I remember having a conversation with my mother a few months ago about women's safety when I had quite proudly made the statement that this is probably the best time for women to be working. If technology has empowered any section or class of people the most, it definitely has to be us, the working women of the cities. We no longer have to depend on our brothers to get our phones recharged, or hail a cab or travel to our workplaces thanks to safe metro rides.
I feel a sudden loss which has shaken the very foundation of my understanding of good people and bad people. I don't know whom I should trust.
And then 31/12 happened in Bangalore. And for me, it is comparable to 9/11 and 26/11 because I am in a state of shock and panic. Honestly, I am not shocked by the responses of the administration or the political class. But I feel a sudden loss which has shaken the very foundation of my understanding of good people and bad people. I don't know whom I should trust. Till now, like many others, I had thought that it is a certain set of people who have a certain kind of criminal mindset who take pleasure in assaulting, molesting or raping women. Now, I am not so sure whether I can clearly delineate this group of people. I had wrongly assumed that people who went to schools or colleges and studied moral science, history and civics like me are not disposed to behave in such perverted ways.
It is also shocking because it happened in the year which gave us powerful women-centric movies such as Pink and Parched. Quite interestingly, Pink was also a commercial success. It was groundbreaking and worthy of all the accolades that it received. But the movie's resolution was nowhere close to what we are used to in our everyday life. Aanchal Arora's experience of watching a film like Pink in a theatre in Allahabad where, "if the men who molested the girls in the movie said, 'We need to teach these girls a lesson,' the audience in the theatre would go, "Haan bey, behen***d kuch zyaada udti hai ladkiyan aajkal (Oh yeah sister---r, girls these days are losing sight of their limits)'" is very close to reality as we know it.
One is forced to acknowledge that the first three waves of feminism have failed and so will the fourth one...
This is the state of affairs in tier-2 and -3 cities according to her, where men or boys "do not have the mental acumen to engage with such movies" but how do you explain 31/12 that happened in Bangalore which was still a tier-1 city the last time I checked. I know people, men and women, for whom the men who molested the girls in the movie were bad but the girls were not "sharif" either. We, as a society, failed the movie when we judged Taapsee Pannu's character, an independent woman who indulged in premarital sex, led an independent life, stayed away from her parents, befriended strangers and drank with them in an unfamiliar place despite the movie arguing otherwise.
I don't know who is to be blamed. Are we even right in blaming the lack of security arrangements or should we lay the blame on the tattered moral fabric of society? When did things reach such a deplorable state? I had happily assumed that the fourth wave of feminism had already begun on social media where everyone felt obliged to like, comment and react on posts calling for women's equality. But obviously, I couldn't be more deluded! When Anushka was being blamed for Virat Kohli's bad batting performance or when vocal women are threatened with rape and assault every day on the same social media platforms and WhatsApp groups, one is forced to acknowledge that the first three waves of feminism have failed and so will the fourth one.
There is no word or expression that can ever capture the humiliation of being groped and grabbed, or console the victims. And so I have often wondered whether the power of a story, a hard-hitting verse and a thought-provoking article or slogan can really change people's minds and hearts. 31/12 has put all my doubts to rest. No amount of sloganeering or writing feminist tweets or changing your display picture on Facebook will change anything. Simply showing solidarity will not help this time. But the irony is that this is the most we are ready to do: write an article, publish our opinion, tweet and post something and wait for likes and retweets. But then, what else could we do when it seems that anyone who has the chance or knows that he can get away with it, is probably a potential rapist?