Memories of the countless white women, I saw on the beaches of Goa, clad in skimpy bikinis accosted by groups of drunken men who spotted an easy target; white women walking the streets of Indian cities dressed in tank tops and maxis accompanied by leery looks; white women at pubs having a good time endlessly approached by males: all the routine things that they would have done routinely in their country but to a different reaction here.
Every time I saw this, I thought to myself: “Don’t these girls realize they are in a strange country, albeit an Asian super power, where people are trying to shrug away conservative, prudish thinking?” And yet, as soon as that thought popped in my head I saw countless Indian counterparts do the very same thing the white women did.
Aha, I thought. Maybe it is I who has not changed. Maybe I need to stop seeing my country with such jaundiced eyes. Maybe the country is changing after all. Young, college-going girls walk around in hot pants on the streets of urban India; girls ride bicycles to attend schools and colleges in smaller towns and villages; women driving cars and trucks with men as co-passengers. There are women conductors on buses standing 12 hours a day, walking crowded aisles overflowing with men; running successful businesses and managing happy families; working to save and saving to travel; globetrotters who traverse the world before they hit their 30s; inspectors smartly controlling traffic and giving criminals a tough time; women who are the sole bread winners of the family; women who took care of old parents and women who decide to live alone for the sheer joy of it.
My cup of joy overflows.
Here is the India I have always dreamt about. An India that values its girl child and believes in the emancipation of women which fiery figures like Mamta Banerjee, Amma and Kiran Bedi have helped to give wings.
There are a new generation of men who see women as their equal. I see this on the streets, at the work place, at family gatherings, at stadiums where the country’s flag is held high as eleven men chase a ball; at concerts where the sitar meet the guitar; at myriad places on myriad occasions.
Indeed, this is my India I said with a smirk and a smile.
The media carries news reports of women violated, girls molested and raped.
I wondered if the media was sensationalizing and covering news of harassment just to get more eye balls and subscription. Yes, there was a Nirbhaya but India with its billion plus population was more than that, I rationalized.
I read the CNN report again and shook my head, aghast that Indian men had traumatized this young student to such an extent. I read the counter view but saw the leery, lecherous man again.
We are changing but like every change or evolution it takes time, I said.
Until I saw this middle-aged lady, groped on a dark, isolated street by a young man. This lady could have been any one’s mother or grandmother, her only fault was being a woman. I was unable to do much either since the s$#$# was long gone, vanishing into the crevices that night offers.
A police station was just around the corner. There was no help forthcoming.The police dismissed the brazenness as a drunkard’s attack. Does it excuse or heighten the sense of being violated?
I close my eyes as I write this, and send a silent prayer to all those who suffered or continue to suffer for their only fault: being a woman.
I open my eyes and make a solemn promise to myself ..I will not stop living and being the best I can be, I will not stop believing in the goodness of man and I will not stop being less of a woman.