Each year, in the first week of January, we are joyful and hopeful. We hope that the New Year brings us bucket-loads of happiness; we hope that everything that had disappointed us in the previous year will straighten up and present itself in a better way. We hope for many such little things that might make our lives better. It has been two years since the horrifying news of Delhi gang rape splashed across newspapers, and the protest it had generated has mellowed out.
Recently, I read a post that said- “This incident happened two weeks ago. I had an exam and my exam centre was at Nangloi, near Kashmiri gate Metro station, Delhi. As I reached the metro station, I took the escalator. On the escalator, I had a guy standing in front of me, who had a girl in front of him. The girl was wearing high-heeled footwear and was carrying a big trolley bag. The girl lost her balance for a moment and was about to fall down. This guy in front of me noticed this and out of reflex and courtesy opened his hand facing out to support her. His hand happened to touch her back. Her balance was restored. As we reached up the platform, to my surprise she slapped the guy and yelled at him “How dare you touch me?!”
You probably think that the girl is ungrateful, and arrogant to first accept the help from a stranger and then turn all the fury on him as if he had molested her rather than helped her. In india, even though women trot in high heels and short skirts, they cower in fear. To them, every man walking on the road is a rapist. Women are suspicious of any benevolent act. If a guy offers you a ride- he could be a rapist, if an auto-wallah is willing to drop you to your destination at night- he could be a rapist, if some men are standing beside you at a bus stop- they could be rapists, if a male friend asks you to come alone- no matter how much you trust him, he could be a rapist. A woman feels unsafe even in the protection of her own family, because who knows if her own father or uncle could force her into doing things she never wanted to do.
In a time when people ask to be treated equally, women in India silently pray with hands clasped and quivering lips to keep them safe from any attention that might lead to her “shame”. This year, I hope that we take a few steps towards making women feel like they have their own space to breathe in, and that they do not need to feel defenceless against those who disrespect them and do not care about their wishes.