New Year, New Beginnings

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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.

The Times We Live In

Ten years ago, when I was a little child, when my mother told me that we lived in the Kalyuga the Age of Downfall (The fourth stage of the world development that we are currently in. As the corruption gradually developed wider in the earlier stages), I would screw my face up, and tell her that the world seemed pretty nice to me even though I was not happy with my name, my school, my teachers, and with the neighbor who would pop up at my place each time to take my candy.

Now that I’m a grown-up, it upsets me to accept that this age truly is the Kalyuga. After all, how can one explain barely fifteen year olds getting pregnant or the vulgar songs that play at every night club- be it Hindi or English or the leers a woman gets even if she is wearing a salwar-kameez (an Indian attire worn by majority of women. It is a pair of loose pajamas and a long dress) or eminent politicians advising women to stop going out at night because they are too lazy to do anything about harassment?  The horror of the above list diminishes as the newspapers fill their spaces with gory details of the rape of little children in the most unthinkable ways, of the world fighting for no reason in the name of religion and people from all over the world coming together- not to promote peace or cleanliness- but to terrorize the rest of the world! That is not even the end of it all. How in the world does one explain killing about two hundred innocent children at a sacred institution where they went to grow and bud into better humans? There lie thousands of hopes and wishes and aspirations buried along with the lifeless little bodies of the helpless, never to turn into anything more than hopes and wishes and aspirations. Who are to blame for that? Are we to blame for the selfish leaders of Pakistan who are deluded by the power entrusted to them by the people of Pakistan? Or are we to blame the Taliban? Or are we to blame Lord Krishna for predicting that we were going to live in a gory world?

To me, the people with big guns and by that I mean the terrorists like Taliban and the members of Islamic State seem to be the face of the problem whereas it runs very deep. The village of Ajmal Kasab , the terrorist (of the Lashkar-E-Toiba terrorist group) who was sentenced to death for killing hundreds of innocent citizens of India in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, cried over him and cursed India. They even pelted stones at the reporters who had gone to cover the story and instead of condemning the horrifying act, they worshipped him.  I still remember the maid who worked at our place in 2008, Zahira, told my mother once that Osama Bin Laden was their God, and that he was the rightful ruler of the world. As astounding as that is, it does not seem to surprise me now. Families tell their sons that they can live in whichever fashion they want to and that the daughters are to stay at home and cover themselves from head to toe. And if they are harassed even after that, well too bad, it is still the girl’s fault because she provoked the “pious” man who can do no wrong. Men recruit little children and train them into doing wrongful things because these children have been taught that it is their duty to kill for religion, or that their families are living in peace and comfort because of what they are doing.

What we are told is what we believe. People are brainwashed and told things that they eventually start believing. It is similar to a little child believing in the tooth-fairy or magic or monsters under the bed. I believe the problem starts at the base, it lies in what we are taught is right. To curb the big problem of terrorism, I believe people must be shown how to interpret situations in a different way than they do right now. People must be educated- in the right manner- in a way that promotes harmony and peaceful living rather than destruction and violence.

What To Wear

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I recently saw a post in which a lady figure was wearing different clothes- some deep necked, some really short, some very tight, one in a bikini, and one naked. And in the end, a very important line was written, “Rape is never the victim’s fault”. It is so true. No matter what a woman is wearing, whether it is the most provocative dress in the world, it is always the rapist’s fault, and nothing justifies the act.

When somebody justifies a gory act like rape, they state that she was asking for it because she was dressed a certain way. But it is just a justification and it is unforgivable. But whenever something like that happens, a question pops up in my mind- “Isn’t that what we are taught? Aren’t we told to take care of what we wear on streets because there are too many people leering at you even when you have covered yourself up?” Well, that is the case in India. We are told to cover ourselves up, from head to toe, women covering their faces with scarves, wearing long sleeved tops and loose jeans in summers on streets. Ask any commoner who travels via state buses. “I cannot afford wearing a sleeveless blouse when I travel in buses. It is bad as it is even when I cover myself up” said a woman when I talked to her about it.

There is always a feeling of guilt when a woman wears hot pants, or a tube top because of the way she has been brought up. It has been conditioned into her mind to think of her and other women through the masochist point of view. She has been taught to look at herself as an object, ready to be at their disposal. So when she wears something other than a saree, or salwar kameez, or half sleeved or long sleeved tops and a loose pair of jeans, she feels it is inappropriate and provocative.

The others, who have not been conditioned that way, prefer covering themselves up at least in the streets because they realize their state of insecurity and vulnerability. They realize that although covering them up will not prevent a rape, which is only because of some perverse mentality, but it will make her roaming around easy and fewer leers would be directed towards her.

It is the social bonds that a woman tries to break herself from, and this patriarch, chauvinist, masochist society breaks them down. Every child, be it a boy or a girl is conditioned to view women as inferiors, objects, okay to be grabbed at, fondled with. It is dirty and depressing. But it is the ugly truth. Once we start clearing out crap like that, teaching our children to respect women, see them as equals, perhaps we might as well have a chance to wear what we want to and roam around as freely and fearlessly as people in other countries do.