A rape. A brutal one. And the entire nation has been ashamed. The political class has been shaken and we have seen politicians from different party backgrounds crying. The police has been rocked. The civil society has been ashamed. Social networking sites are getting flooded with pictures of brutal retribution.
A politically ambitious Arvind Kejriwal demands superfast track courts to settle all rape cases. Candle light marches are taking place as usual and a big crowd shouting over its voice at the Jantar Mantar, currently the Indian equivalent of the Tahrir and Tiananmen Squares, demanding action against the criminals who have left an innocent girl on the verge of death.
But amid all this pandemonium, a question strikes me: What big change will indeed come at the end? We have seen that a number of rapes happened even after the atrocious assault on the 23-year-old girl on Dec 17 and as I write this article, there will be more such cases occurring relentlessly.
Peculiar reaction to biology chapter
I was 13 when I saw my classmates, both male and female, struggling to hold themselves back from grinning as the biological teacher taught the chapter called 'Reproduction'. That chapter had pictures of male and women reproductive organs and it was a great embarrassment for most people to witness them. Even I found my private tutor, who was a young man, avoiding that page during the evening classes. I asked my parents why was the reason for this strange reaction? My parents told me: "There is nothing abnormal in this. Learn to take things as they come in life."
Those words had showed me a way to treat things normally in the crucial days of adolescence. And once the initial phase passed, I did not have problem in perceiving things, particularly which were related to the opposite sex.
My parents did not shy away from my questions
I thank my parents for not refusing me an answer when I asked them about a condom after seeing an advertisement of the same on the back of a bus. And neither was there any uncomfortable feeling in the drawing room when commercials of sanitary napkins or kissing scenes were aired on the TV during family viewing. If any film scene was too crude for the children, the elders used to forward that and advised us not to witness them. It would affect our mind and hamper study. I saw many other friends talking about obscenity on the same issues.
It was because of this evolution of a logical perception towards the 'world of curiosity' that I never felt desperate to buy pornographic literature and CDs and watch them secretly. Yes, as every young man witnesses them for the first time at some point, I too did, but that was it. Never had I felt that an animal instinct was brewing inside me and I would target a female friend or relative to live a fantasy in the real life. I thank my parents again. They had instilled the right values in me at the right time.
But do all parents guide properly?
But at the same time, I also noticed that many of my friends or among those who I did not know but saw around me, did not have the same informal education. One friend of mine was thrown out of the house once for secretly watching pornography. I saw many talking filthy things about a good-looking girl in the school or loitering outside the women's toilet for some unknown reason.
Strange punishment in schools
Even I found teachers in some schools inventing a new way of punishing mischievous boys in the class. They were made to sit between two of the most beautiful girls in the class for a week so that they learn the right way out of utter embarrassment.
There used to be a strange sense of pleasure prevailing among people but I found it very abnormal when I gained maturity. Is this the idea behind co-education schools?
Our slangs involve mothers, sisters
I also noticed another humiliating aspect. In those young days, people mastered the vocabulary of slangs and most of them were women-specific. Even adults indulge in such language when they abuse somebody out of anger. It shows how much respect we have for our own mothers, sisters and women in general. Even we see elders speak in favour of a boy if he makes an unwelcome comment about a girl. It is said: "He is young. Will learnt it." Do we learn like this?
I thank my parents. They showed me a way to keep away from the business of hurling abuses. They told me: "Control your anger. Divert your mind when you are angry. Don't abuse people."
Didn't the family of those mad tongues out in the road teach them that? I wonder.
How many will we hang or castrate?
Today, we see the hell breaking loose over a brutal rape and unrealistic demands like hanging the culprits getting stronger. This is a cry of helplessness. It is not that we have not hung a rapist but little has changed on the ground.
We may hang some socially marginalised rapist but can we do the same when a kin of an influential politician or administrative officer does it? We can't. Very soon, there will be a controversy over categorising rapists and injustice and politics will take over. I wonder had it been oppressive summer in Delhi, how many would have assembled in the sun and raise a chorus for the poor girl? The climate made it a convenient cause for a popular movement. But did the culture change on Dec 17?
Can we shout when our own people rape?
This country has innumerable instances where a husband rapes his wife. In many of those cases, the helpless women are also targeted by their in-laws, including the mother-in-law, another woman. Who is going to take care of those victims? We know majority of the rapists are known to the victims.
Can those women or girls assemble at the Jantar Mantar and shout for punishment against their fathers, uncles or any other relative who robbed them of their dignity?
Law is helpless for the families have failed to teach those evil perpetrators how to go about in life and handle issues in ways that make us different from beasts.
We are miles away from modernity
We suffer from a false pride of modernity for we are still feudal in our mindset. We still believe 'Virginity is the lack of opportunity' and proudly sport the line on our latest T-shirts. For us, marriage is still a licence to get access to sex rather than to build on the idea of the social contract, something only man is capable of doing out of all animals on this planet.
We try live-in relationships and hence imitate the 'cool, western style' but end up raping our partners in several cases. It all goes awry because our upbringing has not been sound. And in this age where cultures overlap like never before, it is actually a mess. If all these closed years could not teach us how to practise self-restraint, there is very little chance that it will be learnt today amid endless enticement.
I thank my parents, they taught me how to face the world. And I will do my bit by passing the message to my son.