“are you an Indian or a Pakistani?”
I looked up from the magazine I was leafing through sitting in Colombo airport waiting for my flight to London; not surprised by the question (I have heard it many times & not bothered to keep a count!); with a half-smile and a hint of pride in my voice I replied, “Indian”.
“It’s terrible ...what happened in your country! ...but I am sure there will be tougher laws now.”
He got my attention alright...a blonde with deep blue eyes wearing some illegibly scribbled print of a sweat-shirt...doesn’t appear to be the type who would take interest in India. I replied with a vague yeah, still wondering how he is tuned so much into us. As I reached England, I gathered that for days this has been in Top 10 featured news in BBC UK, and almost every casual acquaintance that I made mentioned it if the subject of India came through.
So much attention is disturbing especially because the focus is on something that I am ashamed about. The criticism mostly centred on the men, and how patriarchal the Indian society is. Human mind is weird; what I can criticise day in & day out rang bitterly in my ears when it came from outsiders, after all these men belonged to my land too, and it’s sad that I can’t even defend them. My thoughts then turned beyond the blame-game...is it just the men only to blame; don’t we women play a part too? Yes, we do...after all these acts of rape, bride-burning, female infanticide, dowry...they are not just mere acts but a thought process...a thought process that we women have nurtured, accepted for thousands of years!
There are umpteen examples in our mythology, but I wouldn’t get into those; let’s just stick to the contemporary times. The men who indulge into such acts don’t arrive from Mars! They belong to the households and families that we all women are a part of. So we do see such train of thoughts around us in our everyday life, and these thoughts are inherent behind any heinous acts. I agree it is a little difficult to accept and admit, but it is the father, brother, uncle, cousin, husband, boy-friend, neighbour, a fellow-commuter, an office-colleague who does harbour chauvinist feelings & thoughts; and when these thoughts become extreme, they turn into a brutal act. Why don’t we women protest when a male in our vicinity expresses some regressive thought that hinders the equality and respect towards women? I know it is easier said than done...it’s a severely patriarchal society, but only by seriously protesting & standing up to an issue, a change can be brought. I am not saying that all of us women should turn into an overnight rebel, but one needs to stand up when experiencing dishonour towards own self or womankind in general....strongly refusing to accept is the first step to any kind of change. We need to be vociferous when we see dowry given & accepted in our own families even though you may rub a few people wrong way....one would be surprised to know that a woman in the form of Mother-in-law or an elderly aunt are often as guilty as the men!
A quick tale – In a crowded street of a famous city, this girl was walking with her husband and a few other friends. She drifted a few feet away from the crowd, when three drunken men landed on her, mouthing obscenities and trying to grab her. Her husband saw it from a distance and scowled but didn’t really do much. She dodged and saved herself from those three hoodlums on her own. Her husband screamed at her later, ‘why can’t you stay close while walking?’ Yes, an MBA working with a foreign MNC, he saw her fault & not that of those rogues who troubled her. He failed to notice that those drunks had screamed obscenities or had tried to grab her. She is a woman with a mind of her own; she stood up to him & said, ‘all your protests for the 23-year old, a victim of lust, greed & frustration is limited to Facebook only...inside you are as terrible as any of them!’ The husband went quiet ...protest dear ladies, protest when you see any inequality meted out against your clan, even if it is it against your own people...change has to start from within your own threshold!