Posts Tagged ‘women’

Confessions of a woman journalist from India

Confessions of a woman journalist from India

…My protection will be my responsibility, almost always. Editors, HR Heads who conducted my interviews said: “If you have to get into reporting, these are a few things you have to keep in mind:

  • You will have to keep long hours and you don’t know when you will go home.
  • You will cease to have a social life.
  • Don’t blame your job if you break up with your boyfriend.
  • If you think journalism is only about glamour, please don’t join.”

There was one thing that no one ever said though:

  • You will have to throw caution to the wind and get the job done if that means jeopardizing your own safety. And if you are not careful, you don’t know what you will land up in.

That is something that I learned on the job.

Baptism by fire

On the first day of my first job, my boss told me she had news that a very famous Indian singer was staying in a five-star hotel in Kolkata and if I could give him a call and find out if he would give us an interview. I was nervous because I hadn’t spoken to a celebrity before but the singer was sweet enough to agree to the interview.

Then I said: “I will come at 6pm for the interview. Should I come up to your room?” He said, “Okay. Please do.” I hung up satisfied that my first effort at getting an interview was going well.

But my boss was in peals. “Amrita, you should have never asked him if you could go to his room. He could take it as a cue for something else…you know….something more than just the interview…you get it, right?”

I wasn’t convinced I had done a faux pas. I argued back, “But I am a journalist asking for his interview, why would he think of ‘something else?’” My boss looked at me kindly… “It’s your first day at the job. In six months you will know what I mean.”

Now I began to get scared. So I coaxed and cajoled my boss to come along with me to the interview and she was sweet enough to relent. I called the singer from the hotel house phone and he asked me to join him in his room. After opening the door, when he saw my boss and the photographer, he couldn’t hide his surprise. He blurted, “I thought you were coming alone.”

His room was in a mess with his clothes strewn all around along with his under garments – definitely not the kind of room in which you wait for a journalist about to do an interview for a newspaper. He shoved the clothes underneath the comforter and got down to doing the interview, got friendly with all of us and impressed us with his knowledge of music.

But on my first day at a newspaper job he did give me a valuable lesson – to say it right, because men out there always look for cues. One wrong sentence and you never know what you are going to land yourself in.

And in the next six months, as my boss said, I learned a lot more. That’s why when a famous Bengali singer started giving me an interview only in his pyjamas, flashing his fleshy chest at me, I could tell him politely it would be nice if he could put on a piece of clothing while we spoke. He obliged.

That’s why when a 55-year-old Bengali writer asked me how I would feel if I was asked to kiss him, I could tell him I would be feeling like I am kissing my father and when one of the top stars of Bollywood wouldn’t stop smoking on my face I could tell him I would prefer to conduct the interview from the other end of the room and ended up doing just that.

In the film 15 park Avenue Konkona Sen Sharma plays the role of a journalist, who is raped when she go to a small town to cover the political situation there.

In the film 15 park Avenue Konkona Sen Sharma plays the role of a journalist, who is raped when she goes to a small town to cover the political situation there. Here also she went alone because she had to prove a point to her boss and to her boyfriend.

It’s always about getting the story

Journalism is a profession where you are constantly interacting with people from all walks of life and what often gets to me is the lack of respect at times women face because of this job. And back in the office, what only matters is whether you have got the story or not. If you say you didn’t because you were concerned about your personal safety chances are you would be treated as a lesser mortal. And that’s when it starts happening. Women start putting their own safety in the backburner in the pursuit of a story, to prove a point, to prove they are equally good or even better than their male counterparts.

When I read the account of the Mumbai rape victim in DNA http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/1880414/report-dna-exclusive-account-of-the-hellish-evening-when-mumbai-gang-rape-happened my first thought was what was she thinking? These men were clearly leading her on. Then I realized she is only 23, maybe just out of college, raring to go, raring to prove a point with her camera. Nothing else probably registered, nothing else mattered.

I think journalists are often conditioned like army men. Follow the orders and get the story. And if you don’t, be prepared to be court martialed in the editor’s room. On top of that if a competing publication gets the story and you couldn’t, God help you.

My safety comes first

I remember once my boss asked me to go to a Kolkata disco to interview a starlet as late as midnight. When I asked for the office car he told me, “Just hail a cab.”

I said, “It might be 2am before I finish the interview. I can’t go home so late on my own.” He retorted, “Just get the story.”

I could not imagine hailing a cab at 2am from Camac Street. I decided not to go to the assignment. Next day all hell broke loose. The allegations against me were insubordination and lack of commitment. In two seconds all my exclusives, all my late night desk work and my supposed “positive attitude” was forgotten. I didn’t care though. I was safe and that was what mattered.

A few months down the line I was sent for another assignment by the same boss, to cover a clothing exhibition at a five star hotel at a decent time – 7pm. By then, I was almost two years into the profession, had developed sharper instincts and an even sharper tongue. The first thing that struck me was that the exhibition was at a suite and not at the banquet, as it usually happens. I went to the suite and rang the bell. A gentleman opened the door and invited me in. I was about to step in, but I noticed there were at least 10 men seated there, drinking, talking boisterously and looking at me lustfully. I could not spot any woman around. When I enquired about the clothes the man at the door said it was in the bedroom. My inner voice told me not to step in. I did not. I handed the man my visiting card and told him to send me the photographs of the clothes and a write-up. The man looked very disappointed and some of the men had by then got up and joined him in his appeals to me. I left.

Next day I described the scenario to my boss and asked him what was I supposed to do? This time he agreed with my decision and didn’t haul me up for not doing an assignment. Needless to say the photographs and write-up were never delivered to me as promised by the man at the door.

Trust your instincts and get out

When I look back and think of my experiences I sometimes wonder would it have been better to be in another profession? My inner voice always says a firm NO. True. Sometimes there has been disrespect, but more often than not it has been compensated by ample respect. There have been negative experiences but also enriching experiences and most importantly experiences that have made me a stronger person, moulded me into someone who can’t be pushed around or taken for granted.

But after the Mumbai incident one thing I have realized is that women joining journalism should know personal safety is always bigger than the story. And in this profession it is but obvious you will be on a sticky wicket every other day. If your instinct says something is amiss just follow it.

Headlines come and go but your life doesn’t.

And going by the court verdict today where the juvenile involved in the Delhi rape case (the one who mutilated Nirbhaya with an iron rod) has been given three years in a juvenile home, women journalists will have to work harder towards protecting themselves now because the law is surely not coming to their rescue anytime soon.

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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.)

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.

 

 

India jail-born man earns bail money, for release of his mother after 19 years #WTF.

DSCN3960

It’s common to witness Dubai bashing in the international media but when one comes across a report like this in Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/britchick-paris/why-dubai-is-rapidly-beco_b_3156110.html#postComment

one is indeed pleasantly surprised.

More than anything else what struck me most in the article is the following paragraph:

Dubai allows you to be you. And controversially especially if you are a woman. I’m not the only woman to think that. I feel safer here in Dubai than I do in London or Paris. There is a healthy respect that means you are just left alone, so long as you in turn respect the local values and customs.

Also in Europe there is often an underlying chauvinism, that means that men can do it better, hence the paucity of women board members at big Western companies. Here from my experience and that of my entrepreneur friends, women in business are admired. I can hear all the cynics ready to wade in but I cannot refute the evidence I have from the last few weeks working here. It has been a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the openness and creativity that comes from a city that is exploding and growing at lightening speed. In ten years it has achieved what New York did in 150.

This egged me to write about what I know about the city living here for the last six years.

Ask any woman from any nationality if they feel safe living in or travelling to Dubai the answer will always be “yes” without a second thought.

Without any statistics at hand it might be a bit hard to explain why the answer is always so but I will try to do so with a few examples.

When I first moved to Dubai in 2007 my husband and I would go for after-dinner walks to the Dubai Creek which is 20 minutes from my home. One day while sitting there and enjoying the lovely view we never realized it was 1am. It was a weekday and the place was empty except for a few men sitting around here and there in twos and threes chatting amongst themselves.

I looked around and told my husband fearfully, “Do you think it’s safe to hang around here so late?”

He said, “Don’t worry, Dubai is totally safe for women. The longer you live here the better you will know.”

That’s when I spotted an abaya and sheyla-clad lady walking rigorously in her sneakers – all alone.  Coming from India, where a woman’s safety is a perpetual concern, this was quite an impossible scenario for me. Six years down the line I have not yet experienced a lone walk at Dubai Creek at 1 am but I have comfortably walked alone at 12am to the 24X7 supermarket in my neighbourhood to fetch something, I have driven back home from the outskirts of the city at 2am after an office party taking a detour to drop a female friend on the way. I have hailed a cab post-midnight and reached home safe and sound lost in conversation with a friendly cabbie, and I have walked back home from a friend’s place all alone pretty late in the night.

Men and women hang out at a cafe in Dubai. many cafes are open till 4am or through the night.

Men and women hang out at a cafe in Dubai. Many cafes are open till 4am or through the night.

In the neighbourhood where I live, it is not uncommon to see women coming back home from work really late, mixed or even all men’s groups sitting around and chatting in the cafés late in the night. Nobody will give you a second look, nobody will try to follow you, make passes at you, hassle you with lewd comments.

In India we are always looking over our shoulders, something we hardly have to do here. So when something happens in Dubai it always comes as a shock.

Does this mean crime against women does not exist in Dubai?

Not at all. With 120 nationalities living together in a metropolis it is inevitable crime will exist and one gets to read about sexual crimes against women in the newspapers often. Dubai is also fighting human trafficking and domestic violence is also one of the issues here. But one has to admit that the rate of crime is much lower in Dubai compared to other cities.

Teenage girls move around the city comfortably

Teenage girls move around the city comfortably

Women are as comfortable in western clothes as they are in traditional ethnic wear

Women are as comfortable in western clothes as they are in traditional ethnic wear

Moving around the city late in the night is not an issue at all

Moving around the city late in the night is not an issue at all

Then how is Dubai safe?

For me it is safe because every time I step out of my home I don’t have be constantly on my guard. I come from Kolkata where I am used to being groped, commented and stared at all the time. That way Dubai comes as a breath of fresh air for me. I can be myself, wear whatever clothes I want, not worry about attracting too much attention in my short skirt, go for after-dinner-walks at 11pm with my son and travel comfortably in public transport. And also, the same Indians who misbehave back home are civil here.

Police has a major role to play

The police here provides an amazing safety net for women by efficiently patrolling the city 24×7. Be sure to spot a Dubai Police patrol wherever you go. If a woman dials 999 for help they will be there in two minutes. And most importantly the Dubai police force command respect and fear among the people for their commitment. Unlike in India, where bribes can settle matters with the police, that is unthinkable here.

Another thing that keeps women in Dubai safe is the inevitability of punishment. There is no escaping that. A British woman was raped and kidnapped by three men last July. They were eventually caught and in eight months the verdict was out and they are now in jail. Justice is delivered quickly and efficiently.

Read her story here:

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/general/call-me-a-survivor-says-gang-raped-woman-in-dubai-1.1155077

Recently an intoxicated Pakistani bus driver tried to rape an American lady tourist in an empty bus only to be beaten up by her. She escaped from the bus and reported the incident to the police. The man has been arrested and the court proceedings have already started. I will not be surprised if the case is settled quickly. Read about it here:

http://gulfnews.com/about-gulf-news/al-nisr-portfolio/xpress/female-sailor-escapes-rape-during-dubai-visit-1.1175039

In this regard I would like to share an incident that put my friend in a tricky situation. This happened a few years back when she had just moved to Dubai alone. She and another friend were returning home late from a party when some men in a four-wheel started tailing them. They drove around town trying to shake them off but to no avail. Then after much deliberation they called the police. The officer on patrol duty immediately came to their rescue, did not ask them why they were out so late, escorted them home and needless to say, nabbed the men immediately.

Dubai Police patrolling the city

Dubai Police patrolling the city

My friends with teenage daughters growing up here say that they are less worried about them when they go out for their tuitions or to meet friends than they would have been had they been in India.

That day a friend asked, “What is it you will miss about Dubai when you move back to Kolkata?”

My instant reply was, “I will miss venturing out of my home, even at unearthly hours, without a care in the world.”

When I move back to Kolkata I guess I will have to sharpen my claws all over again.

(Photographs: Amrita Mukherjee)

parents 1

 

I had the most loving, happy-go-lucky, jovial parents till I was 12-13 years, but thereafter things began to change. When I turned 12, I did not want to be accompanied by my mother when I went cycling in the lane behind our house in Kolkata but I was not allowed alone. I wanted to walk the short distance from home to Ballygunge Phari with my friends, but I was not allowed. If I went playing with friends and came home five minutes late, my parents acted like an earthquake had hit the city and I hadn’t reached home yet. Their worry translated into frequent scolding that made me angry. I just kept thinking; what are they so worried about?

At 14, when I wanted to walk the seven-minute distance from my home to South Point School, alone, I was greeted with a negative shake of head from my father. By then I had become so adamant that I put my foot down and said I was not going to school if my mom came along. They came to a compromise. They allowed me only if I went and came back with two of my female friends. They claimed they were concerned for me. I kept thinking I was a responsible girl, what were they so concerned about?

After school I wanted to join Presidency College but my father was keen on me going to the nearby girls’ college, Lady Brabourne. My father was the happiest when I took admission there, but the happiness did not last long when the admission test results were out in Presidency College. I had got through and I had my sights set on that college. My father was livid. Going to Presidency meant taking a public bus ride for almost an hour and going to a part of the city, which he felt was not at all familiar to me and also not too safe for women. My mother, however, stood by my decision and I joined Presidency College. But my mother had no clue that my joining the college would add to her stressful existence of being the mother of a daughter. Thanks to the traffic, political processions, college functions or fests, I was perpetually reaching home late. And she claimed her hair was turning grey while she waited for me on the balcony. I just did not understand what all the fuss was about as I was a grown up girl now.

drink

 

Then, when I graduated from college and started going to parties my dad drummed into my head not to accept any kind of drink from anybody at any party, “Beware, it might be spiked” was his refrain. When I went to the disco, my parents worried about the men all of whom they believed had ill intent. “If anything untoward happens what will we do?” was what they always asked me. I would say, “What nonsense, can’t I take care of myself?”

Now when I look back I think they were justified in their worry. They were prudent to know about all the beasts that lurk in every nook and cranny of our country, our city, our own homes. They knew girls in India – no matter what their age, status, class or caste – are never safe.

I wonder what my mom’s reaction has been to this news today http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Five-year-old-girls-rape-case-Accused-arrested-in-Bihar/articleshow/19643044.cms

I am sure the paranoia she experienced in my growing-up years came back to haunt her but she’s probably glad that she doesn’t have a daughter growing up in these times.

Finding my past in Muscat through Facebook.