Tag Archives: Delhi gang-rape

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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Walk (Part 2)

What it means to walk for Indian women

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March 11, 2013 · 8:57 pm



A simple task we humans learnt when we evolved from being apes. A task which allows us to reach our destination, allows us to discover life. It’s something we take for granted because it’s so unimaginably mundane, so ordinary. And yet, it’s something, we Delhi women fear.

Our mothers revel in joy when as babies we learn to walk. And the opposite of that joy when we grow up and they say – don’t walk, the city is not meant for you to walk.

It was Maya Krishna Rao’s booming voice counting the numbers, until she stopped at twelve. And said she would like to take a walk at midnight. At 3 AM. At 4 AM. I nodded vigourously and clapped. My eyes tearing a little.

As a child, I was never afraid of the dark or the night. I was enamoured by the mysteries it could hold.

I love the night because I am moved by the beauty of the stillness and calm, when I can watch the stars and hear my thoughts. I love spotting the Orion and the Big Dipper through the night, their changing positions providing a sense of time passing by.

It’s glorious to walk down the streets in the night. I did it when I lived in England. With various friends and acquaintances, saving the snails on our walking paths in the summer, walking slowly to conquer the black ice in winters, after a night of club-hopping. Or simply finding a bench and sitting there alone. I was almost unafraid of the dark corners and empty roads. A little voice in my head saying, “woah, you are so brave.”

And then I came back to India. To Delhi. To the city where I have grown up and which has played an important role in shaping me. To a city where I dread walking. I drive everywhere, don’t take the public transport, wear shapeless androgynous clothes when I need to go to the grocery shop across my home.

I was a soldier once. In my teenage years, through school and college. Leered, leched, touched, groped. Psychologically scarred, physically scared. I was afraid. I was violated. I was meek. And then I was angry. In my battle fatigues of jeans and t-shirt and my backpack as my armour, I would walk on the opposite side of the street traffic, rarely on unlit pavement, in crowded buses, on alert. I would grab any hand which tried to touch me. Confront, kick, slap the violator. But it kept happening. Again and again.

So I stopped.

I bought a car and now I drive everywhere. I don’t walk anymore. Not in the winter sunshine, not in the first rains of the monsoon, not on cool summer nights.

I am ashamed I stopped fighting. I became tired. I became battle-weary. I stopped re-claiming the public space which was mine. The pavements which were mine to walk, the buses which were mine to take, the gardens and the blue skies which were mine to see, the cityscapes which were mine to explore.

I miss walking.

I am sorry I stopped fighting. Because that’s when I became afraid of the dark and the light of the day. Because that’s when men decided they were the sole owners of the public space. That I was an anomaly there. That I needed to be shown that bus wasn’t meant for me. That I should have been in my private space, in my home, in my kitchen.

I felt anguish. And then the familiar anger. In every cell of my being.

It was the night of 1st January 2013, when after a holiday with friends, I took an evening flight back from Bhubneshwar. The only one out of the city which reached a foggy Delhi at about 8.30 PM. I took a taxi home at 9 PM with my sister who was patiently waiting at the airport, her flight from another city having landed a few hours ago. The Delhi incident fresh in the mind of people, we were strange objects of fascination standing at the airport, daring to take a taxi.

A furious and a concerned sister confronted me at home, calling me “stupid enough” to fly back on a late evening flight and then use the public transport to get back home. Fighting back tears and rage, I told her I wasn’t afraid. That I refuse to be afraid. That I refuse to cow down. That fear was not my prison. That men needed to know that women could and would be a part of the public space. They NEEDED to accept my presence there. I didn’t need to be apologetic about it.

It’s our collective failure that we gave them power over us. It’s our collective failure that we kept quiet too long. It’s our collective failure that we made them think we were weak.

And so yesterday, when I listened to Maya, I remembered what it was like to walk. I remembered the solace I took in the quietness of many nights when I was privileged enough to walk, the chaotic days when the streets were mine. I was filled with melancholy, then helplessness. And eventually angry enough to demand my right. I wanted to walk.

Her words stirred up something inside. It opened the pandora’s box. The feelings which were kept aside for practical purposes. The cravings which were checked, now demanding to break free. To feel my feet on the mother earth which created us. To feel it pound the earth with a purpose. Without a purpose.

When the emotionally charged evening ended, I decided to walk, having parked my car a kilometer away from the Delhi Rising site. It was a pleasant winter evening. Maya’s words echoing in my ears, “Walk, I want to walk.” My female colleague looked at me with uncertain eyes.

“Let’s take an autorickshaw,” she said.

“No, let’s walk,” I replied.

“There is a dark stretch,” she insisted.

“I’ll kick any bastard in the balls who tries to harass us,” I replied in anger.

“No,” she shook her head.

Eventually, we took an autorickshaw till the point where our cars were parked.

One day, I want to walk, really walk. I want to wander the streets enveloped in the blanket of night and discover what secrets it holds. I want to wander the streets in the brightness of the day, smile at strangers and hear their stories.

Because if I can conquer the darkness of the night and the brightness of the day, there will be nothing to fear. Then I can be unafraid. Then I can be free. Free enough to do the most mundane task we humans do.


Essay written after attending the Delhi Rising event as part of the One Billion Rising campaign. Words inspired by Maya Krishna Rao’s powerful monologue at the Delhi Rising event.


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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


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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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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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