Last night I woke up in cold sweat…something that ordinarily does not happen with me. A chaotic nightmare shook me from my deep slumber. What it was, I could not recall. All that I know is that despite my best efforts I could not go back to sleep. I spent the remaining half of the night tossing and turning, gazing at my 7 year old who slept blissfully unaware of my discomfort. However, as dawn approached, I dozed off. And it was only with my second cup of tea, much later in the morning, that the nightmare of the past night started making sense.
The nightmare, from the fragments that I could put together, surprisingly, was related to the Delhi gang rape of December 2012…some vague images of a moving bus, screaming voices and hysterical sobs. Why would something that shook that nation alright, but was far removed from me and by now even from public memory, make inroads into my subconscious, I fail to understand. Even in December, I had carefully shielded myself from the media blitzkrieg, at least to the extent I could. Yet I could not help but hear about the brutal assault, her battered body, her resilient spirit, her transfer to Singapore and finally her demise. As the youth took the streets, all I did was mumble a silent prayer for the departed soul. I did not join the protesters, I did not change my Facebook profile to a black dot- I did nothing. Yet, after over 2 months, I dreamt of it. Is this what Jung meant when he talked about collective unconscious and how certain images and memories become a part of it? I don’t know. May be it is.
What was it about this incident that shook up and galvanised the nation leading to unprecedented protests? As much as we might like to believe otherwise, this was neither the first nor the last of such horrific crimes that we have witnessed. Why did she become a symbol of resilience, a tipping point for the Nation? Nevertheless, all protests notwithstanding, how many of us could really feel her pain, her agony, the ordeal that she endured for over an hour that night? Probably no one. For if we could really feel it and empathise with her, we too would have succumbed just like she did despite not wanting to. There is only so much that human flesh can endure.
So much has been said about India’s daughters being shamed, about womanhood being brutalised but the extent of injury went far beyond womanhood. What was assaulted, raped and left to die that night was not simply a woman, the weaker sex but humanity itself and all that goes under that blanket term- kindness, compassion, righteousness, judgement of right and wrong and much more- the defining characteristics of the human race were what were raped and left to die.
Did this woman want to become a symbol of fight for dignity, for life? No. She was an ordinary woman, leading an ordinary life like so many others. All she wanted to do was live her simple life. Yet she was to become a rallying point for people from all walks of life; she was to become Damini, Nirbhaya. Call her what you will, for names do not matter. What matters is how much we have fallen as a race that we can brutalise and leave to die fellow human beings and those very characteristics that make us human.
Is this the first time that respect and regard for another life, care, dignity, affection, all that we put under the term “humanity”, have been assaulted? I don’t think so. Did the perpetrators of this horrific crime forget that night that what they were doing was a punishable offence, not merely legally but in every sense of the word? Did they forget the women in their lives back home? Not likely. Yet they allowed their animal instinct to take over and rule them completely. Just as we do when we bully someone on the road or refuse to come to the aid of someone who needs help; just as we think it’s okay to turn a blind eye to a pup that is being stoned by children or an old man who is shoved on the bus or when we misuse power, financial or legal, against whosoever we can. Or when we refuse to check women who misuse law and the fact of their being a woman for their own ends. Yes women too do that. None of these transgressions are as horrific as the Delhi gang rape but before we realise, we too can cross those very lines that we never thought we could cross. Every time you break an unwritten code of conduct, you move a step closer to a point when, very soon, there may be no codes left to break, no lines left to cross.
Does the gang rape mean that all men, especially those in Delhi are rapists? Or does it give us a right to hate men in the name of misguided feminism? No. These are knee jerk responses and simplistic solutions. We have to realise that there are problems bigger than you and me; that we have failed as a race. Wherein lies the solution? Tougher rape laws? Or will we be opening a can of worms just as we did with the anti dowry laws? Is a strong law enough of a deterrent? Or is a strong conscience, morality the need of the hour?
Damini, we are told, wanted to live. She fought with all her might. And so is humanity fighting to survive. In every act of kindness, compassion, righteousness we witness or carry out, the beleaguered and battered humanity is raising its head, expressing its desire to live. Yet, it is being raped and killed in a life going on at a break neck speed through the heart of civilisation, just as Damini was raped in a bus moving through the capital of the country. Who should be ashamed? The entire human race – irrespective of caste, sex, religion and region. It’s not simply the police or the political class or the judiciary that have failed – we all have failed and therein lies our shame.
Should women be stopped from stepping out at night, or stopped from wearing western clothes as some lopsided arguments have stated? Or should we awaken our dead humanity to raise a generation of men and women who can tell right from wrong, who will speak up against every little act of transgression and have the strength of conviction that every little fight is worth the effort? Laws and movements can do only as much. Remainder lies with each one of us. If only we can realise this and make a concerted effort, the ordinary girl who was pushed into martyrdom will perhaps rest in peace.