A few days after we released our Women’s Day special issue last month, we received a heart wrenching note from an anonymous reader. A young adult, she had penned a personal note to her male friends where she outlines her experiences and expresses her anguish at the limitations set for her because she is a girl child.
While we were still coming to terms with her letter, the happenings of gross injustice shook the entire nation. Sorry, I must correct myself. The event shook only a few. A significant number is supporting and shielding the perpetrators of crime. Aghast and ashamed, I wonder, what level have we as a country stooped down to? When were politics and religion so enmeshed in our society that people sidelined the crime altogether? The crime against a little girl. A child.
While the country seems to have lost its bearings, the last two weeks have been highly demotivating to me as a woman, as a mother and as an Indian. As a mother, who always dreams of a progressive, open and happy place for my children, today I see only a dark future with a sense of despair.
This sense of desolation, and the voice of our anonymous reader, prompted us to reach out to some youngsters and hear how they perceive the happenings around us. And, we were in for a big surprise. Each of these voices, boys and girls in the age group of 15 – 21 years, have beautifully penned down poems and articles on how they see things today, expressing their anguish.
After reading these deep articulate pieces, while I oscillate between the feelings of sadness, despair, hope and optimism, I also feel that somewhere we have failed them as a society. These grave issues should not be occupying the mind share of a teenager/young adult. Yet they are.
Do read on and ruminate.
Personal Note to my male friends who wished me on Women’s Day
Anonymous Reader of Eyra
My dear ‘guy’ friends,
Thank you for your wishes.
Let me begin by stating that I am a person who wants and craves equality. I am open and will tell a person on his/her face whether I like them or I do not. I am someone who is ready to pay for a meal when I am out with my guy friends. I am a girl and I can take care of my emotions.
But, just because I am a girl, it does not give you the right to judge me by my clothes, and I am not inviting you to touch me. (PS – I am not targeting any specific person whom I know. I am making a general statement.)
I am well aware of the social conventions of appropriate dressing and I am pretty sure that I uphold them all.
I was 13 and I wore a skirt and a shirt when a random dude on a bike showed me that my breasts looked good. I had not even hit puberty then. I ran to my house and tried to compose myself before I got in. I could not comprehend the situation then but something made me hide myself and still peek at the road because my instinct said that he would come back. And, yes, within two minutes, he was back. He was a 30-40 year old man.
I was 18, when a random bald dude dry humped me and touched my ass on a crowded MTC bus. I had worn a churidar and a shawl that day. It was green and pink in color. My shawl was pinned. That old man was someone’s husband and probably a girl’s father. No one would have believed that that guy was a sexual predator.
Cut to recent times, I have had multiple guys slide into my Instagram DMs telling me that I looked good and that is why they want to be my friend. This, when I hold a private account and it has been that way from day one. It is not like my caption says – I want to fuck or have sex. It is not like my profile picture is a picture of my breasts.
I do not even recall the number of times I have had some guy on the road catcall me, swerve towards me on the road in their bikes, and call out random words. It happened, even today, when I was coming back after dropping my mom. I wonder, did I send a signal when I was driving on the road? The sad part, some of these were school students too.
Ah, I must tell you about the friendly ‘Hellos’. I had a male class mate with whom I must have exchanged a few hellos. Yet he did not hold back on judging me without even talking to me or knowing me in person. He thought I was a slut and did not hold back on saying that in front of his friends. And I wonder, does he feel more macho because of it? Or did he think that in these three years, I have stood up to that name? A girl saying a friendly hello is NOT an invitation to have sex. That day was the last that I made guy friends of my own.
So this, my dearest guy and girl friends, is my tale.
There are so many more unwritten. It is still so sad and heart breaking that women cannot do a few things on their own. Like, take a late night stroll or go on streets without being judged. A few family members still ask me to wear a shawl with a kurta top and jeans. I do wonder if that is because of me studying in this college. Or, is it that if I had been in a better college, this would not have happened. They are still uncomfortable with a blouse that they feel has a ‘low cut’.
Did suddenly a little skin of my back torso send a sexual message? Why do they not realise that such thoughts are theirs and not mine? Ask me, if you want a clarification, but do not touch me without my permission.
Friends, everything that I have just penned is the tale of your mother, your sister, your friends, and your future daughter!
Parents, it is time you send your daughters to Martial Arts classes rather than Singing classes. It would help her when she wants to kick that guy in his shins. Teach your girl, girlfriend and wife to call that guy out when he harasses her.
Girls, do not be afraid to call yourself a feminist and do not be afraid to tell your guy friend when he calls a girl an unwarranted name.
Let us teach the next generation to stand up and voice their thoughts.
LET US BE THE CHANGE.
What defines a woman?
Varna Sajee, Bengaluru
What defines a woman?
Is it the flesh on her body?
Is it the clothes she wears?
Is it the length of her skirt?
Or is it the scrutiny she bears?
Is it how she walks?
Or how she laughs when she feels free?
Is it what she talks?
Is she really the person you see?
Isn’t she defined by her dreams,
Her aspirations and her beliefs?
Aren’t her capabilities more important,
Than what the society feels?
Isn’t she a living, thinking human being,
Just like you and me?
Doesn’t she deserve respect,
And an equal opportunity to be free?
What defines a woman?
Is it the jeering and nagging,
That she faces throughout her life?
Or is it the role she plays,
As a daughter, sister or wife?
Is it the rules she follows,
Pressurised by the judgmental society?
Is it the surname she borrows?
Or is it the cause of her anxiety?
Isn’t she defined by the power in her,
Her capabilities and her talents?
Doesn’t she deserve more,
Than to just be subjected to violence?
She is a living, thinking human being,
Just like you and me,
And she deserves respect,
And an equal opportunity to be free.
Samarth Narayanan, Bengaluru
Men in control.
Always they stand
Men in control.
Subdued they stand.
As I attempt
To paint this picture.
I want you to stop. Open your brains, and look inside. You see a pool of blood. Bodies and the gore, float in its midst. A massacre, a bloodpool, the holocaust refined.
It’s a picture I’m trying to paint.
Something I’m trying to show you, a situation, a peripheral vision. The truth. Up on a page, for the world to see.
Watch this blood pool swirl in silence, the sounds of the dead invade the lapping of the waves. These bodies that float, consecrate into the foundation, a foundation for a plain. And as the bodies pile, bodies of different colours, watch as this mass of flesh, rises in length. This plain becomes a plateau, this plateau becomes a hill, and this hill becomes a mountain.
People seem to be falling in, pushed in by faceless masks.
Picture yourself now. Standing among these millions, watching this spectacle, and having not the power, the power to stop what’s happening. What can I do, one person alone? You ask yourself this, as you wipe away your tears. Standing there, staring. Having a heart.
Then someone gets a grand idea. You begin to select people. Warriors they call themselves. You pick out these warriors, to lay siege on this mountain and save the bodies from piling up. Men you select. Men to represent you. These warriors are now your messiahs. They are now the new truth. The new justice in this midst. And these warriors bravely step into the blood.
But it’s very hot they say. The blood boils. “Let’s wait for it to cool down a little.” And they throw packets of salt into the pool. “Let’s rub that in”, they say. And you agree with them. They are the new truth aren’t they? “How nice! I think we should go for a swim.”
Everyone’s laughing at this admonition. Warriors are seductive aren’t they? Absolutely. These warriors are knights. And this Knight’s Templar is formed as this mountain continues to climb. The Knight’s Templar always have secrets to protect. And protect it they do.
Everything is justified. Every action they take. To save a hundred, a few fifty need to be sacrificed. And you agree. Of course you do. Scapegoat.
There’s one warrior. The people love this warrior. He rapes a little girl. But come on, the people love this warrior, don’t they? We love him. And when you love someone, you need to forgive them. And forgive them you do. And everyone is silent as the waves lap the shore. The mountain is at a crescendo. The head of the little girl is now glaring from the top. Her tears of blood make torrents. Her face tops it off. What a delicious sundae.
And you stand and watch this mountain. Wait. The mountain doesn’t have a name? How come? Oh wait, it does? What’s it called?
And for a moment you are left standing. You, right there, all alone, looking up at the mountain. And you think. Instead of looking all around you, for someone else to save the world, why don’t you? Of all the millions, who can you trust the most? Another warrior? And the truth dawns. You are the warrior, you are the saviour.
Ariktha M Koundinya, Bengaluru
Little red riding hood skipped along in the meadows in a purple dress,
Having been warned not to stray away,
And the flowers were smelt and the meadows played in,
As she met crossroads with the big bad wolf,
And daylight last shone on the eight year old face.
And as he beckoned her into the forest, she followed him,
And said, ‘Oh what big ears you have!’,
He said, ‘All the better to pry you open with’,
She said, ‘Oh what big arms you have!’,
He said, ‘All the better to strangle you with’,
She said, ‘Oh what big teeth you have’.
As he further lured her into the woods,
Where her screams would be muffled by the whispering of the leaves,
He said, ‘All the better to eat you with’,
And the big bad wolf with his big arms,
She was entranced and strangled.
And while all us Cinderellas were home by twelve,
This sleeping beauty brought hearts to grief for prayers,
And screams were never heard,
And the beasts took her to their castle.
And the wolves huffed and they puffed and they blew her away.
They said she would prick her fingers on her 16th birthday,
But this eight year old sleeping beauty lay in her coffin,
And her Prince Charming never came.
And as her spirit continues to charm but bleed my aching heart,
All I can say is ‘Forgive me Princess’.
For our country seems to go,
Deeper and deeper into a slumber,
As more and more Princesses prick their fingers,
And I’m afraid, this time, no handsome Prince shall rescue us.
And so as India reads to her daughters,
Bed time stories from newspapers,
She starts with, ‘Once upon a time there was a princess …’.
But slams the book shut,
For in this eight year old girl’s fairy tale,
Was missing the ‘…happily ever after…’.
Sachin Krishnamurthy, Bengaluru
Asifa and Nirbhaya…
Two out of 38,000 who made the limelight and caused the whole country to sit back and question the very justice system of ours.
But before we even move further to talk about the nebulous justice system of ours, let us contemplate on the number here. 38,946 woman, yes over 38,000 were deprived of their very right to life in the year 2016 and were brutally raped.
While these many cases were reported in 2016, think about those which went unaccounted. Leaves you bamboozled. Doesn’t it?
We forget to ask what causes these barbarians to go on and commit these crimes against humanity. But we surely lash out hysterically when we hear two or more cases which make the headline. We only talk about the judicial system and forget about those innocent lives which do not make it to the headlines.
Yes, we do know that our judicial system is flawed to an extent, instead of whining about it when we get to know the brutal behaviour of these barbarians, we should rather strive to make sure that this holocaust does not happen in the first place.
The respect to the diversity and freedom to religion in this country is, rather, taken for granted. As much as we respect our culture there are many bogus Gurus and pretentious Godmen, who arbitrarily commit serious crimes and go unaccounted for.
We as a country need a reality check of the situation. As much as we are obligated to uphold our culture we are also obligated to not misinterpret them. These misinterpretations not only cause degradation in the quality of the culture being carried down, but also becomes one of the primary causes for arbitrary actions of desperate men.
While bogus Gurus and pretentious Godmen are allowed to freely roam around, our system also lets media illiteracy to freely roam. As much as there is media illiteracy, there are people who continue to be influenced by sexual persuasion of corporate ads and many such elements. It has become such that internet reaches those remote places where schools are not even in the spectrum. As much as its utility is praised, we forget the fact that it is a double edged sword.
While the judicial system should be enhanced to justify the consequences, media illiteracy and cultural degradation should be fought to seize the cause.
Ashwin Abraham, Bengaluru
When I was two months old,
I knew nothing of this world;
I laughed and cried,
Oblivious to the facts of life;
The world went on, but I did not care,
I was blissfully unaware.
When I was five years old,
The universe was my own;
No cares, no worries,
I was the ruler of all I could see;
My concerns, limited to games and sleep,
And the cartoons on T.V.
When I was eight,
Life was simply great;
My biggest foe being homework,
The definition of evil in my eight-year- old world;
I knew not of the troubles the world carried,
Frankly, I do not think I would have cared.
When I was 12, I was more mature,
My biggest burden being my chores;
I just wanted to be accepted,
My thoughts to be considered;
I was almost a grown up right?
This recognition was my only fight.
But I guess times change,
Kids these days do not have it the same,
At an age we used to go out and play,
These kids must worry about rape.
I would say I was broken hearted,
But those words simply would not cut it;
These beasts, they roam our streets,
Objectifying our sisters as though they were pieces of meat;
They hide amongst the shadows and stay veiled,
They are the ones who put our nation to shame.
These beasts could not spare an eight year old,
A child, still untouched by the world;
They dared to use a baby,
To satisfy their lustful cravings;
And yet these animals roam free,
Influenced by their political parties.
Every day, there is a new victim,
Where are our voices? Why do we stay dumb?
Every month, a new hash tag trends,
Will this madness ever end?
Fellow humans are robbed of their modesty,
And vote banks are all our leaders see.
It is sickening really, what we have come to,
A nation filled to the brim with fools;
We are all idiots for accepting their insinuations,
That religious hatred caused all these situations;
We have fallen for the hatred they spread,
And we have accepted the hatred they have bred.
Understand, that our sisters, mothers and daughters,
Are the ones who are constantly slaughtered;
Rape has no caste, no religion, no creed,
From this predicament, will our women ever be freed?
We have accepted it, saying boys will be boys,
We have allowed them to treat women like toys.
We blame our women for the clothes they wear,
We tell them it is their fault that men ogle and stare;
Will this misogyny ever end?
Or are we doomed to see more hash tags trend?
So awaken, I beg you, open your eyes,
Every time you ignore it, a woman dies;
Awaken from your slumber and try to realize,
Rape must never be normalised;
Pay no heed to communal lies they feed you,
Understand that your sisters need you.