Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Glass Cage They Built for Us


Mumbai is a city I have spent the best part of my journalism career in.. I have written about Mumbai a million times in my blog...ok, a million is an exaggeration, but I have written about my love affair with the city innumerable times. When I shifted homes, from Mumbai to Delhi, I stopped blogging. It was like Delhi had parched my imagination and the need to write. Well, I guess I am taking literary freedom again.

Blaming a city and stereotyping it appears to be a favourite Indian passtime. So while Mumbai is lovely, Delhi is notorious. Mumbai fosters imagination, Delhi kills it. In Mumbai, my blog flourished because love flowed through words, while in Delhi, the posts have dried up.

I dust out the cobwebs away from this rarely used blog now to write in anguish... when something heinous as a gang-rape is reported and that too against a fellow journalist, it feels more personal. The first thought that went through my head is, It could have been me.. I have been in several situations myself. It was my fortune that I do not have to write this as a rape survivor. 

The truth is whether you are an urban woman or someone who has lived largely in rural areas, our freedom remains more or less circumscribed by our families. If your family believes you must be given the same opportunities as the boys, then you get it. Else, you merely appear to be the director of your life, in fact you are nothing but a mere proxy in it. Your wishes are meant to be countermanded, that is, if you have been taught or have learnt to wish for things. Choice remains a luxury for most that some among us (lucky ones) now take for granted. 

I have thought long and hard about why rape is perceived as the ultimate humiliation and the biggest dishonour that can befall a woman. 

1. Is  it because a woman is in fact another property of the family (not just a man). So vandalising her is akin to mauling at a family's wealth? 
2. How does forced intercourse 'de-file' her purity - what is the yardstick for female purity? 
3. In a society obsessed covertly with all forms of sex and sexual innuendo, why is it difficult to believe that aggressive male behaviour will never be restricted to slapping and beating up and not sexual violence? 
4. Why does a rape survivor have to bear the stigma of being defiled for her life while her rapists are at most treated like criminals and let off with a jail sentence? 

I do not believe that till the time our country is mature enough to realise that a woman is more than a beautiful face to yearn for or bounteous breasts to lust after or pinch or a shapely butt to surreptiously fondle or leer at, there will be little respite. 

As a journalist, I have been jeered, mauled, commented at and even stalked. I have however thought of these as merely nuisance and hazards of the job. It might be a negative end to this post, but I seriously believe that our generation might never enjoy the fruits of man-woman equality or learn to take individual freedom and choice for granted. But we can teach our future generations - inculcate in them the need to be better human beings, respect the other sex and not think of them as inferior or to be subservient and at their beck and call. It might take a few generations for India, but our country needs us to reform our generations. The day women decide to empower their girls not to take male aggression lying down and speak out and set deterrants, rapes, domestic violence and harassment will continue unabated. 

I usually don't find it easy to express myself through poems, but I wrote this one after the Mumbai rape case was reported. 

The Glass Cage

Build me a glass cage,
Scour the world to make it beautiful,
Carpets of fur, pillows of feather, clothes of satin,
Make me pretty and vain,
Oh and secure too,
Here's the gold lock with rubies studded. 

Build me a glass cage,
So you see me but can't touch,
 They say the roof can't be open to the skies,
Lest the birds swoop to wound with their claws,
The air could be poisoned,
So secure me in vacuum.

Build me a glass cage,
Confiscate the stones,
Build a bigger cage and another one.
Let my voice be drowned,
Let my wishes be damned,
I'm too pretty to be free,
Too precious to be left open,

May I make a plea?
If the cage is big enough, can She come in too?
We breed in agony,
We can wail together too..
Build Us a glass cage,
We know not how to want any more.