If you are only identified as what you are not instead of what you are, you don’t have a legitimate presence anyway. All women in India just happen to NOT be men. I don’t want to explain, I think you understand. Countless articles have been written, blogs posted on the recent gang rape in Delhi and now that woman’s demise as a result of that RAPE. I say THAT rape, because truth be told, we are raped and forced to live in fear and anxiety in every crowded street and every deserted alley in the busiest of cities to the simplest, smallest of villages. Oh, wait, what am I saying, it’s called “teasing” in India, to be more precise, “eve-teasing” in case you were confused which sex is worth the tease. Yeah, that’s right, the non-masculine gender, the what is it?? Oh, yeah, the “fairer”, “weaker” sex. And let me tell you, anyone is fair game. Even my mother gets disconcerted every time both of us walk around in Delhi. I jokingly tell my friends, and have been for a few years now, that ‘STARING’ is programmed into the Indian man’s psyche. Blatant, unflinching, unabashed-if-caught staring which makes your insides squirm something fierce.
There have been so many takes on this. Women tease, therefore they are ripe for sexual assault; women wear skimpy clothes so they are “asking for it”; women spend so much time doing their hair and make up, they want attention. Our President’s son himself called the protesting women in Delhi “painted and dented”. When I read that I laughed for 10 minutes. It was hysterical. We expect justice from a system run by sadistic, misogynistic, uneducated, uncultured filth who have probably raped many a ‘teasing’ damsel in their own right. And let me tell you, women politicians are worse. Must be something to do with losing their minds after having been raped on the ladder up to their present seats of presumed power. It’s the rite of passage I am told to believe. From what I hear, other than Mrs G herself, all of them had to make the ultimate ‘compromise of the flesh’ to get to the top. That’s the ludicrousness of our politics. And we expect justice.
I have lost the careful practice of walking with my elbows sticking out and being on ‘all systems alert’ after three years here in London. It took time and gradual trust in men walking on the street but it did happen, I relaxed the way I walked. And no matter what the course of the sun is, I feel safe. I fear muggers in certain parts of the city, true, but not sexual assaults. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Something as natural and fundamental as walking! You would argue, that London isn’t as crowded. If you see the sea of people walking on Oxford street 365 days a year, or the number of people using the tube every day, you would think differently. There have been crowds, there has been jostling, nudging, even pushing. But not once have I felt some intentionally reaching out to touch me. And no one stares. No one! It’s amazing. What I used to think was a natural fault-line in the mind of men in general, turned out to be a past time of only my country men. I forgave men and accepted the shame which comes with realising that your own people are the ones that do not offer you an iota of respect.
Be shy and you are pursued because you will be easily cowed down and overpowered, be strong and brash and you are labelled a hussy. And well, you can be anything, even the perfect combination of both and still be unlucky enough to board the wrong bus. There is no out here. There is no escape route, no safe path.
“All men are not the same. All men are not the same.” That’s a prayer and a hope for Indian girls looking to meet someone nice, to make friends, to settle down. I am safer in the company of men in the kind of family and society I am born into, where most men are educated, refined and respectful or at least they try to be. But I still have to, some time or another deal with other sorts of men and every time I step out of this comfort zone I am apprehensive and tend to think the worst of any strange man who might look over. It’s so unfair for the men as well. I am sure there are many good men out there, but so few to counter the disrespectful hordes. I can only hope that for every Indian girl that there is a chance and hope to meet the nice men. The men who don’t see her as an opportunity but as a person, just like them, maybe a little susceptible, physically diminutive but a person, nonetheless.
You may read and nod, but look around you. Look at your men friends, brothers, fathers, uncles. Speak up if you have been bullied, coerced or mistreated. Have the courage to do this and maybe you will have shown someone that this is not something they can do, not easily and without consequences at least. Enabling the men we know is the worst thing we can do. Build support systems around families, doting mothers – teach your sons better, to respect you and your daughter; and fathers – teach your daughters to be fearless not fearful of you and your son because you are men.