A 23 year old girl was gang raped this Sunday night in Delhi. She was brutally beaten and thrown off the bus, in which 6 people raped her. She was brought to the Safdarjang Hospital in a critical state where her condition has deteriorated since then. She has been in coma. Her infected intestines have been all but removed through surgery. There are speculations as to whether she'll survive. Probably, we don't even dare to start speculating how her life will be if she survives.
India is enraged. There are demonstrations. There's a flurry of activity on the Web condemning the heinous act, demanding strict punishment to the perpetrators. Blogs. Facebook posts. Petitions. Demands: Fast track court. Extended sentence. Death by hanging. Death by starving...
Since a day or two, I have got entangled in a discussion (on facebook) where, in the current state, I am shamefully defending myself against rude remarks by one of the members in the discussion. Reason: she thinks that such harsh punishments as castration, gallows etc. should be meted out to the perpetrators. I expressed my disagreement, though only after ample expression to my own agony about whatever has happened, whatever is happening. I had to face the charge of sharing a camaraderie with the criminals. What a shame! I want to join hands with everyone in the world to express my disgust and anger about how we treat our women. But look at what I am wasting my energies in: in refuting comments from another person agonised like me, the harshness towards me that shows in her comments towards me being entirely founded on a genuine distress. A distress we all feel. Equally!
Rather accidentally, this very thing probably summarises what I came here to say. Whenever something disturbing happens, we get enraged. We start throwing our rage about. We, the perennial idol worshippers, catch someone to empty our rage on, an effigy to burn. When there's a bomb-blast, we want to throw out all Muslims from India. For increasing crimes in South India, South Indians want to bash up North Indians. When there's rampant corruption, we point our fingers at politicians. There's a technical name of this behaviour: Racism!
When the fact that women aren't treated well in our country reveals through such horrendous incidents, we quickly find another race to persecute: Males.
Nothing happens. Terrorists keep bombing our cities. Muggers keep making our streets less and less safe to walk on. Our women keep getting treated worse and worse. After a few days, we forget. We move on. A bit more benumbed. A bit more de-sensitised. A bit more cynical and hopeless.
Nothing will happen. Keep thrashing about. Keep screaming at the top of your voice. Keep calling any person with any single attribute matching the perpetrator, a traitor and an accomplice. Spend yourself out. Appease your conscience that you did your bit. But nothing will happen.
Nothing will help. But through a process that entails the realisation that criminals grow from amongst us. They are dangerously similar to us. We create them. We feed them. They breed from amongst us.
That criminal is in us. That part of us which makes us first think of nipping away our yet unborn girl-child. It's that person in us which takes the morsel out from our daughter's mouth -- the pencil out from our girl's hand -- and gives it to the son. The criminals takes birth, grows stronger, when we attribute someone's lack in mathematical aptitude to her being a girl. It happens when women think that having food after their husband is what exemplifies their womanhood. It happens when a woman finds it beyond her will and ability to hold meaningful conversations, solve hard problems, build things. It happens when a dad demands dowry for his son's marriage, and another dad agrees to give dowry for his daughter's marriage. It happens when a man finds it OK to screw around with various women before marriage -- and sometimes after marriage -- and wishes to marry a village virgin who remains oblivious of his escapades, and true to him. It happens when a woman thinks that it's unwomanly for her to talk and care about anything beyond the subjects of her family, apparels and accessories, or it's her prerogative to talk depravingly about her mom-in-law or daughter-in-law. It happens when curves of the body of a stranger women we see in the bus, train, office or market, look more interesting to us than the expression of purpose, ambition, worry, attachment, and every other human emotion that shows on her face. It happens every time anyone -- a man or a woman -- does anything to put the fact of someone's being a man or a woman before that of their being a human being.
Sorry. But nothing will happen. Not at least today. nor tomorrow. Human civilisation wasn't built in a day. Nothing of consequence and beauty has ever been erected in a day. A safe and secure society, where the beasts in our minds have been carefully bound and leashed, and only the elevated, intellectual aspects of us find open expression -- a society of that kind is a thing of beauty. It's not a natural phenomenon; in fact far far from it. It's that one tiny little point of stability that lies hidden between an infinite space of instability. It can't exist by itself. It has to be imaginatively dreamt, creatively conceptualised, carefully built, patiently maintained over hot, blazing days, and has to be watched over through long wakeful nights. And if we allow ourselves to pass into a slumber, to gradually drift away from that point of stability -- the way we seem to have done today -- we can't wake up one day and wish away the reality with a loud roar of rage. Our rage can't warp the space. It can't blow away, like a mist, the night we spent sleeping.
We have only one choice: to start walking back. A step at a time. Slowly. Without protest. Saving our energies to make good the resurrection of the old order, and not squander it in beating our fists on our chests like frustrated apes. And one input that we can't avoid giving to this only restorative act: time.
We can leave the question of whether noodles cause promiscuity to qualified medical researchers. We can allow our psychologists to deal with the grand issue of whether excessive fraternisation between the sexes instigates criminal thoughts. We, the ordinary mortals, the dull-wits of highest order, aren't capable of dealing with such technical topics. We should just try to educate ourselves of one single, simple rule. A rule that is agnostic to the concept of sexes and sexual crimes, about races and racism, about economies and class conflicts, about nations and wars. A rule that is the constituent atom of every man-made structure that has stood against the dissipative forces of nature. That rule is the rule of respecting each other's right to live with respect. There's but one rule here. Only one rule to be followed. Only one rule that can ever be broken. All crimes in this world are instances of this one rule being broken: taking bribes, breaking a traffic law, teasing a woman, or littering the public places, or polluting the environment.
A man who will refrain from attacking a woman from the fear of castration or lynching can't be stopped from going back home and abusing his wife or daughter who, he is sure, will keep quiet because they love him. But a man -- or a woman -- who passes each act of his or her through the acid test of respect and justice will create a more beautiful world with every thought articulated, every word spoken, every move made.
I, the non-specialist in rape-cases, the one born to the cursed race of males -- I, the idiot who has nothing but his little common-sense to hang on to in this age of chaos, rage, cynicism and hopelessness -- I, the poor human being, rest my case.