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How To Be A Cultured Indian Woman (Please Don't Mind The Rape)

‘I welcome you to the India of 2017, and I will be your guide…’

09/01/2017 1:21 PM IST | Updated 09/01/2017 3:11 PM IST
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Every girl in India gets raped—in an everyday ass-grabbing way, or in a bus by multiple men. If anyone is shocked by the New Year's Eve incident in Bengaluru or the reactions to it, they must have been living under a rock until now. Come on. We know our country better than this. We know the prevailing patriarchal mindset, we know the rampant sexism, we know the incident-outrage cycles—we are used to this. And we move on like everything is okay, and here's where I refuse to move on. Sorry. Not going to happen. I am either going to defeat patriarchy or die trying—and it helps that I'm not alone. What doesn't help is #NotAllMen, and tips and tricks to avoid getting raped—please stop already.

Sehenshakti—the glorified ability of an Indian woman to be a beautiful doormat...

In case anybody still has a doubt, let me put it out there—it's not easy being a woman in a patriarchal culture. Some women choose to use these difficulties to just play victim, to glorify how much suffering women deal with and how that should be acknowledged and respected. Some women would rather work on eradicating these difficulties, and I am one of them. Since I am aware that there is no Nobel Prize for Being Miserable, I just try my best to be firm about what my rights are, and make sure I get them. So in my own individual life, I feel like I haven't had it all as easily as men do, but I've had it (almost) all nevertheless—and I'm doing fine, relatively.

But then I went ahead and made a documentary film on crimes against women in Delhi/NCR and things have never been the same. I met a number of social activists, Supreme Court advocates, police officials and victims in the course of filming it, and I let everything shock me. I have cried for more victims than I have been able to keep count of. It's been over three years, and I haven't moved on. But also, it's been over three years, and nothing has changed. Heck, I haven't even been able to convince all the members of my own family that women deserve the same rights as men—and it's frustrating, and when I can't do anything else, when I am rendered helpless, I write, and for once, I really hope that my pen turns out to be mighty enough.

***

New year, same old me,

and the same old misogyny.

Welcome to the India of 2017.

I am an Indian woman...

I would say "also known as"

but we all know that I am "only known as"

a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother,

and I welcome you to the India of 2017,

where, while on one hand,

people worship goddesses,

on the other hand,

pepper spray.

I welcome you to the India of 2017,

and I will be your guide,

but please come only if you can respect our culture,

in which we protect our religions and our traditions full-time

and rape some women on the side.

Welcome to the streets—

there are traffic jams and potholes,

stares, whistles and cat-calls.

We could get ourselves watched

in the rear view mirror of a cab,

or we could take a ride on the public bus—

and if we're lucky we get away with just a quick grab.

I'm sure you've seen our movies do it better,

but I'll take you to our colleges anyway,

which are the best places IRL to witness

sexism so casual you could wear it on Fridays.

Welcome to our parties,

you'll bet they are insane!

But hey, don't wear that dress,

don't you dare get a drink,

because then when you get raped,

who's even to blame!

Welcome to our homes,

where we're taught everything we need to know—

oh no, not self-defence or anything empowering like that—

you must be mad!

It's just the clothes we can and cannot wear,

and the places we can and cannot go.

Welcome to the India of 2017—

would you care for a cup of tea while we watch the news?

We're starting the year with mass-molestation,

and some statements on the matter

that'll tell you more about our patriarchal views.

Given that we're still not done with tea,

why not learn a lesson or two in patriarchy

that almost all of us are taught at home to some degree...

You know, about how you can study, maybe even work,

but never forget that your ultimate goal is to marry.

You know, about how cultured Indian women

are those who can suffer in silence,

deal quietly with some everyday emotional abuse,

and just handle a little domestic violence—

you know, because obviously,

"sehenshakti" over all that self-respecting nonsense.

Sehenshakti—the glorified ability of an Indian woman

to be a beautiful doormat

and let everyone walk all over her

and still complain that she'd be comfortable to walk on

if only she were a little less firm, a little more flat.

It is high time for you to learn

that it is for the men to work and earn,

and you must devote your life to serve them—

so if you have accidentally inculcated

any personal ambitions of your own

like only men should,

let it be known—

that is very uncultured and selfish of you,

and you should be ashamed—

you've gone too wild,

and you must be tamed.

But isn't our Indian culture beautiful—

no wonder we take so much pride in it,

because every time the world talks of women's rights,

our "culture" comes with all its glorious layers

and lets us hide in it.

What do you mean you've had enough?

The tour isn't quite over yet,

do give me more time,

because when it comes to going against women,

India boasts an amazing variety of crimes.

Before we're born to the day we die—

threats never stop to loom.

Because is patriarchy even patriarchy if we aren't completely doomed?

And are men even men if they stop at just cat-calls?

Foeticides, infanticides, child marriages, dowry deaths,

acid attacks, honour killings, marital rape—we have it all.

In my India of 2017,

we sometimes fight the oddest of fights

between women who denounce feminism,

and men who fight for women's rights...

So no, we don't need you to make

#NotAllMen trend on Twitter,

but unfortunately we have to tell you

that #YesAllWomen are unsafe here.

For those of you,

who are either ignorant and blissful,

or choose to live in a bubble,

it could be a "happy new year,"

but for us, it's just another day,

it's just another struggle,

yet another fight that we fight for our rights

even though we're outnumbered,

against all the wrongs

that are made to seem so noble

because hey, that's our culture, remember?

And we are the rebellious, filthy lot of women,

who dare to expect to be treated like equal human beings

in the India of 2017.

New year, same old me,

still waiting to see the end of patriarchy.

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