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.
I had been pulling my hair a while ago. I was thinking about how I was letting my life go down the drain. I do not feel like I have done anything in a year. And it frustrates me. It makes me feel useless and unworthy of anything. It makes me feel selfish and ugly and everything that could make me pull my hair. My father had just dismissed the idea of journalism. I know he will come around to accepting the idea, but he believes I can do better than that. So I was reassessing the ideas I have built in my head. And I questioned everything I have been doing for the past year.
I know that I am not the person who wants to do “hard-hitting” journalism, nor am I a person who believes in spending half of her life buried under files or computers or wasting away coped in a cabin where I have to sit all the time. I think of travelling all around the world. I want to feel the warmth of the sun in Greece, with water as blue as sky, and sky bluer than itself. I want to walk in the streets of Paris; I want to see the snow fall in the busy city of new York; I want to watch buildings go by as I lie in the boats in Italy; I want to fall in love with a beautiful man- inside out, tall, with a sharp nose, high cheekbones, beautiful deep soulful blue eyes, ruffled black hair, and an accent that could make my insides melt, just like Gone With The Wind promises Rhett Butler to every woman; I want to help poor children, bring them to my home, teach them all good things so that they never stray from the path of good, so that they can become as successful as the privileged ones and be happy; I want to feel the fine sand slipping away from under my feet when waves retreat to the vast sea as I watch the sun setting in . I want myself to remain happy forever, so that I see no pain and feel no pain.
And then my thoughts come back from my private paradise, letting me know that I study in college, that I never bother trying to earn so my account remains to a shameful balance of Rs.900, that I will have to work really hard and remain grounded to be able to do all of the above things. But then again, I cannot stop myself from picturing those beautiful bright small white houses built alongside the blue sea, dull lights spilling onto the silent gray streets, white snow covering everything but the barren brown trees of the playground, the beautiful sculpted image of a man, the happy faces of the children, because as much as it hurts to come back to reality and fill me with longing, it makes me aware of the fact that all of these things could happen to me if I worked hard enough. All of it makes me happy and protects me from the harsh biting reality that yawns before me, baring its ugly sharp teeth. So I dream, dream, and dream, and a smile plays on my lips as I think of it all over again until sleep lulls me and takes me into her arms.