Sunday, November 17, 2013

Of assumptions and assault

A satire depicting the causes of rapes in India
Photo Credit: Abhinav Bhatt

This post is a result of a series of sexist comments and an assault, all on a single day.

Since it is Karthika Pournami today (a Hindu, Jain and Sikh holy festival, celebrated on the full moon day or the fifteenth lunar day of November), one of my colleagues expected me to perform pooja at home. (Yes, I work on a Sunday too). Well, assumptions are fine. But, what followed was irksome. "Because you are a girl, you are supposed to do it," he said. Further, "You will get a good husband if you do it. Now, you don't stand a chance." Though his lines don't mean anything to me, they sure point to the way most (not all) men look at or think about women.
The second case was even more baffling. Walking to have dinner at the nearest eatery at around 8.30 pm, I encountered this man who slowed down his bike and called out to me loudly "darling.....daarlingg...". I ignored or rather chose not to look at him. (That's how Indian women generally pretend, to avoid such circumstances). He then brought his bike almost to a halt and grabbed my hand (before I could even realise it). I was shocked but at the same time, grabbed his hand with mine and eventually, he fell off his bike and had scratches all over his face. Though it gave me a sadistic pleasure to see him fall, people around me didn't quite help me, except for their judgmental gaze. Those gazes were full of "what is she doing here at this time?" "Why is she out?" "Doesn't she have a home somewhere?". And, not surprisingly, all those were men and some who I knew. Hyderabad is a safe city. I've grown up here all my life and walked home at 2am too. But, this was different. Why this barbaric mindset or view about women that it is their flesh that men want? Why not have a humane side and respect her as another human being?

I do know all men aren't like this and that men have been bearing the brunt of all the negative news coming their way in the wake of rape incidents. But the fact that it took a Nirbhaya incident to wake up a lot of people, however, remains true. But, why should someone die (after being raped so brutally) in this country for one to figure out that one needs to be a human? Have we stooped that low?

We still have quotes/ captions/ banners at anti-rape protests or elsewhere (pointing at the mother): "Teach your son about consent." Why can't that be told to a father too? Do we realise that the period the mother was raised was also a patriarchal one or rather a masochist/chauvinistic one? So, the mother, in this case, would obviously inculcate what she was taught during her time. And, why do we see parenting as something connected only with the mothers? Isn't it a father's responsibility too?  (The case of a single mother/father is totally different though).

It is notions like these that still make sexist opinions prevail. Things are no different even in our daily lives. It is time we let go of such opinions and stop being a country full of hypocrites. 


Srinidhi said...

I completely understand your irritation and a compulsion that drove you to vocalise this so honestly.
I just have one contestation however. It is just I have experienced harassment and assault in Hyderabad on numerous occasions prior to Dec 16th. I do agree though that it has gotten worse now. there is a climate of fear for us and a culture of impunity for them. I struggle with the ideas of where do we draw the lines between protection and safety more than ever.
We are all part of this mess. The bystanders that don't support women during an assault, the onlookers that believe it was a women's fault and finally the ones committing the crime itself.

I would like to be confident and say: Next time I see a woman in distress, I will help her. Even if it means just standing next to her. Till it comes down to that, I hardly think women will be able to do what you did. Resist and protest, publicly.

Just what came to mind when I read. :)


Can this be over ? A boy/man comes out of his place- all over, the film posters are on display, carrying pictures of women in all sorts of compromised postures and dresses. It is difficult to watch a commercial movie without violence and sex. Theses two are absolutely necessary spices for a movie to be a hit ! The so-called value-torch-bearers of our society canard unending advices to the women to be nothing less than a Sati,Sabitri with India's traditional dress code but never utter a word against the activities going on in the name of entertainment ! Business interests are intertwined with this silence in rotting capitalism.

Hence my question- can this be over ? Unless......

Good, straightforward expression, it is, as expected from Teju.

Basu uncle

Tejaswini Pagadala said...


Agree with you babe on the groping. But, I always wonder about why it is so hard to just support another person looking for help? Why does the feeling or the need to help someone become a big deal? Why don't people get that? I still wonder. I wish this ends soon.

Tejaswini Pagadala said...

Basu Uncle, Everything and everyone contributes to this. Unfortunately, like they say, it all has to begin with us or at home. Until, everyone has that on their minds, the society will rot and we will have more people roaming around on the streets, either trying to pull a girl towards him or just living with the thought of taking her for granted.