Tuesday, March 07, 2006

For Blank Noise

In Delhi where I grew up, things are different
you can evade taxes
you can cheat death through reincarnation
But roadside romeos, well, they're inevitable

I remember a time, some ten years ago, when as a teenager I came home weeping hard. My mom went pale on seeing me so, and wanted to know what had happened. Between sobs, I admitted that my wallet had been stolen in a packed bus - along with a princely two thousand bucks.

You should have seen the relief on her face.

That's life for us - so expectant of being treated like public property that we're thankful for every time we aren't.

That's how I lived in Delhi. Afraid. Depressed. Demoralised. And wondering everytime a student "committed suicide" because of exams, if an unrelenting attack on her personal space had been the reason. It would be a good reason.

Yes, a good reason. You can spew dialogues and sagely advice on how women should shout and fight back and end all molestation. And how my statement is so like the stupid Hindi movies where the only way out to save your izzat is to go jump in a well. And how being a victim does not make you lose your dignity, and is no reason to end your life over. And I would agree with you.

But fighting back is so much easier said than done. And it doesn't take away the despair.

I know that every time I've tried - and I've had sufficient times to try, along with a lot of mental preparation for the 'next time it happens' - it just doesn't work. One moment I'm a strong Anuja, ready to write blogs on the issue, and air opinions in discussions, and shout loud on the issue - and the next I am a weakling without voice, with no coherence of speech who's too dazed to take any action. I don't know what happens - I know it doesn't happen to everyone. I wish it didn't to me either, but it does.

The one time when I got strong enough to try and smack the face of the man in front of me, I missed for lack of coordination. Twice. It wasn't funny. And it did scare him away anyhow. But I cried later. Not because I missed hitting him, but because even though I stood up for myself, it didn't change the big picture. I could feel the strain on my freedoms. Lewdness had a free run of the streets, while I was in essence home-jailed. If I needed to go out, it almost like parole, where I felt the need of an escort.

That's why I hate the place I grew up in, and left it at first chance.

And that's why I love Jamshedpur, because that's where, for the first time in my living memory, I could walk in the middle of the road without feeling scared, without turning around hastily at the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind, without needing to be at full alert regarding the traffic on the road and what it might do to me in passing.

I have never forgotten that first time I felt free.

I know Jamshedpur, or Mumbai where I am now, also suffer their share of crime against women. Indeed, as many blogs today will report, whistling, commenting, eve-teasing, shadowing, groping, molesting, and other things depressingly, unendingly worse have proliferated without boundaries. "Delhi-Style' rapes, as a stupid tabloid cruelly and tastelessly labelled them, have occured in Mumbai too. Just yesterday, a woman's nude body, with eyes gouged out, and limbs tied up was discovered in a railway cabin.

Can the worsening of our world be reversed?

Generating awareness is just the first step and faaaaaaaaaaar from enough.
What we need are vigilant spectators. And we need a legal and judiciary system that can support conviction, and fast.


blah_blah_blogger said...

I just commented on a blog-a-thon post about the judiciary...to me, that is the crux of the issue...I could feel up a girl with the assurance that the girl won't speak up beacause even if she does, nothing will happen...

neha vish said...

I grew up in Delhi and relate to all you write about it.... I feel so disempowered on the streets. I don't know - if this certain thing that I feel - is helplessness or the beginning of a violent streak.

babblezone said...

Anu, I know exactly what you mean - complete empathy with the helplessless, frustration, annoyance with self for being an acceptor of harrassment and the first feeling of relief when faced with freedom and self respect and realising that that freedom is a right.

I almost felt envy for women from Mumbai etc for whom this sense of freedom and the ability to push back (without fear)when pushed is a part of who they are - inherently.

They don't go into the what ifs - the 5 mile vision of what would happen if you chose to retaliate.

I do hope it would change for leaving a city can't be a viable solution. You and I could choose to leave. I feel sorry and scared for those who are left behind.

sinusoidally said...

Born and raised in Delhi...what can I say...it sounds all too familiar.

Nicely written.

Girija D. said...

delhi is indeed a trying city to live in for women. I myself felt so free, different, when in mumbai alone for a few days. For a while, i couldn't fathom the reason for the way i felt...until i realized that i was just another person there, a part of the crowd. No eyes or hands on me.

great post!

by the way, aren't you an ex-springdalian? ashita's sister? we were classmates in KN.

Atticus Finch said...

Hullo there...

Dropped in from the Blank Noise Project site... decided to drop. Still in that sense of "coming out of denial", realizing from blogs and personal accounts from my close friends about how all women go through this...

And sorry to say that Jamshedpur ain't too safe either. If you are still there, be careful. I work for the Tatas. My close friends and colleagues had very bad experiences in the township itself...