What this agonising churn of crimes against women in Delhi or any other city has also done is to put the clock back on the women’s movement. Thousands of us who made sand castles inside our minds while loving immensely the touch and feel of liberation now feel deceptively let down. Those short-lived (or were they illusory?) freedoms have been snatched back and we are losing the distinction between feminine privileges and feminist rights. The sky will be ours, we were promised. Men, said our mothers and mentors, will respect us tomorrow; society will stop harassing us with its moral harangue tomorrow; India is free, we are free, tomorrow we will be equal.
Tomorrow never came. And this girl is dying because she has been so severely violated in a country that promised equality tomorrow. All doors to deeply realised aspects of feminism that could have only come from safety and value have been shut in our faces. Our pubbing and clubbing liberties, our little or big black dress tirades and our sexual choices seem like jokes when contrasted with the violence that doesn’t stop chasing us. In the big picture, the word ‘free’ barely applies to Indian women, even well-educated ones in cities, like this paramedical student. It’s an urban myth, a flaky decoration, not even a war medal because we may have won some battles but have sadly lost the war.
Now we are damn confused about what to do with this disabled freedom. Should we wear dupattas to look suitably modest since even saris now come with sexy cholis? Is it okay to whistle while watching a play in Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi or should we wait till we get to a private drawing room in Kochi? Should we allow a male friend to escort us home or will that endanger his life as well? Is it okay to say ‘boob-tube’ or should we rephrase it as a “fashionable garment for the upper part of the female body” lest it’s mistaken as lewd, inviting talk? Is it cool being female and single, or is it hot? Please, someone, help us negotiate this enslaving maze of liberation.
So I have decided not to sign any petition, join any candlelight vigil or march for women’s rights. Instead, I will run from all this as my new (old) choice for safety. Till, tomorrow comes.