Thursday, January 14, 2010

I am Ruchika

A letter to SPS Rathore
Dear Sir,

I have a story to share with you. Hope you’ll connect with it. If Mrs Rathore could also join you, even though she’s a busy lawyer, who must be diligently protecting human rights of innocent victims...
One man, with a comb sticking out of his back pocket, pushes his way into a blue line bus, whistling a number after watching a morning show at Rivoli -a famous cinema hall in Delhi- already aroused and ready for some real action. The conductor is constantly yelling ‘chalo chalo chalo’, gleefully stuffing in more people in an already jam-packed bus, that too from both its exits simultaneously. I doubt if he would mind using the emergency door to stuff in more ‘savaris.’
There seems nothing wrong with the intention of a bus conductor who stuffs his bus to make more money, especially when the whole world wants to make it at any cost, except that in this situation, i.e. in a bus bursting with people two times its capacity, it becomes particularly disadvantageous for women on board, as men find overcrowding as an excuse to fondle them and if someone resists, they simply look the other way, pretending someone else did the fondling. There would be many takers for such a scene unfolding, especially in a Delhi bus, where molesters do what they want to do and deny it, even to themselves in all probability. Very rarely do women take these miscreants to task for fear of being taken lightly.
When stuck in such a situation, I’ll tell you Sir what I do, hoping you’ll understand me, since you also have a daughter about my age. You’ll be proud of me when I tell you how I fight back a patriarchal/male-dominated system in my own small ways. I openly nag that fellow who misbehaves with me till he gets off the bus or at least changes his convenient position (of pleasure). Sometimes, others join me in public protest or for a ‘trial-in-a-bus’, whatever you may call it, and we settle our scores right there and then, together, using sheer 'public force.' There’s no question of hoping that any legal institution will ensure speedy justice in such cases, because in my personal view, we’ll probably die of natural causes till the time justice gets done, if at all i.e. and how many cases of molestation or sexual harassment can any of such institutions possibly solve, if you calculate number of instances per person? Probably that’s the reason why there’s high tolerance for sexual assault in our country, almost like it’s an acceptable part of our lives, a given which is cast in stone.
Today if you see, India's priorities lie in garnering NRI votes (and investments), increasing troops for national security on Indo-Pak border, suppressing internal ‘threats’ (naxalbaris) by force, then there’s an endlessly tweeting Tharoor, Amar Singh (and now his blog), COP 15 and so on. Sexual harassment/assault/violence pales as an issue in front of these other pertinent concerns that mainstream media generally overwhelms itself with. Even if legal institutions do take note of seriousness of sexual harassment/assault, however rarely, especially in terms of impact it leaves on victims, they can at best act as deterrent for others, but in any case, the harassed victim must take consistent initiative in his or her fight for justice, even if s/he is alone, with or without depending on institutions that dispense ‘justice’ based on subjective and often biased interpretation of law.
I know of many harassed girls, who have become severely depressed, some for years after getting molested, or committed suicide (like Ruchika) or worse, who continue breathing in their perfectly able bodies, but away from most social activities that involve men, lest something reminded them of their hurtful past, forcing them to relive horrible memories. And btw, that memory of abuse, especially childhood abuse, is etched on the heart Sir, and even a physical sample of the beating organ may not expose the painful scars in form of tangible evidence or ‘proof of hurt.’ It’s a feeling of complete violation of soul Sir, that leaves it fractured, and in most cases, for life.
But basically, the moral of this long and probably boring story, is also to share with you some good news, which is that I’m even with most men who have molested me after I grew up. So I not only know my rights but can also approach professionals to take care of me, probably much better than many other women my age. But how will I ever forgive those men, who molested me when I was a defenseless and trusting child? I see myself in Ruchika and can relate to her pain effortlessly.
Dear Sir, unfortunately, you remind me of all those sick, smiling, elderly men- uncles and bhaiyas- at market places, who are familiar faces or neighbours at informal get-togethers, your face sometimes resembling a handful of ‘educated’ college or office colleagues as well! That way, you’re not the only offender or culprit present in society, but unfortunately for you (or fortunately for us), you got caught and criticized publically for your anti-women and violence-driven attitude.
I am not interested in hearing details of the case, though much has already spilled out in public domain, simply because everyone has their own take on ‘truth.’ But my simple question to you Sir, with due respect, is the following: How could a little girl of your daughter’s age (they were both in the same class) turn you on? Mind you, I am making this contention after the Court convicted you for molesting a 14-year-old girl, which by implication means that on your part, you were sexually excited on seeing a child practising tennis on your lawn? This means you held her with dirty thoughts/feelings because your hormones impaired your judgment? You forgot you were a father of a girl too, President of Lawn Tennis Association, and most importantly, you were a custodian of law itself, with a khaki vardi in your cupboard that was even decorated by a medal that time? Shame.
Do you ever think what that molested girl would feel today, had she been alive? How her life would have transformed after that one encounter with you, about which she complained to her parents later. You ever sit down to think that, honestly? Let me inform you then Sir, since she's dead and I'm alive, that I am one of lakhs of adult Ruchikas, who work and continue to face the world today, who still go through molestation as we move in public spaces- roads, local markets, even temples(!), you name it.
Even today, a molester never asks a woman her name or educational qualification before imagining her naked, before he goes ahead and does something to her in an overcrowded bus for instance. All he cares about is that she appears defenseless and that’s enough to qualify her as an object-of-fun for him. Many times, they don't even care about seeing her face because that is not what is of interest to them. But mind you, this power is not his own, it's sanctioned by society because most men bond with the molester/harasser/rapist, 'forgiving' him for his frustrated actions, which is clearly reflected by poor conviction rate in courts of law that are also predominantly run by men.
So my appeal to all women (especially those who feel they are at the receiving end in an authoritative system) is that they should start resisting people who harass them, openly and fearlessly. That harasser could be anyone- a lover, colleague, teacher, friend or even a person you're married to. The only way harassment will fade away from your life is when you stop tolerating it.


  1. "The only way harassment will fade away from your life is when you stop tolerating it." - this one is a true gem and shud be used more widely to encourage all women to NOT tolerate, suffer silently, forgive n forget. I strongly believe that we women need to be more assertive and far less forgiving.

    One question I have always wanted to ask such people is that - Why don't women "accidentally touch" men in crowded buses? Why does it happen only with men? But nobody has an answer.

  2. Not only that, sometimes men also have the cheek to say "Jab aaise kapde pehnogi (jeans-tshirt)toh hum kaise na karen." It's the same blame-the-woman-for-exciting-us-out-of-our-senses logic, from KPS Gill to sadakchaap lofars.