Stop reading this column. No, really. It doesn’t offer magic solutions, and it will not change the country you and I live in. It reeks of helplessness, and of a young woman whose images were seared into national consciousness, destroying the notion of Indian propriety that we’d been cuddling with all these years.
But enough about Sherlyn Chopra.
I don’t know what to say about the Guwahati tragedy that hasn’t been said already. Then again, neither does anyone else in the media. That’s because incidents like this generate a series of reactions that are as predictable as a Rohit Shetty movie (Step 1. Be obnoxious. Step 2. “Look, flying Scorpio!” Step 3. Someone please introduce Ajay Devgn to a toothbrush.) The pattern in this case played out as follows:
1. A class XI student gets horrifically assaulted on the streets of Guwahati following an altercation at a pub. A local news channel films the incident and soon enough, the video goes viral, displacing last week’s viral star, Jackie’s Shroff’s aunt.
2. Talking heads start asking the right questions: Why was the girl at a pub? Was she drunk? Why are people asking us for opinions when it is clear that we have the brains of goat poop? The District Collector of the area even said that he would take action against bars that flout norms, and that the bar was supposed to have shut at 10 p.m. Yes Sir, and your mom’s legs should have stayed shut on your parents’ honeymoon.
3. Then it was time for Kiran Bedi to jump into the fray, who did so with all the grace of a tightrope walker splattering against the ground. According to the lady, pubs attract hooliganism and lust, while holy places are centres of peace and virtue. I’m sure devdasis, altar boys and people in Ayodhya would agree.
It is incidents like these that inspire a slew of “I’m ashamed to be an Indian” reactions. (Not that national pride is a great benchmark to begin with. Saying you’re proud of being Indian is like saying you’re proud of being 70% water. You had nothing to do with it.)
Having said that, many things – Guwahati, Bombay, Gurgaon, religion, the caste system, dowry, Andheri – do make you want to move to someplace more sane, like Saudi Arabia. And according to a recent survey of the G20 nations, India is actually the worst place to be a woman, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Pinki Pramanik’s room. It takes real talent to fall behind Saudi, a country where a woman could get whipped for showing too much eyelash. Then again, in India you could apparently get raped for not dressing in a bed sheet.
Another example of idiocy was seen in Uttar Pradesh, wherein a Panchayat outlawed love marriages, cellphones and common sense. It also banned women under 40 from going out unescorted, thus teaching perverts a lesson by forcing them to harass only old women. I think the only way for women to be safe is to not be born here. See, the Haryanvis were right all along.
It’s the kind of week that makes you wonder what would happen if we just relinquished governance to women. All of it. Everything, just run by women. Sure, I anticipate a sudden glut of inventions such as handbags that can hold smaller handbags, and there would be ambulances on hold to deal with bad hair days” and creams would promise to get rid of all Daddy issues in “just seven days!”, but all that aside, it might just work. Women can work wonders if we just let them be. Just look at Sherlyn Chopra.
(Note: This is my HT column dated 15th July 2012. Cross-posted from here.)