My Son would Never Rape a Woman

Epiphany in the Cacophony

sad-alone-cute-girl-waiting-someone-window My son would never rape a woman. It is brutal, disgusting and immoral. He simply isn’t capable of such a thing. She has obviously enticed him. __________________________________________________________

She was at the club when it happened. Short black dress, tall black drink. She stood in the middle of the dance floor, moved her hips slowly. She made eye contact with him. She even smiled. He walked up to her and asked her to meet him at his car. When she declined, he grabbed her arm.
And what a scene she created! She fought, screamed and kicked. You want this, he told her as he pulled her out of the club. NO, she screamed, yelling as he dragged her to his car. You don’t know what you want, you’re drunk.

She sat alone in the parking lot a few hours later. Disgusting girl, she reeked of smoke and alcohol. What…

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Making cities slum free – A Dream

Another excellent piece from the Terra Urban blog about what it would take to make Indian cities actually “slum free”.

Terra Urban टेरा अर्बन

By Swathi Subramaniam, PRIA

A story of every city big or small…. Dreams are seen in urban cities. This dream brings people from all places to cities. Slums provide them an inexpensive shelter and are found in every city. They constitute close to half of the city’s population and this population is only to grow tremendously. While imagining a slum free city RAY guidelines opened new hopes at the policy level. But it cannot be achieved with only policy in mind. It needs lot of inclusive and interactive support of all stakeholders as well.

A city cannot become slum free unless the issues of the urban poor are connected with other issues of the city. Making India slum free is the biggest challenge which can only be achieved by ‘Breaking the rules’. Just like how a Primary Municipality school is considered a school of urban poor which lacks basic education quality…

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No Country for unmarried women?

There was an article today on the BBC website title “No country for single women“. In the article, the author reflects on conversations with four single women in India, who are successful but unmarried. So much of what these women said resonates with my experiences and the experiences of my “single” women friends in India. I’ve always felt that while women from middle-class families are encouraged to get educated and have a career, but that does not mean that the societal pressure to get married in your early 20’s goes away. It only means that now you have more things that you are expected to do, besides being someone’s wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. And if you choose to wait, or choose to not make getting married your goal in life, then of course there must be something wrong with you. Maybe you are not into men? or maybe you have a psychological disorder? or maybe you are hard to get along with? Because God forbid you not want to get married when its “time” to get married. How can any “normal” woman not want a husband and children? In the article, the author writes:
“There were cases where people told my parents that educating their daughter and letting her become an independent person had been a grave mistake. Now their daughter has high expectations and getting her married has become so difficult! I can’t thank my parents enough for shouldering that burden. They are a great support but I keep wondering what to do to make it easier for them. I am much less worried about myself. I know that being with the wrong man would be far worse than being by myself.”

Also, these are not conversations you have with just your parents. No! everyone and anyone will ask you why you are not married from the rickshawallas to the drivers to the aunty at the bus stop. This is one of the reasons why I moved to the US. Cities such as Bombay, might afford single women a certain independence and lifestyle that they couldn’t have before and can’t have in other cities, but there is no escaping the fact that you chose not to be “normal”. Because at the end of the day that’s what it is! By not getting married and making an informed choice not to be married, you have challenged the age-old understanding of Indian women as just daughters, mothers and sisters. While we as a society can feel great pride in the fact that Indian women are increasingly becoming part of the formal workforce, and that more women are going into higher education than ever before. That’s where it stops. But the thing is, I and my friends who are not married, didn’t choose not to get married at 26 or 27 or 28, not because we wanted to challenge social norms. We chose to not be married because we wanted more from our lives. This doesn’t mean that women who are married have lesser lives, their life paths are just different from ours. Does it mean we will never marry…..not really. We are not giving up the choice to marry, we are just choosing to define our own life paths.

A question of survival?

The Hindu (read the original piece here) today published an op-ed about the development at Kathputli Colony. The author raises many important questions in this — development for whom? And by whom?– being a very pertinent one. The piece focusses on how what the people in Kathputli actually need is an upgradation of basic services and not a total change in the way they live their life. I cringe at this assumption that the author knows what they need, and it’s not apartments but upgradation of services. The piece also talks about an Artist’s Village being the ideal solution. In my work at Kathputli, I have heard mention this as well. And yes, it does seem like the ideal solution– not just because of the romantic notion of what the village might be like but also because in some ways the solution is coming from the artists themselves.

However, the piece and most of the things that I have read about Kathputli in the media and elsewhere paint a picture of the colony where there are no others. Official estimates show that 40% of residents actually belong to professions that are not considered artistic or they are not descendants of traditional gypsy clans. Both in the colony and in what is written about Kathputli, these people have very little presence. The present model of resettlement and rehabilitation paints all those living in slums, with the same brush. And essentially the struggle in Kathputli is about individuality of the artists, because their livelihoods and the spaces they inhabit are very tightly intertwined. By moving them to apartments that are generic and in no way respond to their ways of living, the DDA and the Delhi Govt. is essentially asking them to change how they live and what they do.

However, by presenting Kathputli as a colony where only artists live, the same brush is applied to the non-artists or rather their presence is completely negated. To me, Kathputli brings to the fore more than anything, the need to understand each of these slums and communities individually, to understand what keeps them together, where are they coming from, how do they live etc.  For like Kathputli is not just another slum, it is also not just an Artists Colony.  This requires a major shift in out understanding of who lives in these spaces– not just migrant workers, not just artists, not just criminals– but people. People and not just numbers, people who have families, who have their own ways of living, who like you and me, are trying to work towards a better tomorrow for themselves and their children.

The price of being a woman in India!

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?