Remembering December 16 2012

Gangrenous intestines. An iron rod.  Gangraped by seven men as her helpless companion looks on and is treated mercilessly. These brutal images have been on the nation’s mind ever since the news broke out.
The girl is 23 years old. Exactly my age and battling for life.
 Like many others from Calcutta, I too, am a young professional who has moved to the nation’s Capital to pursue my dreams. 
This is not the first instance of me living away from home, but this is definitely a city that makes me scared. Scared for my own life. For my own peace of mind. For the dignity and sanity of those around me.
During my first week in Delhi, a broker who was showing apartments to me said that women in this city were raped because they failed to dress ‘decently.’ My mother and I were so disgusted that we decided to approach other brokers instead.
“Are you sure?” my parents said to me, the night before I moved to Delhi “Are you sure you want to move to Delhi? You could just stay here, you know. I don’t feel comfortable knowing that my daughter will live all alone in a city known to be barbaric in its treatment of women.”
I understood my parents' concerns. He was speaking from the vantage point of thousands of parents whose children had moved out of the city, looking for better lives and better career opportunities. As a policy researcher, the Capital of the country provides opportunities to me unparalleled in other parts. Sadly, I cannot say the same thing about the safety of its women and the indignities meted out to them on a daily basis.
The rape of this young woman is symptomatic of a much larger systemic problem. Rape is not an isolated incident. It has never been. During every riot in history, women’s bodies have been used in order to assert power. The problem lies in the attitude- in the thought process. If women are objectified and thought of as property or pawn, this will keep happening. Is it so difficult to imagine or fathom that women are self-actualized human beings- capable of thinking, capable of being independent and being able to make their own decisions?
While walking towards an auto the other day, a young boy walked up to me and said “hello! Hello, how do you do?” I glared at him and looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t talk to me like this.” The boy was dumbfounded and scarpered off. The incident happened in broad daylight, but if I am perfectly honest I do not know if I would have the courage to speak my mind in a city that is known to be trigger-happy.
Only recently, a seventeen year old school girl was shot by a man because she told him not to urinate on the walls of the streets. My first thought when I want to protest is, “What if the person has a gun? What shall I do then?”
We talk of improving legislations; we talk of awareness and safety. I carry a pepper spray in my bag at all times. Even if is very late at night, I always have friends accompanying me to drop me home. We are cautious; we take the necessary precautions. All we really want is to live our lives, to have the freedom to be- to debate, to discuss, to not be harangued every time we step out of our houses.
 Clearly those are freedoms that are too much to ask for.

 [ This is a piece I wrote two years ago, almost immediately after the rape incident.It is a first person narrative account.]