Recently I came across a video titled ‘Bol’ by Pooja Batura Pathak (a 28 year old, Mumbai based filmmaker) which has been on my mind for days and got me penning down my thoughts on the same. The video is a 12 minute glimpse into the journey of a young girl through the years into womanhood.
It’s a simple video with a profound, heart wrenching message about the plight of women in our country regardless of their demographic status.
The video begins with a young girl about 5-6 years old walking down the Mumbai beach with her father. Her sunny disposition and a spring in her step remind us of our childhood. Days marked with being carefree and happy before the complexities of life reeled one in. The father runs into a ‘gentleman’ friend who proceeds to greet the child and in an attempt to display ‘affection’ towards her, picks up the girl from her shoulders and presses her small lithe body against him. The girl is clearly uncomfortable and makes an attempt to wriggle out of his arms. Upon being released she runs towards her father, who is walking a few feet ahead.
So, what are the attacks that we may make on this young girl which may have propelled such behavior towards (apparently not against!) her?
The answer to all of the above is NO. NO! NO! NO!
Merely a child, but aren’t these the typical questions we hear when news pieces are run about girls and women being harassed? Where the victim is targeted and no questions are raised on the morality of the perpetrator!
This girl in all her innocence was enjoying a day just being a kid and the man in question chose to violate that. He chose to use ‘affection’ as a means to release his perverted and disgusting thoughts and intention upon this child. Blind trust by the father for this man may be a point for debate, but isn’t the point that we truly need to make more towards a man or woman NOT behaving this way with young children – rather than having parents solely as protectors and raising children to live in fear?
Why do we encourage children to be true to themselves, free and expressive whilst warning them, ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ the moment they head off to the playground? Ironic, isn’t it. So what message has been conveyed to this young girl about love, trust and affection?
An adolescent girl walks across the same beach and reaches a building where she walks into a room turned into a small classroom. She waits for her tuition teacher to arrive and assembles her books in the meantime. The teacher, a young male in his early 30’s, walks in and is keenly watching the girl. He eyes the girl from head to toe and settles down in a chair, purposely pulling it close to her. His physical proximity does not go unnoticed by the girl but she continues to focus on her work. He brushes her shoulders lightly and places his hand on her thigh.
The girl pushes her chair back and runs out, clearly startled and shocked by this invasion of her personal space.
Well, some of course may think her being dressed in shorts and bare shoulders may have been an open invitation. What is so inappropriate about a young girl in shorts on a hot summer day? Is that reason enough to encroach upon her freedom to choose what she may wear each day? Last time I checked this was a democratic nation.
It is infuriating when people, both men and yes surprisingly some women, harbor archaic views on a how a woman ‘should’ dress. What is the point of celebrating 26th January as Republic Day when we do not honor the constitution and the ‘freedom’ we are granted as citizens of the nation?
For those who find it difficult to believe that women do hold such views in the face of feminism and all that – kindly refer to Day 1 of Delhi auditions of a youth show called Roadies XI and hear the views of a female contestant on rape. Horrific to say the least!
A young girl in her early twenties enters the same corridor, where the adolescent girl runs out. Clearly the girl is dressed for an interview, resume in hand. She enters an office space to find the boss sitting on the table in an idle manner. She takes a seat and hands her resume to the woman, who flips through the pages, seemingly uninterested and rather appears to be taking in the girl with her eyes. She makes her move by getting off the table and kissing the girl.
The young girl moves back in shock and revulsion and walks out of the room, stunned.
So what accusations must one direct towards this young girl? She should have perhaps got married post school and not ‘dared’ to venture towards a job and career. How about the fact that this incident was about a woman as the perpetrator? Does that make it any less important to be labeled as a sexual advance or assault? Perhaps because of the fact that it was a woman some may say that the actions were ‘misunderstood’ by the victim.
We must come to terms with the fact that a predator can take various forms – demographic, gender, occupation, geographical location as well as socio-economic status play a role in the same. What have we taught this young impressionable woman about making a career for herself? The fact that her entire education was fueled towards a job and making her mark, received a horrid welcome as she set out upon this journey – where her dignity and value as an individual and as a woman were demeaned.
Are we not supposed to treat women as equal contributors to society and in the workforce? But unfortunately the moment we step out of our homes, we need to strive for our safety more than anything else, while commuting to work. Additions are dealing with office politics and harassment, all the while trying to work hard and receive our due.
As the young woman rushes out and fetches herself a glass of water, a lady clad in a suit walks by with her dupatta covering her head. She enters her house and her eyes seem listless. Her face, covered with bruises, tells a tale of a thousand agonies. She is a woman – facing physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of the man who had promised to love and honor her.
In a state of desperation she believes that taking her own life would serve as a means of escape from the brutalities she endures daily. The moment she prepares to hang herself, her daughter comes running in, to greet her mother. Upon seeing her child, the woman realizes that hope comes to her in the form of her daughter.
How many women in the world are suffering in silence? Their lives are similar to that of a bird in a cage. One whose freedom has been curbed, conditions and demands have been imposed but yet their wings are not clipped. She needs to find the strength within her to fly.
Apparently a certain segment of the male population believes that marriage is equivalent to claiming property rights. It is not an institution where two people meet as equals and share their hopes, dreams and desires. Rather for them it is a means to ‘own’ the woman.
Each blow inflicted upon her is a knife slicing through her self-worth and will to live. She hangs on for dear life for the sake of her children, her parents, social stigma or financial dependence. But each day, is living in a world of fear, whether within the confines of her home or out in the world, she loses a piece of herself – her dignity, her freedom.
Can we imagine a world without her beauty, her fragrance, her vibrant colors – her indomitable spirit? Ironically the video draws to an end with the girl running towards her mother, the same little girl at the beach.
Vicious cycle? Break the cycle! Speak up! BOL.
Pic credit: Crl! (Used under a CC license)