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'Amanat' is forfeited

Written on the Morning of Dec 29, '12

I do not know who gave her this name, and I'm not sure I'd want to call her by that name... but its better than referring to her as 'the girl who boarded a delhi bus at night...', so Amanat she will be. Amanat means (I'm no expert in Hindi) a 'trust fund', or something deposited as proof of one's pledge, to be confiscated if the pledge is not honored... I may be wrong here, forgive me.

So Amanat has passed away; earlier this morning, on 29th Dec '12. And the press, national and international is abuzz with her news. And the politicians are competing with each other to drag the discourse around rape down to the gutter. I have no idea what compels them to do so, but then I'm not a politician so I have no inkling about their motives. I also would've preferred if the media didn't dwell endlessly on them. There are surely other, worthier newsmakers?

I did not intend to write about current social issues, but Amanat's is not a 'social issue', its a very private issue striking at the core of one's heart, man or woman. And it also reveals, through the torrent of public discourse of the past few days, the prejudice living inside us. I do not claim to be free of prejudice, for I do not yet have the kind of transparent vision one needs to fully know oneself and be 'de-biased'. However, being aware of a prejudice is probably the first step towards overcoming it.

Why is it that a country, which has given the world such mature texts on philosophy, continue to remain so immature as regards the gender divide? Why must we either elevate women to the pedestal, worship her as goddess (domestic or public), or consider her 'easy meat' if she (in our eyes) does/says something that's not worthy of being 'worshipped'? Why can't we think of her as an individual, like any other individual, deserving of personal space and respect? What is this so called problem with India and her women, that must be dealt with so energetically... either by those crying for 'women-specific' (rather than human-specific) rights, or by those trying to cover her up from head to toe? Why can't she just be left alone to do her own thing, grow up with all the opportunity society can provide her, and flourish as any other citizen - man, woman or the in-between gendered? Mind it, I'm not referring to the subhumans who did what they did to Amanat, for its in an entire realm of its own that I'm not even prepared to tackle... I'm talking about the permissibility that such monsters ultimately seem to intuit (for their subhuman deeds) from the pervasive objectification of the Indian woman. She's a human being first and foremost, isn't she... not an object to be protected or pulverized! Why not  give her the respect due as human being first, by honoring her personal liberty, before even trying to 'solve' her problems as woman?

(Well, perhaps I'm guilty of the same thing @ what I'm doing now i.e. suggesting 'solutions'.... but then, its a private rant in a relatively obscure public place, so who cares!)

I agree what one commentator wrote in a news article - 'why say things like didn't the rapists ever think of  their mothers and sisters when they did it?'... why would one have to think of one's close female relatives to stop one from insulting (let alone raping!) a woman, or any other human being, by words or gesture? What happened to the golden rule (paraphrased) of doing to others only what one would do to oneself? Why must she first be one's mother/sister/wife/girlfriend in order to deserve that respect? Let's make it more explicit - why not give the same respect to the girl selling her body on some seedy street as well? We don't just walk into a store, pick up whatever we fancy, and walk out without permission or paying, just because the shopkeeper has set it out to sell? What about consent of the seller, even if she's screaming with her attire and attitude... buy me, buy me! What makes us think that we can say or do anything to her just because, in society's definition, she's a 'fallen' woman'? And any domestic goddess that does/says anything even remotely associable with such 'easy meat' behavior is fit to be immediately relegated from her so called pedestal. Who asked her to be raised in the first place, dammit! (Pardon moi).

Any girl who ventures out at late hours with one or more men, or alone, wearing 'provocative' dress, is therefore okay to be character-maligned!? Mind it, I did not say molested/raped, I said 'character-maligned'... for this rant is not for those who'd rape/molest, this is for those of us who may somehow justify such acts or at least partially put the blame for it on the woman's behavior. It is for the so called civilized of the society, perpetually concerned about society's decay into cultural/moral abyss (many of whom would be otherwise indifferent to the obscenities of war and economic exploitation).

Even in popular movies, we have the pristine, 'sati-savitri' type (not meant in a disrespectful way) of female leads, or the 'vamp-ish' types... the former to be glorified and idolized, the latter to be a vent for our inherent lasciviousness. The latter must wear skimpy clothes, sing, dance and serenade men in bars, and whom we shouldn't worry about if the male lead, or some other character, just uses up for his romantic/sexual gratification and flings aside. Or who's killed in the process of saving the former type's life/honor. She's just easy meat, right... and not a human being with a soul deserving of all the rights as the 'other' type.

And then there are (in more recent days) heroines whose character behave in the so called vamp-ish way at the beginning, and are chased around the block by a group of dancing, singing men... who are lead by the 'hero', in what is our movie version of courtship! And more often than not, instead of booking these men for sexual harassment, the female lead falls for the lead monkey on the street, marries him, and becomes the sati-savitri type. She doesn't wear miniskirt anymore, or sashays, hip swinging, down the camera's path. All our lead actors of popular movies have played such roles, and they are idolized by countless young men as role models of virility, virtue and strength. Those 'courtship' songs are then endlessly played on radio/tv, local cultural programs... nobody sees these for what they are - sexual harassment (and a possible prelude to more serious sex crimes), planting the seeds of permissibility in the minds of men/sexual exploiters. What movie will dare bend the norm, and portray what really ought to be done (legally) in such circumstances? We condemn women to a state of malleability, to bend and succumb to the whim of society, and rob her of her individuality. I wonder if she really wants to be either called the vamp or the goddess... probably she just wants to be able to indulge in her own dreams and fantasies without being judged at every step for it. Can we give her that much respect at least?

Its not the problem of the flower if it wants to bloom at its brightest, most colorful, most fragrant self. For that is the nature of the flower, that is how it attracts the bees, and shares its pollens. But the bees do not ravage her, they take what is on offer, out of the flower's own free will, and fly away... carrying the seeds in the process. There is perfect balance of give and take in this. But the flower's 'exhibitionism' (I use this word not in the usual negative sense... for if we are talented at something, we want to exhibit/share it with others, and is that a bad thing?) is not excuse for us to tear her away from the bough, bush or flower bed... pith her with a needle and string her up into a garland or bouquet, for our private pleasure. Her beauty, her opulent sexuality is no reason for us to want to posses her, or for society to want to justify such acts of possession. She (and here I'm personifying the flower) does what is natural of her, that is.. what nature had meant her to do, in as much as peacocks doing the plume dance under rain clouds, out of her free will. And she does it not because  she's looking for a 'boy' (as some are prone to infer), although that may also be the case, but because it makes her feel good about herself. Its entirely for her to choose/not choose the potential suitor. This is not a power game... that she must succumb to the superior will of the possessor or perish! That is demoniacally egotistic, and there is no justification for that.

But society tends to frown at 'free will', be it of men or women. As long as I don't physically, materially harm you, I should be allowed to exercise it, and vice versa. If I don't like a woman's skimpy dress, or her state of nudity even, I should turn and face the other direction. Its not her problem but mine. She (or he, for that matter!) should have every right to wear/not wear whatever she desires, and go out at whatever hour she wants to, be with a company of her choice, without society wanting to impose 'moral' rules on her. 

Unfortunately, there are dangers of expressing 'free will' in such a manner, at certain places and times of the day/night. The subhuman nature of the potential assaulter, closely lurking benearth a thin veneer of sophistication may suddenly emerge without notice, and destroy her... just like Amanat was destroyed, only because she dared to catch a late evening movie with a friend! But that is for the law-keepers to think about, and ensure otherwise. That is what the state apparatus is for, to provide security to its citizens from crazed, out of control beasts. Society shouldn't preach codes of 'moral behavior' to the free-willed woman, for who's going to preach it back to society, considering how it seems to condone rampant immoralities like corruption?

Freedom has its prices, as many women in the more 'liberalized' western societies would surely know, but at least there is a choice to be free/bound, to be celebrated or battered as a consequence of one's own choices. Here, we are simply imposing what, in society's consideration, is the 'best' choice for the woman - be worshipped or be stamped upon, either way you're just an object!

*** I hope this will not offend anyone. If it does, I hope you'll think what really is it that offends you, after forgiving me for unintended offense.

Sweet flower, may you rest in peace ... may society honors its pledges to mend its way from here onwards, may its amanat never be forfeited again :(

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