- Posted August 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
India-The story you WANT to hear.
“India is experience,” I go with, which, according to me, is adjective the closest to the truth. I take the liberty to use a verb as an adjective, because if anything, India is that- it isn’t just a country occupying a section of the earth’s geographical landmass- it radiates life, energy and most importantly- the most vibrant spectrum you will ever find-no place in the world will show you the diverse hue that we will.
Because, how do I divide a population of over 1.241 billion into black and white? How can I? I have seen the blackest of ghastly acts being committed here, but how can I ignore the acts of purest sacrifice and devotion that have been etched upon our bloody history? The purest of whites. How can you possibly generalize a country with diversity comparable to the entire European continent- which sections and subsections of religion, region, caste, creed, language, economic background,education,colour,race – culture, into one description?
Let me start small.
Do I tell you about one of our prime festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi, where it is said that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees? Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Do I tell you about the commercialization of this festival that has corrupted it- which is represented by our illiterate population as a procession where they have the liberty to drink and dance on the roads- contributing to both noise and water pollution? My own sense of values as well as personal intelligence makes me wary of joining such crowds. If tomorrow I go dance in one of those processions, is there anyone but me to blame for wanting to be part of an uncouth group of people who will stare at me and touch me-no matter what clothes I am wearing- even though I am Indian?
Or do I tell you about how our beautiful beaches are one of the most unsafe places in our country? How my own parents check and double check that I am staying at the safest of resorts in Goa, with a secure environment and friends they trust? I have had the liberty and the confidence to dress in a bikini in most of the beaches I have visited in the world- but in my very own Goa- I will think twice.
Do I tell you about my own experiences with being stared at, groped, objectified and stereotyped as a girl who wants to grow up and be a ‘model’, by those rigid enough to judge me by my face and clothes and not by my words and actions?
I could. I just did.
But I’m not done. There’s more. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Should I tell you about how at night, any male friend of mine will sure I get picked up and dropped off at home, without me having to worry about driving alone? Or should I tell you about how they cover me up when I’m even a little exposed or cold? Should I tell you about how they show their respect for me as a girl in the smallest of ways- by lifting up my heavy bags, avoid using dirty language in front of me, a stranger offering me his seat. How just the other day the riksha driver drove all the way back to return my moms iPhone that she'd forgotten? How Wealth, Knowledge and Strength, three pillars of life are represented and worshipped in the form of Goddess Laxmi, Saraswati and Durga - three female forms? Just yesterday I celebrated a festival where my brother was reminded of his responsibility and promise of protection to his elder sister. In all my experiences of travel and living alone- I have always felt an equal responsibility as that of my male International friends- to take care of myself. But here, I don’t. The fine line between independence and responsibility towards a girl is so defined here- an educated Indian man will always worry about his lady, and want to protect her- no matter how much he respects her space and her individuality.
We are the fairer sex for a reason. We are not equals. We need the protection we deserve.
I am an educated Indian. I do not love my country blindly. I truly empathise with victims of the uncouth acts our mass majority presents. I’d bleed for them- because I know exactly the circumstances they have been scarred with.
But I refuse to accept the dirty stereotype that my country is being tagged with. I still believe in the decency around me- I see it in my friends, in my family, in my workplace, in strangers in my city. I learn my important lessons from the lower strata of society- that of compromise, satisfaction and survival.
India is not a a romantic adventure. It is not a movie set where you can dance on the road and expect people to shower you with colour at a Ganpati procession. It is not a place where cheap entertainment guarantees you safety. It is reality. It is tough, and it will make you, or break you. India isn’t for the faint hearted. It has taught me caution, responsibility, and the freedom of expression- the time and place for it.
So next time you do opt for a ‘cultural’ experience, please make an educated, well informed decision- with a decent expectation setting, about it. If you do not have the emotional capacity to handle it, I don’t blame you. But don’t overestimate your maturity and think you can adapt. Please. Do yourself that favour.
I want to stand up for the tiny educated section of good that usually gets neglected in my country.
Criticism is easy. Sharing an article and complaining about your country is easy. It’s become our habit.
'Be the change you want to see in the world'- Gandhi said.
I’m Indian and I’m proud of it. I’m an Indian woman. And I’d never trade that for anything else in the world.
Divya Punjabi, an Indian