Posts Tagged ‘Indian women’

wow1

RJ Snigdha and Roopa Sengupta organised the event Wonders of Women in Bangalore to salute women of substance

Bangalore witnessed a unique event recently. And there was actually a reason to say WOW. In a glamour-obsessed society when achievers are most often singled out by the way they look, the industry they work in or the network they have, RJ Snigdha decided to organize an event where she felicitated ‘real’ women.

A finalist at the Miss India pageant, a radio jockey and a super mom, RJ Snigdha said, “Since 2012 I have been weaving this project to salute the woman of ‘real’ substance.”

Called Wonders of Women, hence WOW, the event was held to felicitate unsung heroines – women who have battled physical handicaps, domestic violence, social and peer pressure, terminal diseases and have still become achievers and reached professional heights.

Roopa Sengupta, a corporate professional, who helped RJ Snigdha organize the event said, “These ladies have been nominated either by their neighbours, friends, colleagues, relatives or through the social media”

The event is a dream project of RJ Snigdha, who has been an anchor, a host at various large events for the past decade and is now actively into organizing her own events through her own company Get Going for the past four years.
Snigdha said: “Many a times when ‘Super Woman’ or ‘Super Mom’ contests were held, where I have been a participant myself, I have seen that organisers/ judges do not recognise the woman or mom who might have faced umpteen challenges in life and yet approached life head on with dignity and aplomb. This has always bothered me. That is why I started WOW. I believe you just salute women of substance there can’t be a contest about it.”

WOW is a non-profit event and the concept is to recognize and felicitate unsung women achievers who have seen hardships and faced challenges in life and yet are living examples today and inspire many other such women around them.

This touching tribute was followed by a musical evening by an all women band playing and singing upbeat Bollywood songs to enthrall the audience.

An all-women band performing at WOW

An all-women band performing at WOW

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If women are expected to dress decently in Kolkata men should be expected to do the same

If women are expected to follow a dress code in Kolkata men should too

Bidhannagar Police recently came up with tips to keep women safe in Kolkata, but they were criticized for being regressive and sexist. I think it is perfectly fine for the police to come up with tips for women to follow to ensure their own safety but the same ones should apply to men also. I have interpreted the same 12 tips for men and here it is….

1. Dress decently: Men should avoid wearing those sleeveless Ts with their underarms screaming for a shave, avoid those micro under wears while taking a bath openly right on the main road at community tube wells and avoid those lungis …about which the lesser said the better.

2. Have emergency speed dial numbers in your phone…so that you can be a real man and help people if they are in a difficult situation and not walk away thinking it’s none of your business.

3. Self defense…yes, more precisely martial arts. Learn the values of honouring women and protecting the weak and poor that these art forms stand for.

4. Be aware of people around you…and not keep scratching your crotch in public or urinate in public places, smoke on people’s faces, use the choicest expletives while conversing loudly in a public place with friends or over your mobile, huddle together in front of “FL Liquor” shops and drink openly.

5. Avoid late nights…this is a must. Inebriated men, motorbike gangs, men on the prowl, should retire to bed early.

6. Carry pepper spray...then you will be aware of the fear and the desperation that drives a woman to carry a spray.

7. Be well behaved… ensure that you do not stare at the breasts and bums of every passing woman, don’t pass comments and cat calls, don’t attempt rape, molest or commit rape.

8. Stay in groups…Grouping sensitized men with insensitive ones will help in halting moral degeneration. Ensure you stay with such groups.

9. Avoid travelling in crowded buses or trains…because this way you get into a situation when you can’t keep a check on your libido and your hands start wandering around. Avoid it.

10. Avoid going to isolated places…once again if you spot a lone woman in an isolated place your urge to show your power and manhood might get the better of you.

11. Walk in well-lit and frequented areas…this way people can see you and you can keep your animal instincts under check.

12. Be street smart…Urban dictionary interprets street smart as: “A person who has a lot of common sense and knows  what’s going on in the world. This person knows what every type of person has to deal with daily and understands all groups of people and how to act around them. This person also knows all the current things going on in the streets and knows how to make his own right decisions, knows how to deal with different situations and has his own independent state of mind.” Every man should be this.

 (This post is not meant to generalise men in Kolkata but it has been written to make a point.)

Actress Sudipta Chakraborty turned reporter to interview voters before the Loksabha elections

Actress Sudipta Chakraborty turned reporter to interview voters before the Loksabha elections

Sudiptaa Chakraborty might be a National Award winning actress (Best Supporting actress for Rituparno Ghosh’s Bariwali) and one of the most well-known faces in West Bengal’s film and television industry, but there is a side to her which I have always admired and liked immensely. Sudiptaa is the kind who gets away by speaking her mind all the time and is absolutely clued in about what’s happening around her. So I was not surprised when I found Sudiptaa anchoring the television show Tarokar Chokhey Taroka Kendro (Star constituency through a star’s eyes) on ABP Ananda.

For the programme, Sudiptaa turned reporter and travelled with her boom to constituencies like Midnapore, Dakkhin (South) Kolkata and Tamluk. She travelled to Midnapore town, Kharagpur and different villages of East Midnapore. For Dakkhin Kolkata, she covered Rashbehari Avenue, Behala, Kolkata Port Area (Kidderpore dock), Parnasree, Bhowanipore and Hazra area. For Tamluk she travelled to Tamluk township, Haldia and other villages.

She has come back with a treasure trove of experiences. She shares it all in this blog. Read on, it’s indeed an eye opener….

“Many villagers have no clue that the elections are here”

A large number of people in the villages, mostly women, are not really aware of who all are contesting from their respective constituencies, what this election is for, what the difference is between an assembly election and parliament election and all that.  I have even met a number of people who actually have no clue that elections are at their doorstep.

“Bengal has no major issue”

With my limited knowledge gathered on this tour, all I can say is there is no big issue in Bengal. All that a common Bengali wants is a peaceful life with a decent job, a full stomach and a roof over his/her head. More than 80% voters of Bengal demand nothing more than that. It sounds crazy, yet it is true.

“Most people have no time to think about women’s issues”

Educated lot is really concerned about it. The rest have no time to think over it. They devote the entire day to earn their bread.

This lady fetching fish eggs in chest-deep water told Sudipta her election demand is a big utensil

This lady fetching fish eggs in chest-deep water told Sudiptaa her election demand is a big utensil

“One woman demanded a big utensil”

I met a woman near Haldia, who earns her living by collecting fish eggs from the river. She spoke to me with a wide smile while standing in chest-deep water. She earns Rs 150 -200 per day. She doesn’t have electricity in her home. She spoke her heart out to me and in the end all she demanded was a big utensil (ekta boro handi), in which she could accommodate maximum number of fish eggs each time she went down in the water. She was amazing. I still can’t forget her unconditional smiling face despite the toil she has to do every day to earn Rs 150.

“There isn’t a single commoner happy with a politician”

The party workers are happy for obvious reasons. But barring them, I didn’t meet a single commoner who sounded happy with the politicians. From Midnapore to Kolkata, from a village to a city, only one sentence echoed in my ears, “Vote er aage shobai eshe onek boro boro katha bole, vote chole gele aar tader khuje paoa jaye na.” (They all come before elections and promise big but after elections you can’t find them.)

“This experience has made me a more conscious citizen”

Facing the truth on the ground has made me more conscious as a citizen and as an actress as well. This experience has enriched me as a human being and I am sure it will reflect in my future projects.

 

 

 

Picture taken from internet

Picture taken from internet

At a time when Indian men are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this story comes as a breath of fresh air – reinforcing the fact that there are more good men in this world than bad. This story is about four men, who went out of their way to make a difference in a woman’s life.

This story takes off when a few months back my close friend from South Point School, Joydeep Sengupta, who works at CESC and lives in Kolkata, was running his last check on Facebook before he retired to bed. A status update drew his attention.

Joydeep Sengupta didn't have Samrajni's address. He just knew he had to stop her.

Joydeep Sengupta didn’t have Samrajni’s address. He just knew he had to stop her from committing suicide

From here I am penning the story in Joydeep’s own words:

“Her message on FB said she wanted to end her life that night”

10.30pm

I had joined a group of like-minded people on FB. Few I knew in this group, most I didn’t and some I had met at a get-together organised by the group. Now the status that was in front of me was written by a lady named Samrajni Sengupta, who belonged to the same group. The update on her Timeline said she wanted to end her life that night because she didn’t find life worth living. I was in shock. I had met her just once at the get-together and knew from a common friend that she was having some issues in her marriage. Beyond that I didn’t know anything.

Within seconds other people had seen the message too and we started talking in the group wall, although there was no way of reaching out to her because she had logged out.

“I didn’t know where she lived but I left home to find her”

11pm

Once I recovered from my shock, I decided that I could not sit back at home and do nothing about it. I had to try and stop her. People in our group could tell vaguely that she lived in Garia, located in the southern fringes of Kolkata, but beyond that no information was available. Another member of our group, Sourav Sarkar, who works as a crew member in Air India International and lives in Behala like me, wanted to join me too. We managed to hail a cab and left for Garia.

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

“We wandered aimlessly on the streets as the minutes ticked by

12am

Let alone an address, we didn’t even know a proper landmark near her house. We just had the belief that we had to stop her, somehow. Standing in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, we were not willing to give up hope. Nor were at least 30 people from our group, not only from Kolkata, but even the US and other parts of India, who were all logged in and were desperately trying to use their networks to find someone, who could give her address. Finally, Somnath Chowdhury, a law graduate, who lives in Baranagar, and belongs to our group, said that one day he was travelling with Samrajni in the bus and she pointed at an apartment building and told him it was her home. He vaguely remembered where it was and could guide us.

“Monali Sengupta woke up her husband and told him to help us out

1am

While Somnath was on the phone describing landmarks to us and we were trying to follow his directions, the exasperation was building up. We were really worried that we might have lost all the time in our search and wouldn’t be successful in our mission. On top of that there was nobody on the road to ask for directions and all the gates of the apartment buildings were locked.

Meanwhile, Monali Sengupta, mother of a one-year-old, who lives in the same area, was awake and was just browsing through FB when she chanced upon our exchanges on the wall. She didn’t know any of us, just saw a connection through a common friend, but she woke up her husband Sayan Sengupta and told him to call me. My number was on the wall by then. She felt that since her husband knew the area well, he might be able to help in the search. At 1am Sayan came down from his apartment and joined us but we failed to find the building despite his help and Somnath’s directions.

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

“Somnath travelled an hour to join us”

2am

After trying so hard I wasn’t ready to live with the fact that I wasn’t successful in reaching Samrajni. Both Saurav and Somnath agreed with me. That is why Somnath decided to come down from Baranagar – which is located in north Kolkata and is more than an hour’s journey from Garia – to join us. He was sure if he was in the area he would be able to recognize the apartment building.

“At 2am Sayan took two unknown men home”

2.30am

Sayan didn’t want us to stand on the road and wait for Somnath, so he took us home. The fact that he did not know us at all, and that it was 2am, did not make any difference to him or his wife Monali. Sitting in their house, we all hoped and prayed together that we would be able to save Samrajni.

“We jumped over the wall of the apartment building to reach the watchman’s room”

3.30am

Somnath came and he managed to point out the building to us. We had no option but to jump over the wall in order to reach the watchman’s room. We woke him up and asked him if Samrajni Sengupta lived in the building. Initially he wasn’t sure who we were, but sensing our urgency and proper intent said he would take us to her apartment.

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

“We were not sure if we were too late”

4am

Samrajni’s father opened the door and was shocked to see the three of us – Saurav, Somnath and I standing there. We told him to call Samrajni without asking any further questions. He said she was sleeping with her door closed. I felt a knot in my stomach and a cold sweat. Were we too late? He knocked on her door and our heart was racing. She finally opened. We were almost jumping with joy seeing her alive. When we told her why we had come she just couldn’t believe it.

SAMRAJNI SENGUPTA tells her story:

“These guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew”

I was in severe depression due to the situation I was in and had developed a suicidal tendency. I started feeling that if I ended my life all my problems would come to an end. After writing on FB that I would end my life that night I had started making the preparations for doing so. My mother, who had been keeping a close watch on me, sensed my intent and insisted on sleeping with me that night. I remember I kept crying and my mother consoled me and tried to put sense into my head. She stroked my forehead till I fell asleep at around 4am. Then father woke us up.

I was so groggy I couldn’t understand why Joydeep, Sourav and Somnath had come. When they told me I felt like they had come like a new morning in my life. I had reached the lowest point of my self confidence and felt the world was full of horrible people and bad things kept happening to me all the time. Their efforts and those of all the people, who stayed glued to FB to make sure that I was safe, made me believe that there is good in this world.

I am a 38-year-old divorcee with a 12-year-old son, who studies in a good boarding school in Kolkata. I did not take any alimony from my husband because it hurt my pride. I met this other gentleman on Facebook, who is in his early 50s and he wanted to marry me. We had a registration marriage and soon he took me to Dubai, where he works and lives, on a resident visa. There my nightmare started. He lived in a 10X10 single room, expected me to do all the housework and he turned into a pervert and sadist the moment he came home from work. He beat me up at the slightest opportunity. Once he even broke my arm and took me to a doctor a month later when I was screaming in pain. He constantly threatened to kill me and if I raised my voice, his brutality increased. I didn’t know anyone in Dubai and I couldn’t figure out where I could go for help. I just wanted to escape from his clutches. So when he agreed to buy me tickets to see my parents I found my escape. When I did not return he kept calling me and harassing me over the phone and he even told my parents that they were actually doing “business” through me.

I was also facing acute financial woes and did not have enough money to file a divorce suit against him. I thought death would rescue me from this mess.

But these guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew. I have never thought of suicide after that night. I know no matter what, I will have to live for my son. Now I know these wonderful people are there to support me if I need them. I am not alone in my fight anymore.

rape 45_2

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland. The psychiatrist, who got his undergraduate medical degree from NRS Medical College, Kolkata, is passionate about women’s issues. While discussing the recent rise in violence against women in India, Dr Gangopadhyay very patiently answered all the questions that I had. In this post I am sharing my interview with him, where Dr Gangopadhyay not only talks about the current situation in India and the way forward but also shares very interesting information with us. Here goes:

Q: What is the psychology of rape?

A: There is nothing which can be branded as typical of a rapist and no particular traits that can help us isolate rapists. Rape is the most extreme form of sexual violence. We all have inherent capacities to be violent but various inhibitions such as social norms, education, environment, religion and cultural attributes modify the primal instincts. However, in certain circumstances we all are capable of presenting with violence, which can be most often manifested in the context of domestic violence.

Offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence are more likely to commit rape

What can be stated with certainty is that offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence such as exhibitionism or indecent assaults are more likely to engage in the commission of rape. Moreover, research indicates that the presence of disinhibiting factors (In psychology disinhibition is a lack of restraint manifested in several ways, including disregard for social conventions and poor risk assessment) such as alcohol, illicit drugs and anger have been noted to be associated with extreme acts of violence such as rape.

People with no criminal history commit marital rape

However, in my view, it is quite possible for somebody with no criminal history, in absence of disinhibiting factors to engage in such heinous behaviour which is probably most pronounced in the context of “marital rape”.

Q: Apart from incarceration can psychological counselling be used as a means to reform rapists?

A: Custodial sentences only act as a form of punishment and are a punitive measure. They are not effective in changing the behaviour of offenders including sexual offenders.

In the UK there are psychological programmes for rapists in prisons

In the UK, an individual who has been convicted of serious sexual offences, including rape, would need to compulsorily participate in psychological programs in prison which are delivered by Forensic Psychologists within the Criminal Justice Services. These programs would often address issues such as victim empathy, anger management, impact of misusing illicit drugs and alcohol and would be delivered through various means such as role-plays, group discussions and individual therapy.

Anti-libidinal medications are also used for therapy

Recently, there has also been an interest in the use of anti-libidinal medications i.e. medications which reduce sex-drive, in the management of sexual offenders.

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Q: Why do you think there is a rise in violent crimes against women in India?

A: There can be several reasons for this:

We are getting to know because of greater media coverage

Firstly I should comment that what we are seeing as a rise might be due to more effective media coverage and greater awareness of the general public, particularly women, regarding the absolute non-acceptance of such criminal behaviour.

Sexual violence is not the norm anymore

Women are more convinced now as individuals that any kind of violence against them which includes sexual violence is “not the norm” and this then leads to a greater chance for women who have experienced violence to be open about it and report it to the criminal justice system.

The skewed sex ratio in India is also to blame

The second reason probably is the high male to female Sex ratio in India. Sex ratio is expressed as the number of women per thousand men in a given population at a given time. The high sex ratio in India can be attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for male heirs. This affects future marriage patterns and fertility patterns and causes unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners. Except Kerala and Puducherry all other states and union territories in India have a negative sex ratio i.e. less than 1000 women for every 1000 men, with Haryana faring the worst among states (877 women per 1000 men in 2011) and Delhi near the bottom for Union territories (866 women per 1000 men in 2011). This might explain to some extent the high incidence of sexually violent crimes in these areas.

Q: What steps can be taken in India to handle the current situation?  

A: Firstly there has to be an absolute political will to tackle this which has to go beyond narrow party interests. Secondly, I believe that there is enough legislation in India to protect women and prosecute offenders. What is lacking is effective enforcement of these legislations due to various factors such as shortage of resources, corruption and political (and various other) interferences on the public protection and prosecution systems (Police & Courts). This has to change.

India should stop projecting women as commodity

I also consider that mass entertainment media such as advertisements and films have been sometimes guilty of projecting women as a commodity whose only goal in life is to appear beautiful and obediently serve the men folk whether as a daughter, sister or wife. Such projections only nourish a derogatory view towards women which can be manifested in thoughts such as it is permissible to use force including sexual violence towards women.

The notion that women attract the attention of rapists by their behaviour and clothing should be attacked aggressively 

Finally, though unfortunate, it is still widely considered in India that a woman who is dressed seductively is more likely to be sexually violated because she is almost inviting it. This notion has to be attacked aggressively through various perspectives such as education, media, politics and it has to be spelt out clearly that whatever way a woman chooses to behave or dress, it does not give any individual any right to violate her privacy.

Q: There is violence against women in UK and there is violence in India too but in what way are these two places different?

A: There are a few separate issues that we need to consider. Firstly, UK and India belong to two different socio-economic categories. With respect to violence against women, the important relevant differences would be in literacy levels and a more effective, well-resourced public protection system (Police & Courts) who are relatively free from political influence.

In UK there is greater social acceptance of a victim

Secondly, there is greater social acceptance of a victim who has been subject to sexual violence. This then facilitates the reporting of such incidents. There is also an understanding that a woman is free to choose what she wears but that does not give any man a right to behave in an inappropriate manner.

Convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either

However, convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either and often prosecution is abandoned owing to lack of evidence in spite of access to better Forensic facilities.

Support and rehabilitation of victims is necessary

Finally, there are a lot of agencies (Government and NGO’s) who provide support and rehabilitation for victims of sexual offences and their families in the UK, which might be a development need for India.

(Dr Partha Gangopadhyay trained in Psychiatry in London and then undertook further training in Forensic Psychiatry in Scotland for four years. His work involves looking after people who have a mental disorder but who have also committed a crime i.e. mentally disordered offenders (MDO). His research interests lie in Medical Education, specifically assessment for undergraduate medical students. His other interest is Medical Ethics & Law in which he is pursuing a Masters.)

equality2

Can men be feminists? My answer is yes, absolutely! And in the last one year that I have been blogging on women’s issues I have heard myriad men’s voices and views that have enriched my own thoughts and perceptions. That is why I decided to run a series where men would give an insight into gender equality and violence against women. Like charity begins at home I believe feminism begins at home too. And for me it truly begins at home because of all the fierce feminist men I have met in my life, I guess I have been living with the fiercest one so far, since I tied the knot with him 12 years back.

I start off this series with my husband Jaydip Sengupta’s views that he’s penned down himself. Here goes…

It’s a given men and women are equal

I have often wondered if being a feminist makes me any less of a man. I have looked up the definition of the word feminism and it roughly means a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.

I have never felt the need to be part of any such movement, or to appreciate the burning of bras. Instead I have tried to figure out why it needs to be established that women are equal to men. I mean, shouldn’t that be a given, something that need not be reiterated time and again? Yeah sure, men are better at certain things but then women are better at most other things.

 Now, that’s a fact men have been unable to accept. History or for that matter mythology hasn’t been kind to our women folk and it hasn’t helped that they were written by us men folk. Women were worshipped, but in reality all they got to do was service to ‘mankind’. So now, when they work as many hours as their male counterparts and for extra measure cook, keep the house in order, bring up the children and do everything else necessary to keep the family going, they are still expected to continue that service. Why, may I ask?

There should be a code of conduct for men

It all seems hypocritical to me but I am not surprised. When I see and hear wise men in our country preach about how women should behave instead of how men should not, it somehow tells me that we have only been paying lip service to gender equality all these years. The instances of molestation and rape have come out of homes and into the streets, but really, are only the men to blame here?

equality

Women should alter their own beliefs

For generations, women have been conditioned to play the weaker sex. Most seem to revel in their subservient role, especially at home and it’s a state of being they have found difficult to shrug off elsewhere as well. Maybe it is part of their defence mechanism. Do you really have to be physically stronger to stand your ground and retaliate when needed?

I know that’s easy for me to say as a man, but how many times have I seen this role-play. Who convinced them that they can only be feminine if they are soft-spoken, gentle and hence ladylike, whatever that means.

I still remember an incident during my college days. I used to travel by local train and one day as I was making my way to the platform, I saw the sister of a school senior being followed by a group of boys, who, I could make out from the distance, were saying something to her.

Even before I had the chance to hurry up and see what was going on, I heard her voice boom around the platform, “Don’t you guys have mothers or sisters at home? Is this how you behave with them as well?” Of course, they scurried away pretty intimidated. The girl in question didn’t lose an iota of femininity by making herself heard.

I applaud the girl at Howrah station

That was 20 years back. The situation has definitely worsened for women since then. The incident that happened at Howrah station recently didn’t shock me in the least.

Check here: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-24/mumbai/40771008_1_howrah-station-tv-anchor-subrata

What, however, gives me hope is the way the girl hit back.  To me women’s empowerment is not about having separate seats in metros, buses and trains; it’s about behaving like an equal and when needed putting men in their place. And that again is something I am sure they can do as well as anything they put their minds into.

–         Jaydip Sengupta is a sports journalist, husband and father

Suzette Katrina Jordan

Suzette Katrina Jordan

I haven’t met Suzette Katrina Jordan in person although I would love to. As a Kolkatan and as a woman I know how much courage it takes to do what she is doing. So while talking to her over the phone from Dubai I was not at all surprised by her conviction. “I have always questioned every norm and never accepted anything just because it is the system,” said Suzette in an intense voice.

So it is obvious why Suzette decided to fight for her dignity after she was gang raped on February 5, 2012 on Park Street at gunpoint inside a car. Although after the incident, for the last one and a half year her life has been a constant battle, Suzette feels that being called “the Park Street rape victim” was the greatest sham, the worst nightmare she had lived.

She tells me why she wanted to reclaim her identity and how her life has been since she did so…

“A TV channel unethically showed most of my face and gave out my address and my father’s name so many people actually knew I was the Park Street rape victim”

I see no reason to hide my face behind a dupatta when most people in my neighbourhood know that I was the one raped on Park Street and I have been tolerating their stares for the last 16 months. I am the victim and I have done nothing wrong then why should I hide my face every time I talk on TV or go to a procession? I was finding this absolutely ridiculous.

“Since I have revealed my identity I have been getting more threats”

Since I revealed my identity and came on TV the threat calls have gone up manifold. Only a few days back someone in the locality told a family member: Apni oi Park Steet er meyetar barir lok na? Okey bolben ektu chepey jetey, khuub lafalafi korcchey.  (Aren’t you from that Park Street girl’s family? Tell her to step back she creating a bit too much of noise.)

“I am in a lot of financial crisis but I will never accept any kind of compensation from the rapists”

Even before the incident happened I was going through a tough financial situation because the small data-entry-cum-call centre business that I was running with my sister had gone bust because two employees had run away with all our money. Then after this incident I went looking for work through an NGO. People somehow understood that I was the “one from Park Street” and never gave me a job. My confidence reached an all-time low along with my finances. There were days when there was nothing to eat at home. I felt so ashamed to ask for help from my friends or family.

My friends, who often dropped in, understood my predicament and bought me food and groceries. This was the time when I was repeatedly offered big money and out-of-the court settlement but I cannot imagine living on that dirty money. I want justice, I want to see those men behind bars.

“It is amazing how some people have given me more respect than ever before

My teenage daughters have been the pillar of my strength. Happily enough I have not seen any change in the attitude of their friends towards me. I used to be very friendly with them and whenever I go to their school now they still greet me with the same warmth and respect. In fact, the principal of my daughters’ school, with whom I have had a difference of opinion many times, have been so supportive. Also I am grateful to my lawyers who are fighting my case for free and are working so hard just to give me justice.

“I think my single parent status has often gone against me”

Since the incident happened, the fact that I am a divorced single parent has been looked upon as a crime. But no one has appreciated the fact that I have been dignified enough not to tell people the reason for my divorce (which she tells me is domestic violence) and draw sympathy from it.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that Ma Durga is worshipped with such fervor in Kolkata”

I have grown up in Kolkata and while we were teenagers, we could wear anything we wanted to, go anywhere we wanted to. Now every woman is constantly judged for what she is wearing, where she is going, whom she is befriending. On top of that, from the autowallah to the boss at the workplace you are taken for granted. Only recently I was screamed at by an autowallah because I didn’t have Rs 1 change. When I retorted people around me said, “Choley jaan. Ei shober modhye porcchen keno? (Better leave, why are you getting involved in all this.) This is the attitude that is killing us.

Then you are molested everyday on public transport, your breasts are touched, your derriere is pinched. It’s a nightmare. So much brutality is happening to women in Kolkata and in the suburbs but still people in power say these are one-off incidents. I wonder what they say when a four-year-old girl is raped? Do they ask if she was drunk? Or do they ask if she was a prostitute? I am not fighting against the government because governments come and go. My question is why can’t women expect some basic rights in a place like Kolkata where Ma Durga supposedly reigns?

“My daughters will never get the freedom which we got as young girls”

If my daughters want to go to the movies I say no because I am always worrying for them. If they come home five minutes late I break into a sweat. I never remembered my parents being so tense all the time. For starters Kolkata is not the same anymore. On top of that they have a mother who has decided not to keep her mouth shut. So as a consequence I am curtailing their freedom because sometimes I am scared for them.

“I wonder if there will be any real change”

I have been blessed to have come in touch with so many amazing people who have been supporting my fight and believe in change. But what worries me is that no concrete step is being taken by the people in power. Like I believe there can be more stringent policing or monitoring. But the good thing is there has been an awakening and women are willing to fight for their rights.

“Indian women are very strong they just need the push”

In India, anything happens to a woman and you are expected to hide. Talking about it is complete taboo. If she talks about the injustices that happened to her then she has to face the flak. I think it is very important that we talk about these things and sensitize the next generation about it. Just because we don’t talk people are harbouring all kinds of botched-up notions and acting accordingly.

“I wonder if I can ever go back to a Park Street disco to dance”

I have always loved dancing and music is my life. I really enjoyed going to the disco with my friends, I enjoyed dressing up. All that has changed for me now. I don’t think I will ever be able to go back to a disco because it will bring back my trauma. I have felt really uncanny the couple of times I have been on Park Street in the last 16 months. But at least one thing has changed for me. I have a name again. People don’t call me the “Park Street rape victim” anymore.

Suzette currently works for a helpline counseling victims of violence.