Sunday, January 13, 2013

How Often Are You Violated?

A few days back, on a TV program related to the Delhi gang-rape, a young girl asked Mrs. Sheila Dixit why the young who protested and the politicians seem so different.
That reminded me of school days. I used to get caught for minor offences. Every time, I tried to explain my case to the teachers. They would nod and seem to understand but at the end of the day, I got punished. I could not protest. I used to ask that young girl’s question.
Why aren’t people with power to decide the course of my life like me?
I have grown old. I am not any wiser. Worse, I do not have the energy to protest even if I could. I am quite resigned to be a character in a Kafka story knowing that my case will go bad every time and that I will be punished, never knowing why I am getting violated or what the trial is all about.
Age has not given me wisdom but time has given to me evidence by way of experience. I have come across judges, lawyers, tax officials, politicians, doctors, teachers, employers and others who willfully screw up a person’s life. They could have done their job a little differently and well within the scope of their jobs and life would have been happier. When I am in a bad mood, I pray for the power to make these people who violated my life suffer. In those moments, if I could make them suffer they would pray for death. When I am in a good mood, I know that I am powerless. Yes, I share the young girl’s anger, too.
And, I ask that question: why aren’t people with power to hurt like me?
At times, people seem to understand my pain but I know that they don’t, that they can’t. That pain can’t be shared. That pain has to be suffered in silence, a silence that serves as a cocoon or a shroud. I am not sure which hurts more – the pain or the silence or the fact that that I am powerless to hit back. In fact, people are quite embarrassed to be with me.
I guess it must be the same with rape victims. People like to give me advice. The rape victims get a lot of advice, don’t they?
Men will be men, some idiots tell them. Even women tell them that. Some of those women are wives, mothers and sisters who will never raise a voice against their husbands, sons and brothers. They can’t, they will say. But the truth is that they just won’t. The wicked mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are after all not a figment of imagination. Mothers will compare daughters (‘my daughter does not wear noodle-straps or makeup’), trying to claim the moral high ground and ready to label the girls ‘asking for it’. The street-smart ones will tell the victims what they should have done to avoid such a situation. Activists are ready with stuff to blame, the bad West, the great Indian penis or whatever. Oh yes, victims get a lot of advice. Some victims are even told that they have no right to be called victim. Most people don’t believe them.
Most people don’t believe me either. I get a lot of similar advice.
‘You are paranoid,’ they say. After all, the system works for the majority. Isn’t that so? Or, does it work only for the privileged? If the system does not work for all, why are you surprised or angry if you get raped? Only a few unlucky, silent ones suffer. Have you been raped? How often have you been raped? Are there only a few unlucky, silent ones who suffer?
Will that young girl ask that question when she is a successful professional or a happy wife/ mother or a lucky fifty or sixty something who has never felt violated? Will she mature too fast? For how long will she be angry? Is her anger restricted to a few types of violation? When will she be angry about the other predators or will the years ahead kill the anger and her question?
Why aren’t people with power to violate like me? When will they feel scared to violate? Have you ever had to ask those questions?