I didn’t know her. She was born after I left my hometown. But I knew her dad, her uncles, her cousins and everyone else in her family. I never saw her that is until I saw her pictures all over my Facebook feed: pictures of a dead girl, raped and tortured, left to die in a jungle.Her body was in the jungle for five days and no one found her… neither humans nor animals in the jungle. And that picture is engrossed in my mind since that day.
I was in the same town when I was seven: that was seventeen years ago. Seventeen…the number of years she would have lived to be my age but she didn’t. Instead, she was brutally murdered. I have no intention of glorifying the death of a little kid. All I want to do is to get these feelings out of my mind. I don’t want to imagine the seven year old me going through everything she did.
What is it that make humans turn into monsters? How psychopaths who rape kids, people who molest girls on roads, uncles who sexually harass little kids stay amongst us yet manage to hide their intentions? How do we tolerate such things? Do we think that it could never happen to us? At least I thought so, until this time. Yes, I do get affected every time I read about a rape, I discuss it with other people, I curse the criminals, talk about the inefficiency of police in our country, and in another two- four days I forget about it, until the cycle starts again with a new case. But it isn’t the same this time. Is it because she was someone I knew? Is it because I never thought that such a thing could happen in my small, peaceful town? Was I thinking that Uttarakhand being devbhoomi ( the land of the Gods) is above these things? Well, I guess I was wrong.
If there is something that is above everything, it is evil. Sexual crimes exist every where, whether you are roaming alone in a dark street or you are inside your house. Any person, regardless of his/her age, class, caste or nationality could be a molester, a psychopath. You need not be wearing a short dress to invite unwanted attention, even 7 year olds get raped. I can never understand what goes inside the mind of a molester, what makes them do what they do? Why is it that evil prevails over sanity? I don’t know if anyone could ever answer these questions for me but I know that time and again I’ll be forced to ask these questions. And every time I’ll hear about a new case, the pictures of this girl will cross my mind taking me to the small town where I once lived safely.
A girl aged 11, on her way to attend her cousin’s wedding, sat next to the driver in an overcrowded jeep. The driver drove the jeep with his right hand while keeping the left one on her thighs. She felt uneasy but didn’t know what was wrong. It was only when she grew up she realized what he did and she hated herself for letting that happen, for not raising her voice. Memories of that day still haunt her.
She turned 18, and was on her way to college in a bus, when a man nearly in his fifties, sat next to her and started asking her about the city. She politely answered his questions. But after few minutes, the same man kept his hand on her thighs. Memories of the jeep driver came seeping into her mind. She was scared, while he kept touching her. In a low voice she asked him to take his hand away but he didn’t A lady standing nearby saw him and asked him to vacate the seat as it was reserved for ladies. She must have seen him harassing her. She was relieved but hated herself for not raising her voice again. Memories of that day still haunt her.
Last Friday, this same girl aged 22 now went to the market along with her mom and took a rickshaw to the post office. A man sat in front of her. She felt uncomfortable in his presence but as it was only a matter of a few minutes, she thought to adjust. The man touched her leg but she ignored it thinking it would have happened accidentally. But in a few seconds, the man kept his hand over her thighs. The last two incidents came flashing into her mind and she screamed and asked the rickshaw puller to stop. She shouted at him, abused and warned him and he looked at her as if nothing happened. She decided not to give him the benefit of doubt this time. She had to raise her voice, she couldn’t live with one more regret. She had to do this, otherwise she would have hated her again, for letting that happen. She kept shouting at him, taking out all her rage, for the day she was just 11 and didn’t know why she felt uncomfortable with that man’s touch, for the day she was an innocent scared teenager, for the countless days, she was reminded that she was a girl who was bound to feel unsafe, who was bound to be raped with those indecent gestures of shameful men.
And it was that day, when she stopped hating herself for letting something happen. Instead she hated those men who made her feel this way. She raised her voice and found solace. For once, she felt powerful, she felt better. She felt okay to be a woman…
P.S. I am back. I can’t stay away from writing for long, its the only thing that keeps me sane.