Monday, July 16, 2012

Women in India

Just another day in the busy saga called India.

In a country of a few billion, what are a few negative incidents - no different than the pickles lying next to our dal-rice. After all, its a country where most of the population is still struggling at the base of Maslow's hierarchy.

The government, apart from minting and swindling money, is busy trying to provide food, clothing and shelter to everyone first. The corporates are busy squeezing employee hours and minting money. Every now and then they wake from their slumber, conduct some CSR and go their way. The middle class is busy pretending to try to grow, while most of them tend to stay where they were. The rich are busy finding / discovering / inventing new ways to stay busy.

More or less, everyone is doing what they can do. No one has the time, money, energy or inclination to do more than what they need to.

Who needs to care about a few deaths and a few mistreatment and in-human behaviour?

This is precisely the time when the first thing most of us come up with is, "It's the government's responsibility".  I don't think so. I believe, a country is who its citizens want it to be. The precise state of our country is just a mirror image of who we are, what we have become and more importantly, where we are headed!

So, when incidents like the one in Guwahati happens. We create a furor around it, blabber away for a couple of days and then go back to our coffees and conversations. In fact, in quite a sadistic manner we start looking for the next big scoop of news - old is boring. We need more. Something / someone else to talk about.

And why not?

Guwahati is in a far away, almost forgettable corner of the country. When there are bigger issues like death by Maoists, terrorist, internal conflicts, hunger and nature, hooligans do not seem to feature too high on the list.

I have a bigger concern. It's not a problem at Guwahati alone.

A few days back, I was passing Andheri station (one of the busiest work hour local train junctions in Mumbai). To the uninitiated, the place is maddening. There are people everywhere and constantly moving. Those getting off are rushing towards bridges and exits. Those entering the platforms are rushing to catch their train and grab a seat. Simply put, everyone is just rushing about, especially at peak hours.

And among the crowds that day, while waiting for my own train to make an appearance, I happened to notice something that made me question the perception of safety in Maximum City. As I was watching a woman dressed in traditional Indian wear, office bag on her shoulder, was making her way through the crowds and moving towards one of the bridges. There being too much rush, she chose to walk nearer to the edge of the platform. As my train rolled, I watched as the woman tried to get further away from the train.

She moved a bit too late. Even as she tried blending in the crowd, a hand purposely stretched out and whacked her. I will never forget the look on her face. I would describe it as stunned. A few of those walking around screamed obscenities at the person, which made the woman more conscious. The woman clearly figured the damage was done and as the train rolled over and new crowds mixed in, she simply lowered her head, walked a bit faster and did her best to blend into the crowds unnoticed. The moment when the woman got hit on, infuriated me. I feel ashamed to say I did nothing myself. The rushy life of Mumbai soon sucked up my thoughts and it was a lost incident like many other that catch my attention, till the Guwahati outrage, brought it back.

I have questioned myself. Should I not have rushed to the woman's side? Did that eve teaser not deserve to be publicly dragged and taught a lesson that he or others like him dare not repeat? Why did I not bother? More importantly, why did the woman herself not bother? More thoughts brought out more questions. What could she have really done? It was not the woman's fault - unless you want to call her walking on this platform an error on her part! She was clearly not dressed provocatively. She was out in broad day light. Earning a living, like every human deserves too. Yet she went through what she went through.

I have since then stopped often, stared at the mirror and questioned myself. That girl could have been me. I rush about, do what I got to do, live a life where I can always hold my head up in public. Why would I deserve to hide my face or hang my face in shame because someone else is so blatantly shameless?

Is it really a woman's fault that she is popularly considered as weaker sex? We are way stronger than men in so many more ways. We work longer, harder and still are caring and take care of families. Is it only an Indian-men-mentality? I know I am generalizing right now and I am glad I know loads of good men too. The kind who respect women and would step up to help them, if the need arises, not molest them when they are down on the ground.

This lead to another area of probing. Maybe, its the way we treat those whom we consider below us. I have yet to see someone who misses a chance at oneupmanship over those in a tight situation, even if so momentarily. Those who do (thankfully I do know a few!) are a dying breed.

Are we really such a frustrated lot?

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