We had just negotiated the Jaipur bypass when my 11-year-old said “So what is so different about this rape that it has brought the capital to a standstill?”
The drive from Ajmer is a lazy and monotonous and by the time we were half way through missus had already started snoring. Nudged her, she didn’t respond. Difficult time. I will have to do the answering. Nudged her again. Still no response. Looked for a pothole, which could wake her up and end my misery. Nothing. Bloody good road.
“Okay, so what do you know about a rape?” I wanted some time to think before I could respond.
“Not much. It is something very violent done to a woman.”
“Sort of yes, but the violence comes with violation as a package here. What if some strangers stripped you?” I wanted him to think and allow me some more time.
“Feel humiliated. Very humiliated.” I wasn’t allowed any time.
“Okay, and what if they… you know… did something to your…. I mean… private parts?”
“I will kick them. This is very humiliating. Disgusting. I can’t even imagine someone could do this.”
“Yes, beta. It is the most sinful, dreadful thing that anyone could do. And that is what these 5-6 guys did to this girl. And in the most gruesome, brutal way. And kick she did and bit them too and that is what made these guys so mad. Or so they claim.”
“So what should be done to these guys? Should they be hanged?” Apparently he had read the front pages of TOI more than the Sports columns these days.
“We will come to that part later. We should understand why such a heinous crime happens in the first place.” I was preparing myself for a long haul. “For long we, the menfolk, have tried to prove that women are the weaker ones. Do you know how much pain your ma went through to give birth to you? Try bending your finger backwards and touching the back of the palm.”
“Papa, that’s not possible.”
“But your ma did make it possible. Not once but twice.” I looked back. The 5-year-old had his gaze firmly fixed at the Aravallis. Except for Aao twist karein from Bhoot Bangla playing on the car radio there was nothing of interest for him inside the car. “So, then, who is stronger?”
“Mamma, of course.” Kids have this remarkable knack of un-complicating even the most complicated things. This one was a no brainer.
“Still there are people who think women are weak and when they can’t prove this by any proper means they use their muscle power to subjugate them and take pride in this false sense of achievement. Something that these guys also claim. How could a weak woman retaliate? How could someone challenge their false manhood?”
“Okay, if women are so strong, why don’t they retaliate?” He had a point.
“Maybe because they have been brought up like that, thinking that they are in some way inferior to men. Maybe they do not know what they are capable of. Maybe they have more civility, more decency left in them, which stops them from hitting back. I am not sure. Maybe mamma could answer that better.” But mamma was still oblivious of the efforts of her profusely sweating husband trying to explain a thing or two to her first born.
“Papa that reminds me of the Hanuman ji wali story where he had to be reminded of his capabilities before he took that leap. But he was living a curse. Who cursed the women?”
“We did. First as fathers, then as brothers and later still as friends and husbands. We kept on telling them that they were the weaker people and that a good girl sits back and accepts all the violence and insults. Somehow, the centuries of brainwashing has helped us. We have now ensured that they stay subjugated.”
“Yup, it is. And now it is for this generation to remind them what they are capable of. Imagine what we could achieve if the women came out and used their talent to the full.”
“But, how do we stop such crimes from happening again?”
“I don’t have a foolproof solution but unless the women are empowered, unless they are treated as equals such crimes will continue unabated. It is for us to understand that there is no difference between a girl and a boy, a man and a woman, rich and poor. Compassion for all. Respect for all. I guess that should be a good starting point. I know beta, you are too young to be fussing over such issues but this has to start with you. Your friends. Your generation. You have to set our wrong right. There is no space for violence in any relationship and even outside of a relationship. Frankly human race and violence cannot co-exist and if they do, this is what we are going to get. The choice is for us to make. ”
Even I made a choice that day. I chose to respond to my son. At least 5 fathers, some not in the very distant past, had once chosen not to respond when their sons asked them why rape was such a big deal. Worse still if the response was a violent slap for uttering the R word.
About the Author: Samir Sahai is an engineering graduate from Birla Institute of Technology, Jharkhand, Ranchi, batch of 1993. He is currently working at Indian Oil. He wrote this post in December 2012 during the “Nirbhaya” agitation in Delhi.