Its a shame really, that the first blogpost I write while in India is this. I would love to write about how impressed I am with India, but I feel incapable of that at the moment.
Recently I posted an article from CNN (read it here) to my fb wall. I posted it because the experiences of this American tourist never struck me to be propaganda. They instead felt absolutely true, because a lot of what she experienced in India, has been my experience as well. The difference is, I am Indian. I have grown up in India, experiencing sexual harassment on the streets, in the bus, in the metro, everywhere. Do I have PTSD? no! but thats because if you are an Indian woman, this is such a part of your life that after the first couple of inappropriate brushes, pinches and gropings, you stop talking about it. You learn to live with it. I learnt at 13, that you come home, take a shower and try to forget the feeling of being dirty. You turn away when you see men making lewd gestures. You put up your arms everytime you get into or out of a crowded train or metro, so that no one can touch your chest.
Harassment or eve teasing is (almost) an accepted part of life- a coping mechanism. But this acceptance discourages any kind of open discussion about the problem as “it happens to everyone” or “what to do? this is India. This is how it is here. No point in talking about it”.
Is this problem unique to India? No. Is the magnitude of the problem unique? Probably. Are all Indian men lechers? No. But this is still a problem, because most are. So to me, the fact that the first article was written by a white american tourist, didn’t matter. What mattered was that for once, we could read about the experiences of this one woman and at least start a discussion.
Shouldn’t we talk about the fact that we, the women of India are afraid of its men? What brings shame on our country is not propaganda created by a white american tourist, but the fact that every day there are new reports of sexual harassment and gang rape. Thousands others are not even reported. What brings shame is the true state of our society where women are afraid of men, irrespective of whether they are independent working women living in the nation’s capital or poor women living in the rural areas.
Lakshmi Chaudhry writes (read her brilliant full article here) “We all live with a debilitating sense of being under constant siege, an ever-present anxiety that a lewd comment or casual grope may lead to a full-on assault; the nagging worry that this auto or cab or bus driver may turn out to be the wrong one; the paranoia triggered by a slowly circling car filled with men. This, this is the price of being a woman in India. And it is paid by all of us, irrespective of colour, caste or class.”
Isn’t this price too high?