The word “normal” is in many ways, impossible to define. Ask a child growing up in a war torn land what “normal” is and the answer will most probably be shocking. The same would apply to the opposite end of the spectrum, say a normal day in the life of a Saudi royal.
So when it comes to explaining just how bad things are in Delhi and indeed the whole of India, I stumble upon a major hurdle. I simply do not know what “normal” is anymore.
Yes, this is going to be one of those “rape” posts. You’ve probably had your fill of those this week but if I may be so bold, this one is different. It didn’t start as different, originally it was just other rant in a long list of rants. But at some point, I decided it was pointless. I wanted to vent, so I did. In a post which will never become public. But that’s ok, because it led me to ask a rather important question. “Why is it that shit like this continues to happen?” I think , I now know why.
One of my earliest memories of India is being in a taxi when I was about seven. Our family was settled in Kuwait at the time and this was one of our many “vacations” to the old country. We had just pulled out of the airport and I saw something that made me jump excitedly in the manner that only a seven year old can. A cow. Right there, in the middle of the road. “Papa, papa” , I cried “Look, it’s a zoo!” The grown ups in the car laughed, the cab driver in particular, couldn’t believe that I’d never actually seen a cow before. On the road or otherwise. It would take me a few years to realize that this traffic stoppage by bovines was in fact, completely normal in this place.
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, we were forced out of the gulf and had no choice but to return to India on a more permanent basis. I was nine at the time. Long story short, I spent the rest on my youth here. And my sense of what’s normal got increasingly warped on a daily basis. And lest you think this post is all about me talking about my childhood, read on, this is where it gets interesting.
I began to notice things. How people would treat each other. There word “caste” began to show up a lot and it was something I was told to pay attention to. I remember picking up a newspaper one day and seeing a photograph of a man on fire on the front page. It was disturbing, I asked the adults around me what this was and their explanation didn’t make much sense. The word “reservation” was used a lot though. Why this word would drive a man to set himself on fire was of course, beyond me. The word “reservation” however, did increasingly become a normal part of conversation. Apparently, I would give a damn once I grew up.
We spent four months in Kuwait as the Iraqi army pounded the nation with bombs. During that time we did not experience a single power cut. Not one. Here though, preparing for an exam in candle light was totally normal. Forget bombs, all it took to kill power in India was a strong breeze. Completely normal, people assured me.
Can you remember the last time you drank water straight from a tap in this country? I do, I was ten years old and sick for a week. Safe drinking water is not only one of the basic standards of “civilization”, its is a basic necessity for the continuation of human life. Expecting that in India though, is not normal at all.
Poverty too, was one of most normal things around. The first time I saw a leper begging on the street, I cried till my dad stopped the car and gave the poor bastard some change. Today, if I see half naked children crowding my windshield , I deliberately nudge my car to scare them away. What? That’s pretty normal right?
When it came to law and order, things got even more confusing. I realized that traffic lights were little more than ornaments on our roads. People just would not care if the light was red (assuming the lights worked at all). They had places to go and little time. Perfectly normal I guess. Besides, on the off chance that a cop did stop someone, it didn’t take much to make him look the other way.
Speaking of which, the stories I heard about cops bordered on the absurd. Got robbed? Good luck filing a report at the police station. That’s right, the police would normally just flat out refuse to file an FIR. In fact, if you ever found yourself involved in something that would even potentially involve cops, run. It’s the only normal thing to do. “Trust us” they said, you do not want to be a witness to any crime in India. Its not worth the trouble.
As for the government, where does one even begin? Murderers regularly make their way into parliament, corruption levels climb so high its impossible to comprehend. Religious nut cases responsible for massacres get hailed as progressive leaders. While someone who tweets about them in a unflattering manner gets arrested. Why? You guessed it, because its normal.
And if you are a woman. Oh my! This place has a hell of a deal for you. Chances are you were supposed to be a guy. Your parents didn’t really want you. Really. They didn’t. But since you sort of happened anyway, society has a special message for you. It goes something like this “Be afraid. You are a fragile burden. Know your place. Cover up. Be decent (good luck figuring out wtf THAT means). Don’t go out. Ever. Shut up. Pray. Be afraid. Oh and by the way… You are also sacred… or holy…or something.”
Men will grope you, make vulgar remarks, tease you at every opportunity and it will happen on a daily basis. But that’s alright because it’s normal. What’s that? You think that’s unfair? Tell that to the cow standing next to the leper being beaten by the cop. Now shut up, the Bollywood starlet with the bit tits is on TV. Quick, get your six year old daughter to dance to that shit. It’s cute. And remember, all of this, is totally normal.
When it comes to rape, it tends to be a premeditated crime, not here though. In this country, rape has become a crime of opportunity. Over here, opportunities abound.
But I guess, this like everything else, is perfectly normal.
So a 23 year old got raped. Granted, the details of this particular case are especially gruesome, but as far as statistics go, this is hardly out of the ordinary. The only real surprise to me is the fact that people are surprised.
You want to know why crimes like this happen on a daily basis? Because we grow up in an environment where the bounds of what’s “normal” is a joke. Accountability is an alien concept. It does not exist. I’m going to repeat that because it bears repeating. Accountability. Does. Not. Exist. Whereas the limits of what is “acceptable” gets pushed constantly. Stop and think about how our collective subconsciousness gets affected living in a society where the idea of breaking the law is not just common, but to be expected and indeed encouraged. When you know that given enough “influence” you could quite literally, get away with anything. Look out the window, right now, wherever you are and see if you cannot witness half a dozen laws being broken. Right now, this very moment. Traffic laws, building violations, animal cruelty, health code violations etc etc. It’s all just part of the scenery now. A day in the life.
64 rape cases a day, 5 every 2 hours. And these are just the reported ones. I don’t even want to think of what the actual figures are like. And regardless of the public outrage this has caused, knee jerk reactions will not help. Anger is a good place to start perhaps, but as was proven with the Guwahati case, it leads to nothing concrete. Nor will enforcing the more popular solutions being proposed. I’m not trying to downplay the significance of the protests happening throughout Delhi, but this is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Righteous anger can only take us so far.
Get this through your heads people. We could increase the size of the police force by a factor of ten. It won’t help. Sure, we might see a difference in the short term but that’s it. Treating the symptoms will not cure the disease. The cops will still be the same untrained, uneducated goons we have now. Heck, chances are, some of them ARE rapists looking for a target. And death penalty and castration? In a land that has no investigative process, forensics or impartial judiciary? Sure, give the government and its thugs more power to prosecute why don’t you? These are the same people that take a parliamentary debate and bring it down to the level of an all out brawl with the world watching. Giving them additional powers will surely solve the problem. It’s not like they arrest cartoonists or people speaking their minds on Facebook. Oh wait. They do.
And what about the way women are objectified? Will more cops end Bollywood’s fascination with item numbers? More importantly, will people stop enjoying them? We live in a society where an entire industry revolves around a woman being called an “item”. The same parents that go apeshit when a teenage girl decides to hang out beyond the hours of daylight will take their whole freaking family to see the latest piece of trash Bollywood pukes out on a weekly basis. Make no mistake, this is not JUST a law and order problem. It is a cultural issue and one that infects every aspect of our lives. Hell, it defines our very definition of “life” itself.
Its not a question of whether women are safe in Delhi. Its how we view the world around us. And that view, is completely warped.
Expecting the government to solve this is moronic. To them we are but mere currency, something to be spent at will. A resource to be exploited or sheep to be distracted if need be. All our anger does is merely irritate them. The mob is angry, throw them a bone. Come the morrow, things will go back to the way they were. They always do. “Chalta hai” as the saying goes.
It begins and ends with us. Our callousness and sense of disillusionment is the one thing these power hungry leeches count on. It’s high time we woke up and realized the truth.
None of this is even remotely normal.