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“You go willingly to a strange place with a boy and then cry that you have been raped? Huh?” the man behind the desk asked. “What did you expect? You went there looking for sex, right?”
2019 is the year in which our beloved writing contest, Muse of the Month gets bigger and better (find out how here) and also takes the cue from the words of women who inspire with their poetry. The writing cue for January 2019 is these lines from the inspiring African-American writer Maya Angelou, taken from her poem, Phenomenal Woman.
“Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed”
The first winner of our January 2019 Muse of the Month contest is Meenakshi Iyer.
Her cheek was still stinging. She kept running her tongue over her teeth where he had aimed first.
She parked her scooter next to the many motorcycles parked outside the police station and walked towards the door. Her friends’ voices continued to play in her head on repeat.
“You’ll only humiliate yourself and your family.”
“There are other ways to deal with this!”
“You know the law will never take your side, you know how it is for women!”
“Are you doing this for revenge? Do you want him to apologize? Is that it?”
She entered and walked to the desk that held a cop, “I need to file a complaint.”
He glanced up and raised his head, gaze lingering on her right cheek, bruised lip, and asked, “Husband?”
She shook her head and clarified “Boyfriend.”
He sniffed, the immediate judgment shining through in his gaze as it now swept down her black tank top, faded, ripped blue jeans, till her ankle-length black motorcycle boots, and made its way up again, resting briefly on her thighs and breasts.
“Kadam, get the FIR file”, he ordered loudly to someone in the room, while he asked me, “You’re sure you want to do this? You can just give me the boy’s number and I’ll call him, give him the scare of his life. He won’t hit you again.”
“I don’t want to complain about him hitting me. I am here to charge him for raping me.”
His eyes grew flat then, and he sat back, looked her up and down again, and bit out, “Sit. Tell me what happened.”
“I was in Karjat with my boyfriend for the weekend, we had booked a villa. We drove there yesterday morning and returned today afternoon. Yesterday night, we ordered dinner and had a few drinks. He started making moves and I wasn’t in the mood. We were arguing during the drive and I was still a little pissed. I said no, and he didn’t listen. He tried to be charming, kept nuzzling me, throwing his arm around me but I left for bed. He didn’t join me right away and continued to drink. I don’t know when he got back but I remember waking up to him pulling down my shorts and I kicked him once and said I don’t want to. He didn’t listen and then when I pushed up from bed to shove him, he held me down by my shoulders and…”
She stopped talking when a man, she assumed was Kadam, placed a large, dusty and worn file on the desk.
She looked for his name on his desk before she answered. “Inspector Lokahnde… I went to a place that is frequented by many people from the city with my boyfriend. He wasn’t a stranger or some random man I picked up from the street.”
“Good girls don’t have boyfriends. Your parents know you have a boyfriend?”
“They didn’t. And you may consider me a bad girl for being in a relationship, but that does not allow him to rape me. That doesn’t allow anyone to rape me.”
“What rape, rape you’re ranting? You had sex and now you’re calling it rape. Look at the way you dress. Who forced you to go with him? Did someone?”
“No…” she started, but he interrupted her.
“Who told you to go alone? You could not have gone with friends? You could have taken another girl with you, right?” he asked, throwing questions at her rapidly.
“It was supposed to be a weekend for us, for us to spend time together.”
“And what were you going to do together?” he asked, nodding his head, and raised his eyebrows. “Have sex, right? Have you had sex before?”
“Yes”, she said quietly.
“Yes, see! This is point. You have sex, must have kissed as well, hugged in public, done all that, and now you come here and want to file for rape. What happened, you found someone else? Richer, better looking? He said something you didn’t like?” he asked, mockingly.
She swallowed and bent her head, looked at her hands clasped tightly, placed on her knees. She thought against asking for a glass of water and swallowed again to moisten her throat. She looked up at the scorn etched so tightly on his face and said, “I have kissed him. I have had sex with him. I have had sex with another man too, before him. I have kissed 4 men in my life. I hug all my friends in public, male and female, when I meet them or I’m saying goodbye. And I have done all of that willingly. He did something against my willingness. I said no, countless times, again and again and he refused to listen.”
“Girls like you first entice the boy and then you refuse. What do you expect?”
“If I wear jewellery and walk out of my house and get mugged, will you blame me as well? If I’m crossing the road and get hit by a car, are you going to let that pass?”
“Listen girl, don’t sit there and talk to me about crime, okay? I know my job. And I also know when a girl is asking for it. You discard our culture and morals, dress like a slut, have relationships with multiple boys and then come crying to us when things don’t go your way.”
She took a deep breath and clenched her teeth hard. She had anticipated this. She was prepared for the probes on her character and choices, given the gaping difference in perspectives that existed in society.
But she wasn’t ready for how much it hurt; how much his words and derision broke her resolve of doing this and how much she wanted to give in and cave to the safety of staying quiet. But she couldn’t, no wouldn’t give in so easily, so she continued.
“I hold a Masters in Biochemistry and work for an American research company. I earn well and manage the expenses of my house, because my mother never worked and my Dad fell ill 5 years back and couldn’t manage his business anymore. I made sure my younger sister finishes college, and helped her out with a student loan so she is now in USA pursuing her MBA. I got good grades in school and college, had my first drink when I was 24, tried smoking once and didn’t like it so never picked it up. I don’t come from money and I have worked very hard to get where I am today. I met my first boyfriend in college, and was with him for 3 years. We didn’t do anything people in relationships do not do. You also know that sex before marriage is not a crime, so don’t charge me for it. Yes, I have had a physical relationship with this man, and that is also not a crime. Our society may not condone my actions but I am not looking for your acceptance or approval. What I have done is not a crime. It is not an offense. It is not punishable. So you cannot make me pay for it. I am allowed to, and hold the right to do what I want with my body, with any person that I choose, as long as I have given consent. And yesterday I did not give it. I said no. I refused. He should have stopped. You know he should have stopped. And that…what he did, him not stopping, is the crime. Not my dress, not my decision to go there with him, not my desire to have a boyfriend. He did the crime so please, I am requesting you to stop punishing me and help me punish him.”
She didn’t know when the tears had started rolling down her cheeks, but they fell now, furious and hot. She pulled in air, brokenly, and looked Inspector Lokhande in the eye, “You may think I’m a slut. You may think I deserved it. I don’t care what you think because nothing I say will change it. But he did something wrong and he deserves to pay for it. He committed a crime. He didn’t have sex with me. He raped me. Raped. I will keep saying it because it is the truth. He raped me. He committed a crime.”
She paused and choked out, “So, will you do your job, or not?”
There was a strange silence in the room. She didn’t know when the others in the station had started paying attention to them, but her sole focus was on the man in front of her; moustached, plump, dark skinned and now quiet. He didn’t hold a look of contempt anymore, but neither did he seem moved. He looked strained and looked away, before he threw open the binder in front of him.
He frowned and sniffed again, clicked open his pen and raised it above a blank FIR form, before he snapped, “Name?”
She rode back home with relief washing down her body, cool and soothing. She hadn’t expected the procedure to go through. She was still amazed that Inspector Lokhande had filled out the entire form and taken her signature. Her sense of relief did not stem from any misguided anticipation that her ex-boyfriend would pay for his crime, because she knew her case would get lost somewhere in the murky land of criminal proceedings.
Her solace was in the fact that she had not surrendered – to the misgivings, doubts and fears of others and hers as well. She had stood up for herself and took pride that she had not left that station disappointed and wounded. She had not left that station a victim.
As she neared home her eyes grew misty and the roiling in her gut renewed. She now had to return to her family again; her mother who would still be sobbing, and her father who would regret raising his hand on his daughter. She had to go back and swathe herself in their anger, disappointment and shame.
The battle had not been won. She had been wounded by man and men. But she had not lost. So she parked by scooter, pulled off her helmet and climbed up the stairs to go home.
Meenakshi Iyer wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: a still from the movie Angry Indian Goddesses
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Meenakshi Iyer is known to put the "fun" in dysfunction.
Writer, poet, avid reader she
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