it’s a date with great personal significance to me, a long while before 2012. and since the 2012 delhi gangrape, well, i’ve refrained from adding to the words of outrage and shock, as i doubt i have anything to add that hasn’t been said before.
it’s been over two weeks since, and while the victim has passed on, and her rapists await trial, i’m left with a single, somewhat selfish thought: all the nights i’ve taken a local train home in bombay, all the evenings i’ve spent watching movies with friends and taken an auto home in bangalore, every single cab ride home from the airport, or from a late night at the office — is the fact that nothing grievous happened to me just a welcome accident?
true, like every other indian woman of my age, i have my share of horror stories to tell. disturbing, upsetting, etc. but these are still stories that i can (and have) been able to successfully shut out, and move forward from. but not like this. and it’s the most sobering thought in the world for me that every single aspect of personal freedom i’ve grown up with, and believed in — every single definition of doing as i pleased, and going about my life under my own steam — was sheer bloody luck.
i remember being bemused by stories i read about life in pakistan, about the divide between the affluent and the ordinary. how one world seemed to live like posh londoners, while the other struggled like residents of a bombay chawl. my reaction was always one of wonderment.
how different are we, if my only sense of public safety comes from being in my dad’s (or my husband’s, or my own) car? aren’t we just as confined and restricted, if we can only go safely to each other’s homes, and places with 5-star security? aren’t we just as removed from reality, if the reality is not being able to take a bus home one evening with your boyfriend, or lending a screwdriver to an autorickshaw driver to fix his vehicle, or going to the neighbourhood grocery store to buy something?
around me, people are talking about a feminist spring. newspapers are filled with prose on freedom and justice. the international press alternates between shock at the all-romantic, all-bollywood india, and a deeper look at misogyny and violence against women across the world. protestors carry loads of outrage and indignation that far outweigh their placards and banners. while i try and get my head around the fact that for the ordinary indian woman — the one who works, the one who drops her kids to school, the one who shops for veggies, the one who goes for a morning walk, the one who goes to commercial street for a haircut, the one who goes for a 3-d movie with her friend — the world outside her front door has become an even scarier, even more hostile place to set foot in.
in delhi alone, women are cutting back on their working hours. all across india, they’re confessing to feeling unsafe, and this includes places like nursing homes and hospitals. they’re trying to buy guns.
i remember reading this piece ages ago, and it’s a terrific reminder that when it comes to women, india stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of afghanistan, the congo, and somalia.