Thursday, April 24th, 2014

A Calmer You: Dammit, the world didn’t end

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I wish it did, before six beasts mauled a young girl and left her to die. I’ve always stayed away from writing this column on newsy topics. But today, you are likely to find this to be one among the many write ups on this same subject in the newspapers. And maybe I’ll have nothing new to say that you haven’t already heard or read. Let me still say it, please.

Because today I realise how utterly foolish and far away from reality it has been, to be talking about ‘calmness’, week after week, when we live in a society where so-called human beings exhibit animal-like behaviour at will. No, in fact, let me apologise to the animals for making this statement, because even they are known to have traces of compassion and kindness. The six men who gang raped and then savagely tortured a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in our nation’s proud Capital last Sunday, before stripping her and her friend and throwing them on the road to die, don’t even deserve to be called animals.

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While this incident has shocked and numbed practically everyone to the core, we also have to face the trauma of being informed that a majority of the men who committed the horrific act are not remorseful of what they did. And that there are some in our country who, in the name of ‘human rights’, are still saying that the rapists shouldn’t be given death penalty because it is wrong to take away a human life as punishment. But I thought these men had made it pretty clear last Sunday itself that there’s nothing remotely human about them. So, what rights are we talking about?

While everyone is sad and angry about this incident and the state of women-safety in India in general, I’m also immensely sad at us having gradually turned into a suspicious, untrusting society. A male friend of mine loves kids more than anyone I’ve known. And he has this habit of making funny faces at stranger kids in elevators, making them giggle. Sometimes he would ask a cute kid to tell his or her name or pass a compliment on their dress, and the child would lighten up at the attention. Yesterday, his cheerful greeting of “Hello, little girl” to a five-year-old on the escalator of a shopping mall resulted in the girl’s mom creating a scene. Not only did she shout at my friend, but she also then screamed at her daughter saying, “Did I not tell you not to talk to any uncle or a boy? Boys are bad. They will take you away and hurt you!”

I just feel helpless at what we’ve become. Let me say it upfront. In my humble opinion, death penalty is nothing in front of the punishment that ought to be meted to the people whose acts have instilled a permanent fear of the male gender in the minds of our young generation of girls. Human rights activists can go take a hike for all I care. No, wait. Maybe I’m being inhuman now. Let’s give them jail term, and not hang them. As long as they are gang raped every night that they spend in the prison. Now that’s only fair, we can’t risk them coming out of jail some years later with pent-up sexual frustration. And see, we are not even taking their precious human life away. Right?

Sorry for sounding so cynical, but here’s just a list of things I’ve begun to hate ever since the Delhi gang rape incident acted as a tipping point, and plunged us to new, disgusting depths.

1 I hate it that while someone’s cherished daughter battles unthinkable physical pain lying on a hospital bed, some people in endless debates on TV channels have had the audacity to question whether a girl should have boarded a bus with dark windows and men in it, at night, in a city like Delhi. ‘We are being practical’, they say. Wouldn’t it be more practical and foolproof then, to make a rule that forbids men to venture out of homes after dark? Or better yet, just like we are so fond of telling our girls that they must take a brother or a cousin along for safety when they go out, let’s make it compulsory for all guys to always have a woman escort them when they leave homes after dark . Trust me, it’ll help the cops achieve a zero percent crime rate, both against men and women.

2 I hate the stigma attached to rape cases that’s so engrained in our psyche, that when this young girl got the first opportunity to interact with her mother, she scribbled on a piece of paper that her close friends be told that she’s gone out of town for some work. Till the day we are able to give confidence to our daughters that our reaction to an assault on their sexual organs will be the same as that on any other part of their body, we’ll have to live with our heads bowed in shame.

3 I hate it when the laws of our democracy do precious little for the victim, but safeguard the ‘rights’ of the criminals to refuse identification parades or cover their faces while being taken into custody. I know that there are legal reasons and rules behind this, but then rules are made by human beings. Why can’t such criminals, who have even confessed to the heinous crime, be paraded in public so that they can sense the hatred in the eyes of people around them. Rights ought to be for those who’ve done anything to deserve them, don’t you think?

4 I hate it when the desperate cries for action result in knee-jerk steps by the authorities, such as removing the dark film from all vehicle windows or shutting down all pubs in the city by 1 am. Why, that’s as illogical as suggesting that let us shut down the banks two hours early everyday as that might prevent robberies. A person who is sick enough in the head to commit rape will not hesitate because suddenly his car doesn’t have tinted glasses. He will hesitate if he knows that he’ll be thrashed in full public view if he does it. Why can’t we get that!

Mayans predicted that the world will end on December 21st this year. Well it didn’t, for most of us. For the girl who may not be able to eat through her mouth all her life even if she survives, it may just have. But her courage and the will to live despite all odds seem to have taken her straight into a new world, where the nightmare she went through has probably resulted in waking up millions of sleeping Indians. Maybe in this new world, my friend will be able to smile at a young girl without the fear of being misunderstood. Just maybe.

Sonal Kalra feels ashamed when educated people blame clothes, culture or conduct for rape, when it is nothing but the urge to exercise control and power.

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One Response to “A Calmer You: Dammit, the world didn’t end”
  1. Satish Nair says:

    Sure be calm is the essence of such difficult situations and you have more chances of getting away. I am on a different tac, its about how to reach out to this breed of men ( they are in large numbers in all metros as Taxi / Auto drivers, the Veg vender, the Dhobi & a whole host of them) from the lower middle and middle class who THINK & BELIEVE women are to be treated that way alone. How do we educate them, into changing their way of thinking right from their child hood (or else its too late).
    Am an avid reader of your civic write ups in HT for the literate lot

    Satish Nair
    Sr Citz

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