Tag Archives: December 16

84 Minutes

Those 84 minutes of hell

That you endured

Screaming, Shouting

Fighting, Pleading

 

You know you woke

A nation which was asleep

You were a ray of light

Just like your name

 

My fearless sister

Are you at peace today?

Did you look down from Heaven

And smile a little bit

 

Di d you see the people

Cheering outside the courts

And did you see the fire

Which was lit by you

 

Are you happy that

Those animals are caged

That they will spend their

Rest of the days, waiting to die

 

It will be hell for them

And you can watch them

With some satisfaction

I suppose

 

I hope your 84 minutes

Of agony and distress

Be 84,000 for them

Oh fearless one, rest in peace now

 

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Filed under India, Poetry

Walk (Part 2)

What it means to walk for Indian women

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March 11, 2013 · 8:57 pm

I Rise

I rise

Because I want to walk down that street

Freely, happily, unafraid

Just like you

 

I rise

Because a fire was lit

And it’s burning brighter

In every atom of my being

 

I rise

Because I was defiled

My crime was being a girl

Thirteen with no breasts to touch

 

I rise

Because you look at me

Like you want to rape me

Undressing me with your eyes

 

I rise

Because I want to run

Feel the wind in my hair

Without any fear

 

I rise

Because I want to see the world

Travelling to my own tunes

Just like you

 

I rise

Because I am a sexual being

And whatever I wear

I never ask for it

 

I rise

Because I am a woman

Your equal, your greater

Never lesser that your half

 

I rise

Because this is my fight

Because you assumed me weak

Subservient and quiet

 

I rise

In war

In pain

In fear

 

I rise

In hope

In prayer

In freedom

————-

For the One Billion Rising Campaign and it’s Delhi event

Meanwhile watch this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fL5N8rSy4CU#!

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Filed under India, Me, Poetry

Stealing Spaces

Note: I am re-publishing an essay which I read here. I think it is relevant and makes sense of the issues of rape and sexual harassment in India.

———–

A woman’s place is in her home, in her kitchen and in her duties as the mother, wife or sister. It’s her father, husband or brother’s prerogative to keep her safe. As a woman, she is accompanied by her father or her brother in a public space. She doesn’t negotiate with men, she never learns to be on her own. Her domain is a private place, in the four walls of her house. This is how most of Northern India has functioned since a very long time. Even now, in most villages and towns, the above statements hold true.

What happens to such men when they, in search of economic prosperity, come to bigger cities and a thriving metropolis like Delhi? Or they, even if living in big cities, come from such patriarchal cultures? They find women unaccompanied by men, driving, walking, using the public transport, working, wearing what ever they want and most importantly, negotiating the public space like they belong in the complex social milieu.

The old ideas of women’s need to be protected, to be kept at home, to be kept safe, all melting away in front of their eyes. Instead they find these creatures – bold, secure and confident. And then begins the game of reclaiming their space, their perceived threat to masculinity.

Ask any girl or a woman in Delhi about sexual harassment, termed so beautifully as ‘eve teasing’, and they will have horror stories to tell. At 13 being groped at places where breasts don’t exist, at 14 being flashed by a man in an alley, at 15 being touched between the legs in public buses. A Delhi girl grows up fast. She knows she is fair game for being letched at, cat called and groped at any age. Her first encounters with anything sexual is strange men trying to reach in her pants or touch her breasts. She knows that no doesn’t really mean no. That no will mean a green-light to the man. But before she learns to say no, she is taught to be quiet, she is told not to confront such a person and she is told to look the other way. That there is shame in feeling violated. Shame in the way she dresses, shame that she took that bus or walked down that street. That it is her fault, somehow.

A Delhi girl grows up thinking that it’s perfectly normal to be wary every single moment of her life outside her home. That it’s normal to think that every man on the street will try to assault her and when he doesn’t, it’s a miracle. At some point if she decides to confront the ‘eve-teaser’, then the power balance starts to tilt. In most cases, this deterrence works but in some it doesn’t. What most people fail to understand is that it’s a man’s pent up desire to have sex at that very moment with that girl or a woman. Sexual assault or harassment is hardly ever about having sex, it’s about asserting power.

And in such context, when a Delhi woman doesn’t just use the public transport to work or study, she also wears what she wants, ‘hangs out’ with her boyfriend, and even enjoys a drink or two, it creates an imbalance in a man’s game of power. She is economically empowered and will assert herself. She is not just bending the rules, she is breaking them. Centuries old culture is crumbling and she is being blamed for it. The onus lies with her to preserve the traditional space she belongs to. And the onus lies with some men to show that she has violated their public space and thus she needs to be violated in return.

The challenge ahead lies in the way public spaces are perceived. A women’s only coach in the Delhi Metro has been lauded by the Delhi woman. This is a relatively safe place for her from prying hands. But a solution which has helped her, has also hindered her. Men seem to think that all the other coaches belong to them, that it’s okay to harass a woman in these coaches. It’s detrimental when women employees are told not to work beyond 6.30 PM, when they are told they will be escorted home after 8.00 PM. Because the message goes out is that a woman is a property which needs to be ensconced in a safe-space.

So, even before a man has properly learnt to negotiate that a woman can exist in the public space, the message of segregation and time-boundaries has made him unlearn that the public space belongs to both. Unless a Delhi woman learns to demand her equal right to remain and negotiate in that public space, she will never be able to normalize her presence in it.

Rapes will continue to happen in India. Because women will continue to pour into the space which belongs to all. Because some men will continue to feel threatened and show them that their place belongs inside the sanctum of their houses. And the onus, once again, will lie with the woman to steal that public place which colludes to keep them away.

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Woman

I keep you in my womb, safe

I give birth to you

Man, I create you

 

My eyes unsleeping

My body unaching

My love unwavering

 

Yet monsters you become

Teaching me painful lessons

For no crime of mine

 

You touch my feet as Sita

And yet you ask me

To walk on hot coals

 

You ask  Saraswati for knowledge

You ask Laxmi for wealth

You ask Durga for strength

 

And yet you kill me

Before I am born

Are you really a man?

 

I am your daughter

I am your sister

I am your mother

 

You forget this

Outside your home

Even in your home

 

I bear quietly

The pain you give

Swallowing it like a bitter pill

 

I am strong

And yet you think

Of me as weak

 

My unspoken eyes

See what you have

Done to me

 

Wait for the Kali

In me to rise

Man, you will cower away

 

I will cause you pain

I will give birth

Only to my daughter

 

I will nurture her

Make her strong

And battle worthy

 

Trust me, man

You don’t want to see

Laxmibai with undocile eyes

 

So fight with me now

Not against me

Stand up and be counted

 

Because my war cry

Will be hard

For you to ignore

 

I will die

A thousand deaths

For my sisters

 

Until you have

Learnt your lessons

The hard way

 

I will be nirbhaya

I will be amaanat

I will be a braveheart

 

You will know

My many names

Until none exist

 

Then you will know me

As respect, dignity, equality

As woman not Kali or Lakshmi

 

———

 

Thoughts after the Delhi gangrape incident

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Enraged and Powerless

Updated: A friend and I have started an online campaign, a petition for harsher punishment and stricter laws. I  would be grateful if you could add your signature to the campaign.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Harsh_Punishment_for_Perpetrators_of_the_Delhi_Gangrape_Victim_Incident/?fXnzNdb&pv=1

—————

Rage against this heinous crime is not enough. Action is required. Voices need to come in unity. They need to be loud and strong. They need to say that this is not acceptable. That the perpetrators need to be bought to justice. That men need to be sensitized. That women are not objects of gratification. That they don’t need to be shown there place in the society – subversive, powerless, pawns in a game of power. That a woman walking down a street, using public or private transport is not fair game for any man. That the first thought a woman shouldn’t have when she looks at a man, while she is walking down a street, is he going to rape me?

The ‘issue’, now reaching endemic proportions, needs a strong lobby which helps change the law, creating such fear that a man would think twice before doing this to a woman. We need the Supreme Court to take suo moto action and order current court cases of rape victims be expedited. We need to make the people understand that these women are ‘survivors’.

The fact that we only talk about the crime and not the psychological and physical scars which it leaves behinds for the survivors forever shield us from its sheer devastating effect on a woman.

I hope one day, we will say – enough is enough. We will demand answers. We will demand safety. We will not be powerless. We will not hear – it’s her fault.

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