Rajdhani catering staff was being forced to serve a marginally smaller meal and for lunch they served up a vegetarian meal for everybody in spite of any indicated preferences for a non-vegetarian one. A family which was returning from a wedding in Delhi and drinking since morning in the train flew off their handle and started abusing the catering staff and calling up their contacts in the media to express their anguish at the great “travesty”. I called up my brother and told him to pack some food for the journey he was beginning the same night and went back to watching a movie on my laptop. The head of the family banged my laptop screen shut and said and I quote-“For the bloody rape of a single woman in Delhi you people ( not the word he used- insert expletive of your choice) brought the whole city to a standstill and when 1000 people in a train are not served enough food and non-vegetarian food when they ask for it you don’t even protest.”

I was angry and flabbergasted at his argument, a brutal rape being lesser than eating 50 calories lesser or going without chicken for a single meal, was this guy too drunk to understand what he was saying? I expected an apology from his friend who seemed like a decent guy. Wrong again. He starts shouting on me and I quote-“We could not even see Delhi properly because of people like you who think a rape is such a big deal. I was staying in South-Ex in Delhi and saw lots of girls wearing short skirts with stockings. I asked my friend why are they wearing stockings (you or at least I presumed that the answer wouldn’t be as horrible as it turned out to be), and my friend said –because black legs are sexier to look at.  You know I work with lawyers and when sex is on one’s mind a person becomes insane and an insane person can’t even be prosecuted according to the terms of the Indian Law.” This statement infuriated me and frightened me for the sheer misogynist tendencies, apathy and arrogance these people had.

I shouted back-“It’s up to me to decide whether I consider rape more heinous or eating lesser in a single meal or not getting my favourite food for a single meal. I am not looking up to you for inspiration so please mind your own business.” Wanted to say a lot more but throwing water on a wall doesn’t dissolve the wall. The head of the family pushed me and said –“It’s because of idiots like you that India does not progress because you protest for the wrong things.”

Another person sitting in my vicinity couldn’t take it anymore and said-“Are you kidding me – that girl was traumatized and treated like an animal, and you compare that with a minimal discomfort like this. Please be rational and humane for god’s sake.” The whole family turned on him and we argued with them for 10 minutes without any progress in the dialogue (was a fool to expect any) and then I slept to cool off.

These opinions have left me in a state of shock and truly shaken up my optimism about the future of India. Plus I believe the media is also to blame for not highlighting heroes like a certain Dr Sunitha Krishnan-
and the plight of women like Soni Sori

Apparently these topics  are not hot; might upset certain people; not get enough TRPs and maybe even generate some political backlash.

Plus the traditional misogyny inherent in Indian society where people are liberal just on paper, to be fashionable, and staunchly conservative otherwise; and the alarmingly large percentage of our society believing that by wearing a certain dress or being out at a certain hour a women invites rape; are facts that cannot be pushed under a carpet anymore. We have to face them and the truly liberal ones have to find a way to transform our society maybe through multimedia campaigns , maybe through sex education, and through any way which any sociologist can conceive of; so that we can achieve at least some measure of success in liberating a few from their appalling  misogynist bulwarks. If we respect and adore women, at least our mothers, sisters, spouses, girlfriends, daughters we have to stay with this cause and not give it up once this media furore dies.

I am sick and tired of people paying lip service to such causes till they are hot news and then returning to their normal lives. Be upstanding citizens and at least take a vow to make your children, future or present, sensitive to such issues. Be proactive and discuss this with anybody you come across, at the risk of offending them argue against their set primeval notions, do anything you can conceive of to affect short term change to the extent you can and long term definitive change.  Do not cower at the sight of such incidents; protect anybody being targeted in this manner through immediate action; report eve teasing; encourage the women in your life to take up self-defence classes if they are not doing so; as women carry chilly spray and be proactive as you are independent and not under the yokel of the Indian male as much as the traditional Indian women used to be. Don’t mean to lecture anyone and am not entitled to( hope this part of my article is not construed as implying women need to be taken care of or liberated by males, it’s up to each women to say enough is enough and stop tolerating any bull shit and each women is truly capable of that) but as an independent entity you need to start the change as you are the target of such shameful crimes. Take inspiration from the brave women and be your free selves.

I did not argue enough with the family I met in the train by reasoning that they are drunk and are not listening to me but the impotent rage that it generated has left me very disturbed for the last few days. Please be the solution, not the problem and move our society towards one where no women/girl’s choices are dictated by the diktat of the abhorrent misogyny of our society.

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