Will the Government of India have the guts to confer the highest civilian recognition on the Nameless Nirbhaya, who has become a symbol of courage and defiance for every woman who has ever faced violence and fought back bravely? I doubt it. The Republic Day celebrations tomorrow offer little hope for our women. The usual suspects will receive the usual national awards - the Padmas and more. Nobody will remember or care who won what even one day after the announcements. Nirbhaya may be given some token recognition. But even that will not be without debate, considering what an embarrassment her death has been to the Dilli wallas. Shame!
I am off to the Maha Kumbh of Literature at Jaipur tomorrow. It's an annual ritual I look forward to.
The two images above record the magical moment just after I stepped into the icy cold, rapidly moving waters of the mighty Brahmaputra in Guwahati earlier this week. It was a dream come true! The river is indeed magnificent, as the picture reveals.This trip along the banks of the Brahmaputra was right after a wonderful 'darshan' at the centuries old Kamakhya temple close by. Another dream that became a reality! As I am sure some of you know, the Kamakhya temple is the seat of Tantric energy and thought, being a primary Shakti Peeth. I was in Guwahati to deliver a keynote address on Violence against Women. And to present the Assamese of the Year award to Olympian boxer Shiva Thapa, all of nineteen!
More pictures coming up tomorrow!
Love and self-loathing…
A few weeks ago, I was talking to dinner companions at a lively soiree hosted by a public intellectual. As is the case these days, our conversation kept coming back to the death of the 23-year-old rape victim in Delhi.The erudite husband of a beautiful lady seated at the table, wondered aloud as to what is worse – an acid attack or rape? I was startled by the comment and asked him to elaborate. He said with complete sincerity, “ An acid attack is far worse for a woman since it disfigures her.” Still startled, but not wishing to appear rude, I requested him to clarify further. He answered thoughtfully, “ A rape victim can walk down the street confidently, and nobody will know she has been raped. But what can the poor acid attack victim do? Her scars are there for the world to observe.” Later the same night, I couldn’t get the conversation out of my head. Imagine the ‘choices’ we as women have – acid Vs. rape. One , visible. The other, not. Both violent. In a bizarre context, which is the bigger trauma? If a woman is given such a sadistic choice by an oppressor… would she be in a position to select? “ Please, Sirji…. go ahead and rape me. But… but… hold the acid!” Has it really come to that? Are visible scars far more painful than internal ones? Or is it back to the same old problem faced by women down the centuries : “Never mind what happens to me behind four walls. Beat me, rape me, throttle me, gag me – but don’t leave any evidence behind. For , if you do, the shame of that revelation will be far harder to live with than the lifelong sorrow of the body having been sexually violated.” A woman is an expert at keeping countless secrets. Some of these dark secrets haunt her till she dies. Sexual abuse, often by close family members, is one of them. She is expected to stay mum, or face the wrath of her family and the samaaj at large. She becomes a sullied creature. No better than used merchandise. Her family conspires to pass on the tainted woman to an unsuspecting groom. In all this, nobody bothers to find out what hell the victim herself is going through. Having spoken to several women trapped in such appalling circumstances, I can tell you, there is just one pre-dominant emotion: self- loathing. A woman who has been brutalized physically by a man, is further brutalized emotionally, generally by her own self.
This is how it has always been. Female guilt is rarely understood. It is somehow not particularly ‘important’ to anybody. People scoff, “ Oh… you women are such whingers! Stop going on and on about your bloody guilt. Or deal with it yourself.” Quite forgetting the larger question :Why should the victim feel guilty in the first place?
We are conditioned to accept ‘our position’ in the overall scheme of things. If a woman dares to defy that assigned position, she is branded a trouble maker…. dangerous to society. She has to be suitably punished. This punishment takes several forms – some are so subtle as to be more lethal than even a harsh beating. When a woman begins to hate herself, it is the equivalent of a slow and painful death. Day by day, she dies a little. If her family notices and does nothing about it, she herself accelerates the process. Often, she ends up taking her own life. The family is relieved. It is considered the honourable thing to do. At the back of their minds is the sneaking suspicion that she had it coming. That she had asked for it. That she deserved to die. Rape victims are judged and condemned far more than the dastardly perpetrators of the crime. ‘Why me?” the victim keeps wondering. And the answer she receives says it all : “You obviously invited it. You must have provoked the man.”
Nirbhaya’s case is different. There were not just six penises involved. There was also the killer iron rod. It was not just rape. It is murder. And what has horrified people across the country is that ghastly detail involving her intestines being pulled out. As any student of basic biology will tell you, one cannot pull out intestines from a woman’s vagina. Let’s leave this sordid story here. It fills one with such deep anguish, that Nirbhaya’s excruciating pain during her courageous struggle becomes ones own.
Who deserves the Bharat Ratna in 2013? There’s no contest. It has to be Nirbhaya.