It is said that one side of our brain controls emotion, the other intellect. Why did the story of this unknown girl from a modest background, who stepped into a chamber of horrors when she had only gone out for some simple fun, touch us so deeply? Why was I so moved that I wanted to cry? Many of us who felt that way are fore-grounded in issues of rape by the state, by mobs during riots, by the powerful against the socially powerless. Many of us are also wary of media manipulation and its ability to “manufacture” revolutions as witnessed during the early days of the Anna Hazare movement.
So why were we so moved? Because it is always the personalized story that touches us. Statistics about people who remain unknown do not reach us. And this is not something that the media invented today—it is the way we have passed on our great legends and oral histories. The best books have at their core a moving central figure.
What made the story of this girl stay with us is her simplicity and vulnerability. There was a great truth at the core of this story. In the post liberalization era, there are millions of young girls moving from traditional backgrounds quite suddenly leading lives that appear to be superficially modern. This young girl epitomized that India: she had just stepped out of a plush south Delhi mall full of designer stores and was looking for public transport to return to her simple home some distance away. She could have been any of my cousins from small towns in eastern UP who love the malls, the movies, and save up their money to go there. She could have been any of us in an India that is getting rapidly urbanized.
We all identify with this even if we have not analysed our own emotions and strong response to this case. There has to be truth at the core of a narrative for people to respond beyond the early hype. Why did my teenaged daughter who has been raised in a home where communal, caste, state violence and international conspiracy theories are routinely discussed, respond to this tale more than any other?
It is an urban tale with signposts that she and a generation of city youngsters can recognize so she wanted to accompany me to Jantar Mantar the morning after the death in Singapore. This is the first time I have seen her follow an issue or a story I am engaged with. She saw a protest, very peaceful and calm, full of people who cared, met many friends, colleagues who had also come spontaneously. Perhaps the next time she will get engaged with the story of a brutality in a place she cannot relate to. I see this case as an education for her and other youngsters.
Ultimately, it is not the political class or the police who can offer solutions. Fast track courts and new laws can be debated and even become a reality. But if some youngsters who have been following this story can be sensitised, we would have achieved something in the urban space. Perhaps the hesitant young man who watched his friends ogle, harass or pursue a young girl who is saying no, will get the courage to speak out. Perhaps young and old men who sit indifferent in public spaces while women get harassed will examine their own responses. Perhaps some men will realize that being a man does not just mean pursuing or possessing a woman.
Women too have lessons to learn. Used to a staple fare of mainstream masala movies, I have never given much to what others have seen as vulgarity. I would always fight for the right of women to be attractive sexual beings. So with this disturbing case in the backdrop I found myself shocked into noticing some lyrics of a song filmed on Kareena Kapoor in Dabang2—" main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar gatkaale saiyyan alcohol se (I am a tandoori chicken/ swallow me with some alcohol)."
What do such words suggest? That a desirable woman is waiting to be cannibalised by a man? It sounded grotesque to my ears after what has happened. Does Kareena Kapoor, a fine actress, a role model for youngsters, from the first family of Bollywood, really need to do this? Perhaps she too like many of us never gave it a thought. She is just doing her job in cinema where each item number is “hotter” than the last. Perhaps a case like this will make someone like her reflect on images where women are depicted as wanting to be devoured by men. In the media too, we must now become conscious of how we objectify and trivialize women. Self awareness is after all supposed to be the beginning of change.
I am reading you book, In good faith,
And I am awed by your expression in the book !
But,as about your above article, I disagree with your view in the end,
Freedom of expression is a part of our constitution, as a youngster ,even I am not found of the lyrics of most of the songs,
but,this cannot be stated as one of the contributors to the such evil outgrowth in the society.
Saying,that such lyrics and such acts performed by actresses act as a catalyst would be wrong,
And if this is the case then ,Pornography is the main fuel for all the crimes against women !
This is similar to accusing the attire and the time when a girl goes out etc. etc. as reasons for the crime !
Rape is an inhuman act, and nothing justifies it ,
And females ,as males, are entitled to freedom of expression ,
actually they are entitled to their -freedom to live,
and this freedom ,should not be taken away, stating it to be cause for crime against them !
And this also arises a question ,that are men so weak in character, that they can turn inhuman ,
by mere clothing,or the erotic lyrics and scenes in media etc .?
If it is so, then men need a reality check !!
Why make films an excuse? A person is supposed to admire Amitabh Bachchan, not become him. Why aren't people doing the 'Tu mera hero', song of Akshay Kumar, and John Abraham on the pavement? Keep on using logic and common sense, and the ultimate of both is, don't be unpleasant, or try to keep yourself away from unpleasantness.
Saba Naqvi >> So with this disturbing case in the backdrop I found myself shocked into noticing some lyrics of a song filmed on Kareena Kapoor in Dabang2—" main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar gatkaale saiyyan alcohol se (I am a tandoori chicken/ swallow me with some alcohol)."
For ages, we Conservative, Right of Center Indians have been pointing to the extreme vulgarity in Indian film industry (of most languages) but you Left liberals have dismissed us as Sanghi, internet hindoo prudes and simply pointed at the idols of Hindu gods to justify the vulgarity. And now, it takes a beastal rape of an innocent lady for a left liberal to understand the Point of View of the conservative rightist Indian. But happy that you finally understood our point. But equally worry how long will you stick to this understanding or just return to "Creative Artistic freedom under threat by Saffron fanatics Point of View"?
Amit >> I am pretty sure, two months down the line, you would be singing paens of Rahul baba and Mummyji.
My goodness, is she not paid handsomely for all those song and dance on Rahul Baba and saint sonia !! She has no reason to complain...
And Shri Shatrughn Sinha - a leading light and MP of BJP - the custodian of Bharatiya sanskriti- has no qualms about his daughter doing her bit in this classy Bolllywood fim.
The movement from Sanskriti to Dabang and back is effortless and smooth.
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