Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Rape in India

In a recent rape case, the judge decided to postpone his verdict by a day so that the victim could consider the marriage proposal. Fortunately, the victim in question, a nurse at a Delhi hospital, had the courage to say no and insist on the punishment of the rapist. How does marriage to the rapist make the rape a right? And what would the judge do if the victim was already married? It is incredibly absurd. Agreed, in India, the woman who is raped is ostracised by society, and the object of much sexual harrasment at work, and yes, she definitely has very minimal chances of ever getting married. But is marriage to a beast a better fate? The rapist would probably be the kind who would abuse her - just makes things better for her, doesnt it?
The way rape cases are treated in India - the very injustice of it rankles so much. In one rape case a policeman said that sometimes the victim 'deserved' to be raped because she dressed improperly!!!!! Firstly, in a large number of rapes in the country, the victims are poor - they can hardly be expected to wear fashionable skimpy clothes. And while I am all for women taking necessary precautions, how can anyone shift the blame on the behaviour of the victim? Whatever be the 'character' of the victim, it is no excuse for the blame to be shifted to her. Nothing, absolutely nothing can make a rape acceptable.
Take the case of the infamous Suryanelli sex scandal. A 16 year old girl was kidnapped and detained for 40 days during which time more than 30 men raped her!! She claimed that they tied her hands behind her back and loaded her with drugs and alchohol so that she would not be able to resist. She was finally abandoned only when she became too ill to serve their purpose. This case led to wide spread outrage in Kerala leading to the setting up of a special court which convicted 36 of the 42 accused.
You would think that was the end of it. No- an appeal went to the high court which acquitted 35 of the 36 accused!The judges looked at the girls past behaviours - wasting away Rs.450 her father had given her for hostel fees, then pawning her ornaments - implied that she was not a 'normal innocent' child! And then the judges felt that the girl had not tried to escape, that she had not seemed to resist the men enough - all these meant that she was a willing partner to sex - and so acquitted the men. What is wrong with those two judges?? Havent they heard what the girl said about how she was tortured? Cant they understand something so basic that just because she as unable to resist does not mean that she was a willing partner to it?
And it is cases like this which make the women hesitate to even report a rape. A confidence that because they are women born in a society such as ours, justice would be denied. Because in our society, a woman who has been raped is never the victim - she has always brought it on herself. Because it is the victim who is abused, it is the victim who is ostracised and who has to live in shame and fear for the rest of her life for having brought out her problem in public - while the rapist in all probability is living free, even free of guilt.
I do not understand nor would even attempt to understand how any man could abuse another person like that. What kind of mental perversity could lead to such behaviour is beyond my contemplation. But I have tried and failed to understand why we let such beasts go scot free. It is because of the shockingly low conviction rate in rape cases that men still go on commiting such heinous crimes...with the confidence that they can get away with it.
A 80 year olf woman was raped in Delhi last month. A 16 year old girl was raped by her school principal, another minor in Mumbai was raped by a policeman. And the story which always makes me shudder - the rape of a mentally retarded girl by a man on a Mumbai train. Not that one rape is worse/better than another. But what kind of animal would behave like this? How could one stoop to such brutality?
India desperately needs to tighten it rape laws. A string of rape convictions might atleast serve as a deterrent. And there is an increasing need for NGO's or other support groups - the victims need help, financial, healthcare, emotional support etc - and there is hardly any of it available to them. Organisations which can provide such support to the victims are necessary for them to be able to get their life back to normalcy and find acceptance in society.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Havent been well for the past ten days...a bad cold, sore throat and now cough...so apart from the fact that I havent had icecream in 10 days, I havent done much except sleep and eat. I finished this amazing book I was reading...William Dalrymple's'White Mughals'. A fantastic book- while the crux of the story is how the British Resident in Hyderabad falls in love with the grandaughter of an important Hyderabadi noble and the consequences of his actions-the book deals with the much wider issue of theEnglish coming to India and adapting to the culture of India.
There are some fascinating stories...of an Englishman in Delhi who had 13 wives, another Englishman who hadbecome so Indianised that he was referred to as'Hindoo Stuart', another Englishman who wrote that the sari was the sexiest garb in the world and strongly recommended that women even in the western world wear it if they were to stand the competition given by Indian women...little tidbits about life in India in the 18th century. The amalgamation of Indian and English culture makes for gripping reading.
The book also gives us sudden and small insights into the intrigue surrounding deccani politics of that time...mostly between the Hyderabad of the Nizams, the Maratha Confedaracy centred at Pune and Tipu's Mysore.And the French-British struggle for control over the deccan through these. This is the only book I everread on the period after the Golden Era of the Mughal period (which effectively ended with the death ofAurangzeb) and before the First War of Independence in1857.

And it is interesting to observe life during those times. While the British were certainly working on gaining control over India, they hadnt yet introduced any of the harsher measures either in civillian life or in the military which was later the cause of much antagonism. The denizens of the country hardly seemed to look upon the British as their rulers- in fact, they considered the Indian princes to be their rulers and the British played the part of protector by signing deals with the princes where the British would provide an army to the prince in exchange for part of the revenues etc. By having complete control over the internal and external protection of these Indian states,the British certainly had control over the country itself but this control wasindirect.

A lot of Englishmen madeban effort to learn some Indian language or the other-they studied Indian scholarly texts and were quiteimpressed by them - a good example in case would beWarren Hastings. While the atmosphere was certainly one of suspicion and plotting, at that stage the British was still not considered the common enemy and this allowed a great degree of mingling between the English and the Indians- resulting not only in a whole league ofAnglo-Indians but also a refreshing culture ofadjustments and quaint mixed traditions.

While reading the book, I kept stopping at crucial points to indulge myself in 'what if...' conjectures.Imagine this - Arthur Wellesley would not have become the Duke of Wellington if his older brother had decided to send him into the diplomatic service instead of letting him continue in the military. More interesting - the French and not the British would have ruled India if the Napolean had not been defeated(it is now known that he was in active communication with Tipu about throwing the British out of India).And if that had been the case, how would it have affected our freedom struggle, our date of Independence and how would French rule have changed the face of India as we know it now...

Im now quite determined to read up more on history. I have for quite a while been looking for a book that gives a British perspective of the Indian struggle for independence. Since we studied the Indian struggle for Independence only in the 10th Std. & that too under the relatively less censured ICSE syllabus, our history textbook did not leave us with the impression that all Indians were heroes and all Englishmen were eveil. Sure, it did convey that message but certainly not that everything was black and white - the textbook admitted that there was scope for grey too. So it let me think about the other perspective - in English history textbooks, are Indians depicted as ungrateful wrethches or uncivilised brabarians who were civilised by the British only to against them. It would be interesting to see how the British explain actions which must now seem quite harsh and unjust to them to their future generations
But we see history always plays out this way - when one country takes advantage of another for its ownbenefit, irrespective of whatever harm it might cause to that country, it will always find ways to justify its actions. It happened then with England and India,its happening now with the US and Iraq or the US andAfghanistan. And these are only 3 examples but history is replete with many such incidents. And then when I look back, I dont see India ever doing that. Maybe itis too weak for it. But I think it is actually becauseIndians are generally laidback, easygoing people who are to a large extent content with what they have....or the other perspective, too lazy to want to achieve more.Whatever be the reason, I guess it is still one thing we can be proud of.

Oh well.....I only wanted to say I read a brilliantbook - the author managed to seemingly effortlessly merge history and literature to create a masterpiece.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Old friends and book ends

I went to Hyderabad last weekend. And I have decided to finally make productive use of office hours by reporting on the events of those 3 days - of trying to please everybody and trying to spend enough time with eveyone. I now know how heroes of Telugu movies feel when the 3 or 4 heriones keep pulling him in all directions. And add to it an overwhelming feeling of somnolence and the unbearable heat in Hyderabad...well, that gives you an idea about how the trip went, doesnt it?
Well, it wasnt really that bad as I got to meet up with a lot of friends who I would'nt be meeting again in a very long time. Now all my friends are at a very crucial stage in their lives. Shruti, Shilpa and most of my other friends who are passing out of engineering colleges this year are taking up jobs in IT companies across the country (rather mostly Hyderabad and Bangalore). A few like Sunil are taking up GRE. Then those who have studied with me in college seem to have spent the past year in a vacuum. Trisha and Swetha are working in a call centre. Lalith leaving for Delhi for Civils preparation.Kiran training for the military. Ravi has set up a consultancy with 7 others. Abhishek taking up a course in journalism. Pramod and Nikhil doing MBA's.
Everyone is now moving on, finding a direction. That proverbial fork in the road stage of life where everyone has to make a decision about where they want to go and what they want to do in life. And so it was like old times when we sat on the grass at our usual 'adda' on Necklace Road last Sunday night. We started off with the usual dirty jokes and double entendres for a long while. And then we discussed issues we were facing. One friend spoke about her troubled relationship. Lalith about his feelings on going to Delhi, Kiran about his experiences in training - somewhere down the line, we had shifted to serious talk, problems - something we never did before when we met up at Necklace Road.
And then, we started talking of college days. Its been just a year since I passed out but it already seems so long and that warm nice feeling one gets when one thinks of pleasant memories accompanied by a twinge of sorrow that one can never get them back - thats the feeling I get of my three years at Hyderabad. We went on a 'remember when...' trip that night and it made us laugh like crazy. There was a sense of smallness about the world then - for most of my friends Hyderabad was the world. And there was also a sense which can be interpreted either as being carefree or irresponsible - most didnt have any concrete plan for the future- everyone dreamt of making it big but few knew how they were going to go about doing it. And in this one year we had shed our judgemental selfs - I noticed that all of us were more willing to give a person a chance before forming an opinion on him. We didnt pass comments on every person who had the misfortune to pass by us. And we had better things to talk about than the latest controversy in college - and trust me, we had more than enough of them.
There was also this urgency to having fun- we wanted to spend as much time as possible together, we wanted to stay out for as long as possible - it was as if we had a very limited span of time together and we wanted to make the best use of it. It drove our families crazy and we got into a lot of trouble for this madness. We also so wanted to be 'cool' and 'in' - we'd walk the walk and talk the talk, so to speak. We would buy and wear everything which was considered 'in'. From glass bangles to short handle bags to extra large flare faded jeans to belts to periparallels to lucknawi kurtis- all these became the rage when I was in college. And my friends and I faithfully bought them and wore them.
It also feels good that we know each other so well, even the small things. That Swetha likes anything blue, that I get mad when someone litters the place, that Lallu becomes real silent when he is hungry
It felt good to relive those memories - a kind of assurance that however far we might move on, there will always be time to catch up with old friends and laugh.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Hardly the breadwinner

Today is a day that will stand out in the annals of histoy.I received my first salary today - Rs.8000 for the 20 days I worked at IBM. I cant help a small grin. A few hours of effort from me for 20 days is worth Rs.8000 to someone. It certainly makes me feel good about myself. I want to call up home and tell them. But there is also a little anger because I'm not being reimbursed for my airfare from Vizag to Bangalore after being told I would be and because I am being made to spend a lot from my own pocket for travelling between the offices. Its like expecting a 3.3 types in CSP and ending up with a 3.02!
Speaking of which, I got 3.02 in CSP. I am a little disappointed because I have done well in the midterm and endterm. So I must have lost out in the project (of course!!) & CP. But I'm still pretty happy that I have a 3+ so I dont want to crib too much about it. I have done decently this term so just hoping I get a decent grade.
Well, other events in the day are pretty much uneventful, if you dont count the fact that I bought a chocolate milkshake at the office cafeteria and got a scratch card for it. On scratching the card, I got a free samosa!!Well, there is this guy I met at a learning lab I attended. I spoke to him a little later for feedback. He now has my phone number and is beginning to become a pain. He called a couple of days ago to ask me something about IIMB. Today he messaged and when I didnt reply called me to tell me that we were both sitting in the same office today (talk about the weather). I have a strong feeling he is hitting on me and I have no idea how to tell him im not interested. The problems working women face!!
By the way, my stipend is in the form of a DD drawn on Deutsche Bank which says account payee only! What the hell am I supposed to do?? I desperately want to leave office, encash the DD, book my tickets to Hyderabad for tomorrow and go shopping. But alas and alack!! I bunked office yesterday and my manager knows it. He is here in the same office as I am today so I intend to sit for as long as he is in the office or 6pm, whichever is earlier ( I have a grim foreboding that it is going to be 6pm). Well, I need to submit a presentation of everything I have done so far. I'm really at a loss as to what to do because all I have done so far is meet a lot of people and collect information. And even these notes are with a colleague who said she would get them tomorrow. So I'm a wee bit worried that my fraudgiri would be revealed to one and all.
Well,thats all for now. My work beckons me (yeah right!!). There is this terrible feeling of lassitude which I am experiencing currently which simple does not allow me to do any work at all.