Berlin, March 11, 2013
Today I’m sitting down to put down some thoughts and writing that have brewed for the past few months.
I was here in Berlin last December when news of the gang-rape of a young woman came in. I returned to Bangalore on the 22nd and for the next twelve days was glued to the internet. (I don’t have a television). I sat at my dining table reading, listening, talking and thinking about how I started my career 17 years before . I didn’t know at the time that this was the start of my career – I just thought it was an internship at ‘violence intervention centre’ called Sakshi.
I was lightheaded from the awareness that all kinds of everyday people were talking about rape, and with great enthusiasm, at dinner parties, in their living rooms: my parents, their friends, my friends’ parents. There was the horror of the brutality of the incident: speech trailed off after the mention of ‘iron rods’, everyone silently doing a mapping that was too awful to say aloud.
There was the routine head-shaking about North Indian male culture; I could feel myself cringing at the measuring of the general against the particular. There was always that aunty who said that’s why I sent my daughter to Bombay to study.
There was the spectacle of the protests unfolding on television screens, and the even more spectacular bumbling of the government. There was the bland, trite parsing of intricate social and cultural dynamics on TV news shows and everyone who watched these shows believed they had something more grave, incisive or apt say.
Personally, I didn’t know what to make of what was going on or how to engage with it. Was it real? Far away from the epicentre it was hard to tell. Was this just a mob gone mad? The mob appeared to me the most conservative of all; the ones who believed only capital punishment could equal the death of honour through rape. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that rape had galvanised so much of Delhi across gender and class lines. The noise of change rattling around waiting to amount to something.