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Pune/ India, Irvine/ CA, now Boulder/ CO
Welcome to my blog! I'm Hrishi from Pune, India. I am an earth system scientist currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at CU-Boulder. These blogs are mostly about my travels, landscape photography, scientific computing, book and film reviews, fitness, cooking, and science communication. Feel free to navigate based on the labels below. My website: hrishikeshac.wix.com/hchandan


Friday, March 6, 2015

India's daughters and the rape culture

Every single Indian citizen should watch India's Daughter. National embarrassment is not the documentary, but banning it. It's an extremely well made film. It enlightened me on so many new things. For instance- what a pleasant surprise to see Jyoti's uneducated parents selling their ancestral property to educate her to become a doctor! And to allow her to work part-time to pay for her expenses. And those who think its just another foreign film trying to show India in poor light, almost the entire screen time is taken by Indians, as are all the opinions. Not a single opinion from a 'privileged-European morals-looking-down-at-a-third-world-country'. From ludicrous statements from the rapists' lawyers to the massive protests and riots to the awesomeness of Jyoti's parents. EVERYTHING is India.

Saying that the documentary glorifies the rapist is utter nonsense. It's a silent critique. The things that the rapist and his lawyers say so confidently, are just so horrific, there is nothing to comment on. The film digs inside the rapists's brain. It highlights a psyche that is alien to most  middle-class educated Indians but can be relatable by a large portion of illiterate, lower class (yes, I'm erring at relating rape with socio-economic status). If you think of the rapist as a monster and you don't understand how anyone can say have these horrible views of women, wake up and travel around India. Not as a tourist but as a poor backpacker with nothing to loose. I call India a land of segregated diversity. It's diversity is so segregated that we know more about the US and other countries than we know about the culture of other Indian states, or even different economic classes in our own cities! By calling the rapists a monster, you are in a denial that you belong to the same culture. Only thing is that you see the culture manifested differently due to your education and well-being. You may not see men raping around, but of course you would see girls being discriminated against. It's a common link that unites us all Indians- discrimination against women. Uneducated and poor ones will kill their fetuses, will rape them. Educated ones will not educate them, or if they do, it will be to use their education as a leverage for getting a better husband. There is discrimination against girls in everything we do and we don't even realize it (Chivalry is also discrimination). And arguing that "we also worship them as goddesses" is just another hypocrisy we abide by. Like saying we worship Gandhiji, or Shivaji Maharaj (for Maharashtrians). We compartmentalize women so naturally, that I would totally believe if a man is genuinely obedient to his mother, vehemently protects his sister, discriminates against his girl child in favour of his son, and rapes his wife without either of them realizing it, and yet genuinely worship Laxmi or Durga or Kali. He's an Indian man. Not a monster.

And please stop saying "Rape is a global problem that is not unique to India. According to X data, more rapes happen in the US, U.K etc. So stereotyping India is so unfair". Western countries indeed stereotype us. From 'the land of spices and gold' to 'land of mosquitos and snakes and poverty' to 'land of yoga and Gandhi' to 'the land of cricket' to 'land of of filth, slums and rape'. But please don't forget that the stereotypes can't exist without a substance. We ourselves have stereotypes about South Indians, North Indians, Sikhs (Sardar jokes anyone?), UP-Biharis, NE Indians or Nepalis or Chinki as we call them, about brahmins, about muslims, about Congress and BJP. Not to mention stereotypes about women. So many of my friends share memes and videos about women drivers, about girls-boys as venus-mars thing, about girls as indoorsy and bookworms and guys as outdoorsy and sporty. If stereotypes dictate the very way you interact with everyone in your daily life, how can you accuse the world of stereotyping India? Those who argue that "the developed world is always trying to portray India in bad light", dude, wake up. The US was 'found' because the Europeans were desperate to come to India! If their perception of India has changed, WE are responsible for that. How on earth can we justify naked men lined up next to each other and shitting in the open for the entire trains to see? How on Earth can we justify spitting everywhere, creating filth everywhere? We can't. The 'Moguls looted us, the Britishers suppressed us' excuse won't apply for our filthy lifestyle (again please don't deny 'its not me its them'- its us Indians!). I mean, the Japanese were NUKED! And see where they are now. Western countries do not have a personal agenda against us. Frankly, they don't care about us because under the given state of the world, each country is, or has to be, a selfish bastard. Why would anybody (except Pakistan, whose very existence is based on anti-India sentiment) waste time by going out of their way in humiliating us? But if we provide them very compelling reasons to humiliate us, they of course would. Its naive to a point of being childish to call out the West for being biased against the East. Of course they are. And so are we. Grow up! You are not a whiny teenager with bruised ego. You are a freakin' government representing 1/7th of all existing humans!

And people make films at the drop of the hat. Heck we made a Bollywood movie out of the Mumbai-terrorist attacks. Weren't those attacks a national embarrassment? Wasn't the fact that the terrorists used the live, breaking-news channels to know the police operations and using it to their advantage a national embarrassment? How come nobody said anything about the crappy, masala movie that seeked profit at the expense of the biggest recent tragedy of a great city? And what gets banned? A real life documentary with all real (first hand!) people who were all actually involved in the biggest focus event concerning India's women.

The only people that would gain from the 'West is against us' is our own politicians. Every party, be it BJP or Congress (or local ones), have always placed a strong emphasis on our pride. By glorifying our pride and making us think just because our ancestors were awesome, just because ancient vedic folks were indeed very brilliant, just because Shivaji was born in our land, we are inherently awesome. Just by being born here. In fact they have broken us into as many small factions as possible to highlight a very specific, unique feature that makes us special. Once we are brimming with pride, then their agenda typically is to portray that this pride is under attack. Be it from other caste, class, religion or country. Done. They don't have to do anything else. All we then do is fight against each other and everyone. We become so obsessed with past that we loose focus on how we poor we are presently. How bad our standard of living is. How narrow our attitude is. How rotten and inefficient our government machinery is. And most importantly, how hopeless our future is. We get so obsessed and entangled with the past that we loose our present, and jeopardize our future. In the mean time, the politicians get rich by scams (if Congress) or push their agenda to create a uniform Hindu state (BJP) or take their shot at rewriting history (every political party from gully to Delhi). If only the public awakes from 'The Matrix' created by these politicians! Even when there is no evident fighting, the false pride still exists. I'm from Pune, and I see so many of my Brahmin friends started wearing some ear piercings, showing off their brahminess. They are all good natured folks, but that false pride is still there. I've seen more than one person display a symbol of a Parshu (an axe) showing off that they are kokanastha brahmins. (There I look like just another backward caste person criticizing Brahmins!). If we can't get rid of this silly false pride, we will never be able to look at others what they are, and look inwards to know what we are. And our obsession with history would only mean that we never make one.

Coming back to "Statistically more rapes happen in the US, UK etc" argument, rape is of course a global problem, and all countries are affected by it. (In fact, its not even limited to us humans. Just yesterday a colleague told me how duck vaginas have evolved to avoid rape and how their penises are evolved to enable rape- rape is so common in natural world that it influences evolution! But I digress). First, I doubt the very premise of this argument- the statistics. The fine print is 'reported' instances of rapes. You can tell someone something only if you are comfortable talking about it. I haven't seen Europe, and have seen only the western part of the US, but from what I have experienced, women (and men of course) here can talk about anything- from your dick to her vagina to her menstrual cycle to LGBT experiences whatever. Nothing is a taboo. In India, a girl, even when from an educated, middle-class family, can't even talk about her periods with her own dad. If you are Indian, I request you to visualize all the girls you know into these following situations and answer honestly- Would she report?: What if the rapist is someone whom the family knows? What if she's secretly dating someone and he rapes her? What if the rapist is her own husband/brother/father? The only cases which a girl would have no qualms in reporting is likely getting raped by strangers, that too in a situation/ surrounding where it would have been totally unavoidable by the girl. And even if she wants to report, her family will definitely debate the pros and cons of reporting as, it might hurt their position in their community (likely a close group of same caste folks), as well as hamper her marriage 'market value'. If the girl is willing and her family is supportive of reporting, we know so many cases where the police tried to not report the case! Imagine the humiliation! I did the (obviously subjective) thought experiment, imagining my Indian as well as US and European female friends in these situations- and I can say this- almost none of my Indian friends will report, and all my US- European friends will report. Didn't the psychiatrist say that someone raped 200 times (that he could remember!) and was convicted for only 12.

Lastly, I wish to comment on the sex life of average Indian youth. Its essentially non-existant. Once India was an epitome of sexual freedom. The 'sanskaars' that our right-wing folks preach match more with the victorian era British lifestyle (its probably not a coincidence that 'Bride and Prejudice' was made). We (men and women) are expected to remain virgins until we marry. And then expected to have sex with that one individual until death. Sex is a natural need, especially in the youth. Denying it under the garb of 'Sanskaars' only creates a mass sexual frustration. Many of us grow up to vent it positively towards the competitive career race, but many don't. Even after marriage, since both men and women are first-timers, and women have been brainwashed into thinking their body is a shame, there are high chances that the frustration doesn't end. So here's what I think is happening: rapists are sexually frustrated, and assume (correctly) that women are too. But premarital sex is not 'allowed' in our culture. Then what to do? By raping, they get what they want and (they think) victims get what they want, all without committing the cultural heresy called normal consensus sex. So basically, rapists genuinely think they are doing the victims a favour! Rape becomes their 'normal' way of having sex. The rapist Mukesh in the documentary is 28 year old, and have had sex only once (actually twice, but that would mean he'll have to confess the rape). Imagine the level of sexual frustration, and desperation. Add to it the general lack of respect towards women in our culture (yes, our Hindu culture. Please don't point fingers towards muslims. Whether they are worse than us or not, we should own what is wrong in our culture! And if the rapists and the victim were muslims, I'm certain that the government would have welcomed Leslee Udwin with a red (or saffron?) carpet). Add to it poor, uneducated up-bringing, daily struggles and hustles for livelihood. Add to it addiction to alcohol (two of the rapists finished an entire whisky bottle before the act). How can one not expect rape???


P.S. I request everyone to not take things personally. I've witnessed friends 'marrying' an opinion and getting into trouble when it is exposed that the opinion is flawed, and then are forced to use irrationality as an aid. I also request those who have the 'right' opinion to not to humiliate your opposition, and give them an 'escape' to retreat and change their opinions. Ridiculing them makes it an ego issue and the opinion still gets pursued solely to save their honour.


Sonu... said...

Beautifully written and really thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

seen the documentary..more than rapist, the mentality of the lawyers is horrifying since apparently they are supposed to be educated...
not sure about the reporting of rape part...I think the image of the law enforcers and how they treat victims has been shown negatively so many times, that is also why women don't come forward