Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Culprit in Me

Dear Women of India,

Well, sabse pehle my introduction. So here it is - I am a regular Delhi ka banda. Was born here, fumbled through school here , re-fumbled through my college here, and now am earning my bread in this city too. You know, a regular guy with all the delhi works - a slightly loudish punjabi accent, a pretty decent collection of Honey Singh songs,  memories of roaming Dilli Haat in winters, the hardened reluctance to call it "Connaught Place" and not "Rajiv Chowk", the occasional traffic signal jumping. Etc Etc.

So let's talk, ladies. And first up, since it's the first day of a new year - Happy new year. May this year bring you prosperity and joy. But wait. Maybe I should not use such lofty types adjectives for the upcoming year, hai na ? Words which immediately strike up visions of smiling faces, sprinkling giggles, harmonious living, and such. It's not realistic, right ? I mean, barely 15 days ago, one of you was gangraped in my city. Gangraped. Assaulted with iron rods. Thrown out of a bus, to die. And die, she did. Gangraped. Not the first time I have read that word in a newspaper. Keeps popping up. I read the word, nod dissapprovingly, think "Kitne Kameene hotein hain kuch log". And then, turn the page. Gangrape. Bura hai, but hota hain, I tell myself. Hota hai, at these remote villages in Rajasthan or Bihar. Hota hain, at 3:30 in the mornings. Hota hai, in a world which does not intersect with my world.

Bure log karte hain, Becharo logo ke saath hota hain. What can I do. 

But this time, I am a little shaken up you know. I mean, this is too real. She was out at 9, she was in the Hauz Khas area, she was coming back from a movie my family watched a week before that.This is all like regular stuff.  This is not some remote village in Rajasthan, this is not about people from a different world. This is all very real - a situation women in my family could have been in.

And now, suddenly, I am feeling like those goons I used to read about in newspapers are at the door of my home, beating on it with hockeys and chains, threatening to do the same to my world. I am shaken up. And I am getting panicky. This is not about some unfortunate women and wicked men now. This is about women who are my family and friends now.I am googling for pepper sprays, asking the women in my circle to get to their homes before 7, reminding my wife about 181 all the time. And even though I sound naive and insensitive saying this, it is for the first time I am feeling a crime reported regularly on the pages of a newspaper becoming a threat to my world. My life. My people.

My people. You know, my people.

And I guess this is where I messed this up. Because I have never considered you, women who are not my friends and family, as my people. I did not. To me, you were like - others. Not "objects of desire", as some of the more ghastly members of my species would see you as. But still, not my people. I mean, my mom, my sisters, my wife, my friends. My job is to protect them. Any woman outside this circle, and they are not my people.

So when one of you was being touched by a man in a stuffed DTC bus, I was a coward somewhere in the same bus listening to my ipod. When one of you was being commented upon by a group of bikers at a traffic signal in this city, I was probably hurrying past in my car to catch some cricket game on TV. When one of you was being groped in a bustling market, I was probably in the same market buying gifts for my family. And now, when these diseased waters are threatening to burst through the doors of my home, I realise, that I should have tried to help put up barricades when the flood was entering my city.  I realise, with unescapable blame, that everytime even one single woman in this country was being ravished by this epidemic, it was inching closer to one of my own.  

I realise, with shame, that this has happened not just because of men who did it when it happened, but also because of men like me, who did not do anything about it before it happened.

And now, after all that I have allowed to happen, I do not think I am in a position to blame any politicians or cops. Main kya patthar maarun, jab maine hee yeh sab hone diya hain. I was the culprit who set up these imaginary, misplaced distinctions between you, the women of my country and the women of my family. And it is only me who has to dissolve them now.

Maybe it's too late now. But I need to start now. I hope that the next time I sense one of you being disrespected, I will help you fight back. I am no superhero, not even a six footer - so I may be beaten up, but then, you gotta fight for your people. I hope that I would not help such an incident happen again.

So, dear women of India, while you are powerful beings in yourselves, the creators of lives and such strong pillars of emotional and mental courage we men can never imagine to be - I hope, however far fetched the idea may be, that some day in the future you will feel safe walking the streets of my city. Not because you have a pepper spray in your handbag, but because of knowing that you live in a city where people , including men who have been as insensitive and cowardly as I have been, have the courage to stand up for not just the women of our families, but also for the women of our country.


A Regular Delhi Guy.