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Why Aren’t India’s Daughters Talking?

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India is a land of goddesses and daughters. But then, why is it that we, as India’s daughters, do not speak and stand up for our safety? What stops us?

I meant to write this since Dec 2012; when the horrific incident came to light and thousands of Indians were on the streets to show their protest against what had happened. But I didn’t get out, not because I had no opinion, but because I was mentally shut down. I have been raised to be uncomfortable using words like ‘assault’, ‘rape’ and even ‘molestation’. That’s not the kind of things that happen to my strata of the society; that’s for a different class of people.

I was raised as a cherished and protected child who still cries if someone talks to her in a louder voice. I just cant take it because I have never been talked to like that. My parents were from the sobre, educated class who focussed just on education and good behavior. We were never forced to fast or observe any religious occasion with zeal. So for us, god existed somewhere, not in the temples though. We are not atheists. But we aren’t the overzealous religious fanatics either. We have our faith in our heart.

But something changed in 2012; I did not feel protected anymore, and I wished that god existed in a more real sense.

What stops us?

How could someone condemn anyone to such brutality? I had spent sleepless nights after watching the movie ‘Khatta Meetha’. In that movie, Akshay Kumar’s sister (played by Urvashi Sharma) gets this horrific treatment (again, because I cannot bring myself to use the word rape) from her husband and his friends. So imagine, how many fortnights I would’ve spent awake after December 2012!

I snapped again when I heard of a 3-year-old being molested. I was the kind of person who changed the topic when such discussions came up; however, I now discuss the issue with a vigilant male colleague without any awkwardness because we are both adults concerned for our kids.

But something changed in 2012; I did not feel protected anymore, and I wished that god existed in a more real sense.

And then it stuck me, the whole issue is this very behavior of mine. We, as Indians, are taught to be docile, we don’t discuss these things. When we read the papers, we flip it – in case someone sees us reading such news. We change channels when Edward kisses Bella in Twilight. We refuse to embrace our sexuality. Men and women aren’t sexual beings in India, and that is the whole problem.

Men being men, they have a different society – one which berates women in ways they themselves don’t realise. Some are as bashful as to ‘eve tease’, some share videos of naked women in all-men whatsapp groups, which is a mellowed-down version with the sharing of vulgar jokes; then there are some who find relief in berating women – be it at work or at home. I once heard a man remark how a certain woman, a recent mother had it easy because she worked only 3 days-a-week. I bet his tiny brain couldn’t get the fact that she was the one who was not having it easy. She balanced home, work and kids only because she needed to work, maybe because they might not be financially stable otherwise or maybe because she had the audacity to demand a career for herself. But I kept mum and yes, changed the topic.

It is essential that we discuss women’s rights because partiality exists, and we need to face it head on.

And we women, have learnt to be silent about the mistreatment fearing we might come across as strong feminists everybody hates. Face it, the favourite is always the salwar-clad, long-haired, soft-spoken girl who smiles at all. And we try to be her because we don’t want to be ridiculed by our male friends as ‘krantikari-kalam waali bai’ (I got called that when I debated for women’s rights). But it’s high time this attitude changed; we as women must speak out. It is essential that we discuss women’s rights because partiality exists, and we need to face it head on.

‘India’s Daughter’ documentary

India’s daughter was made by a non-Indian woman, because we fail to talk about this issue. For the record – I am on the side which opposes this documentary, not because of the content, but because of the intent. I also oppose the scared government that banned it. I just wish that such an issue was handled with more respect. And yes, I don’t agree with Javed Akhtar when he says that such films will highlight the issue. How will a film shown to foreign audiences change the Indian mentality? (And that’s where I oppose the ban). Also, how will showing the closed mentality of some so-called educated lawyers make us change ours? The film got made because we Indians lack the courage to touch something so recent for the fear of scratching recent wounds, because we believe time heals everything and we don’t talk about such things ever.

My stand here is debatable, because I am standing on thin-ice balancing facts, the nation’s pride and the need for reforms.

Once, I met an European who was on a trip to India, and I asked him, how do you like it? His reply was, “It’s dirty.” What this film does is tell the world about our culture from a restricted point of view. It’s like taking all the BBC audience to an elephant with their eyes shut!

It gives the outside world a skewed view of India, and I am under no denial here, we do need to bring about a reform in Indian society. I also disagree with the director when she says, the film was made to highlight how all Indians got together to protest against it. Because, the only message that gets through is that such a horrific incident occurred in India, and not the subsequent protests.

My stand here is debatable, because I am standing on thin-ice balancing facts, the nation’s pride and the need for reforms. But somehow I am convinced that the real solution does not exist in making films for foreign audience garnering the support from the likes of Meryl Streep, Frida Pinto and Hillary Clinton, but exists in bringing out a change within.

Let’s face it, Slumdog MIllionaire did not remove slums from India; a foreign director made a film, earned money, and made a certain age-defying actor a Hollywood celebrity. However, over the years things did not change. I do not think anything will change with India’s daughter and we will remain the same for years to come. Unless, we learn to speak up, not to change the topic, assert our rights, not to keep mum when closed minds berate women. So that, next time we make a film, it would showcase the vibrant India, that respects women, which you just have to love.

Image of a young woman via Shutterstock

Author, Blogger, Mother, Daughter, Wife & Mechanical Engineer

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