When I started writing this post I had meant to write something else, but so much happened in the last few days that I ended up writing something else altogether, changing my mind constantly as I got hooked to the news, analysis and – a letter.
I feel rape has probably become just another morbid story like so many other stories told in India every day. It is something like this: Rape happens, then media goes into a frenzy, helplines, SMS lines, come up, we cry hoarse then we go back to live our own lives, until another rapist strikes.
Women in India live with their instincts. Period! They live on luck too. When luck runs out God help us. (No one else probably will).
I have dozed off in my office car often while returning home after midnight. I just trusted my instincts and the smile of the driver who greeted me every evening.
Are my instincts good? Maybe. My luck? Must be. I have landed in situations too. Many times. But wriggled out using my brain, brawn, threats, other people’s help, mobile calls – and luck of course.
So the Uber cab controversy (whether they continue to do business or not in Delhi, about background checks of its employees, about repeated sex offenders being let off on bail) does not seem to bother me because I know one Uber gone will make way for another Unter (German antonym for uber and rightly means “under” and this is a figment of my imagination) and Indian women will be left fending for themselves, as usual. There will be luxury, yes. Safety? Doubtful.
The media would ride on the controversy wave to do stories but they won’t even know when palms would be greased, permits would be made and the Unter would make inroads into Delhi roads.
In the midst of it all this who is left out in the lurch? The victim, of course. The unlucky one, who was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong person and whose instincts just failed her for a moment and finished her forever.
I have been interacting with Suzette Jordan, the Park Street rape survivor. Although she has shown immense courage but it has been a lone fight for her from day one. No one has offered her a job despite her work experience. No one cares how she is surviving with her two teenage daughters or how she is dealing with the trauma of facing her perpetrators in court every day – for more than two years.
Media does not continue to report on the nitty gritty of Suzette’s life because I am sure it is already too mundane to be reported. They took notice when she was not allowed to enter Ginger, a restaurant on Hazra Road in Kolkata. Everyone went into a tizzy, supporting her on social media and some well-known names in journalism, all the way from Delhi, even went on to say that the license of the restaurant should be cancelled,
Does anyone know what happened after that? It’s business as usual at Ginger I suppose.
I read Shenaz Treasurywala’s letter.
I could identify with her letter and I am sure every Indian woman (and sensitive man) could.
If Shenaz writes now about the fear of rape that Indian women feel I had written about it in 2006 in an article in Times of India when rape hadn’t made it to the hot seat of headlines in India yet.
I can see we think similarly and I appreciate she has taken a stand.
But there are people who are saying it’s a PR stunt before the release of her film.
Could be? But would you go and watch some insipid film titled Main or Mr Riight spending Rs 300 from your pocket just because Shenaz here wrote this letter? I wouldn’t. I am sure you wouldn’t either.
And somehow I can’t find the connection how this could help sell her movie unless it’s based on sexual harassment of women.
It is not. And while Shenaz’s letter is still notching up hits on the net the film has already been written off by critics after the first show.
She addressed it to powerful men. Why not? These men have the power to bring change. Don’t they? Amitabh Bachchan’s polio campaign did help eradicate the disease in India. And if the PM of a country does not have the power to bring change who has then?
Talking about change. Have you heard of the Veeranganas? It’s an all-woman commando platoon guarding the streets of Guwahati and making it safer for women. Veeranganas have been created as a joint effort by Assam Police and Assam Government after a girl was molested on the streets of Guwahati.
Veeranganas have, for the first time, made me feel that a police force and government are serious about women’s safety. Otherwise if you are asking a woman to SMS before she steps into a cab and then you say you will track her on GPRS I am not sure how serious you are. Would GPRS tell you that four men got up in the cab in between and raped her while it was moving? I would like to know. And would you be able to reach on time to save her? Or would GPRS help you track the rapist after the crime has been done?
When a solution is thrown at us in the name of helpline, SMS et al don’t we need to ask how will it make us safe?
How many of you have used a helpline in times of need? Can you tell me? If you have and help has come your way please let me know. I would like to share your experience here.
Till then I will always side with the Veeranganas more than the SMS, apps and helplines. The latter create fear for women the former create fear for men.
For me this is being proactive about the issue and not being blasé. And that is what matters.
Tomorrow I will publish an interview of Photojournalist Anindya Chattopadhyay, who talks about meeting victims of acid attack and the impact they had on him.