- Posted August 23, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Speaking up about sexual violence
India: An Open Letter to RoseChasm
As an Indian Man, reading about the numerous almost daily horror stories of sexual assault in India is not easy – it seems not a day goes by without some report of violence against women, whether in bustling metropolitan areas or smaller rural settings. The news reports are horrifying, and each new case more horrifying than the prior. I can’t help but feel terrible for all the victims, while also wondering what’s brought about such a negative sociological change. I have lived in the US for the last 12 years and in India all my life prior to that and I recall India during my childhood – where values that were inculcated in us as children (by all adults) centered around respect, humility and hospitality – qualities that were on display in almost all everyday situations. Where strangers on streets would stand up against and confront acts of violence against women; not being mere bystanders, let alone ‘participate’ in the act – as it seems be ever so much today. Nevertheless, such negative change cannot be accepted, such acts cannot be tolerated and justified by any means – sexual violence against women is wrong, cannot be accepted and must be condemned.
I cannot help feeling sorry and miserable for RoseChasm and her experience while traveling in India – it is truly horrifying, and no one should have to go through that. Her account candidly sheds light on the grim situation concerning day to day acts of sexual harassment. However, I am equally wary of the fact that the article seems to depict India as a nation of depraved, morally strayed and violent men – a depiction that has provoked a vast reaction and has many decent and respectable Indian men apologizing for being … well … ‘Indian’.
I arrived in Chicago IL in 2001 – I was offered admission to a graduate program at Illinois Institute of Technology and a once in a lifetime opportunity to live the American dream. As a student myself, I lived in the south side of Chicago for over 2 years – using the CTA (bus or train) to commute back and forth from classes etc. and often times, late at night. As many of you that know Chicago, its hard to ignore the threat of violence; hearing stories of my fellow students being mugged and beaten for a watch or a laptop or a few dollars, while knowing you can meet the same fate yourself at any time. While I was ultimately fortunate to avoid personal misfortunes, I have personally witnessed my college roommate being beaten up at 3 AM at a gas station, while I was ‘locked out’ and frantically calling for cops. I have also personally witnessed gun fire being exchanged between neighbors in my apartment building. I have had a close friend beaten up and had his laptop stolen while returning home from campus. While for a few, such experiences could lead to onset of PTSD … I graduated, found a good job, got married and I am happily settled in Chicago – living and working in the downtown area … and I continue to love and respect America for all its culture, opportunity and diversity.
And when asked by family and friends in India about America, my reaction is not … “America is wonderful, but extremely dangerous for people”. I usually stop with “America is wonderful”.
I would ask Ms. RoseChasm if she felt different if she were tailgating at the 31st street lot during a Bears game, than she did at the ‘Ganesha’ festival in Pune? Or if she felt any safer taking Bus 29 from 35th and Bronzeville to 75th street past 10 PM alone, than being stalked on an Indian street after purchasing sandals? Or if she is genuinely immune from danger of being caught in the middle of a gun violence situation at a shopping mall or a theater, or … an elementary school?
As some of the reactions point out, every culture is unique and every nation has its issues with violence (whether sexual or otherwise) that its people need to actively address through laws and legislations. While India has its problems with sexual violence, it must be said that a vast majority of Indians are decent, law abiding, respectable human beings who know nothing other than respect towards their fellow human beings. India is a country known for its deep rooted history, values and hospitality. While its terrible to see how acts of a few depraved men can do so much harm (and its absolutely inexcusable) – it still is ultimately incorrect to paint a broad and stereotypical image that Ms. RoseChasm inadvertently did.