Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What's up in India ..

There is already a lot said about the recent Delhi gang-rape case. The brutality left me too horrified to say anything. The people of India are venting out their pain, their agony, their frustration and helplessness. For a change, this time, a majority of Indians didn't put the blame on what the men ate or what the girl wore (or they saved it for another day, because for now, majority of India is boiling with rage).

When the girl landed in Singapore for treatment, Singaporeans learnt about the case and were very curious to know what the issue was all about and why there are protests of this magnitude in India. I work in singapore and at my office lunch table were 5 girls of different nationalities of south east Asia and they wanted to know what was it all about.

I am the kind who always speaks good about India with my other nationality friends. I am proud of my country and always portray good side of it. But this episode had to be answered frankly, I had nowhere to hide, there was no way of escaping or getting defensive about my country.

They asked me why there is so much protest because criminals were already caught and arrested? I only told them that the public wants chemical castration and/or capital punishment for the victims. (I was still hoping that they forget the topic and move on to something else.) They wanted to know if rape and molestation are very common in India and is India not really safe for women? According to them taking a public bus has to be the safest way of traveling within city.

One of them had learnt about molestations in public transport. She wanted to know more about it. Her mouth fell open when I told that it happens even in daytime, even in fully crowded bus/train and the general public doesn't do anything to thrash the offender. She wanted to know why girls like me(who come from respectable and educated families) doesn’t do anything to confront the offender. I had to explain the mentality of society to such crimes, the shame that is associated with it and the fear of blame that falls on victim and not on offender. This was such a shameful moment to me, to lay India, my motherland, bare in front of others :-( One of them quipped "Why don’t the girls go to the police to complain?” She got the biggest shock of her life when I replied that any girl from respectable family doesn't go to police station in India. I remembered the time when I was called to police station for my passport address verification. I was accompanied by my dad and a bunch of my male friends. I didn’t tell this to her.

The girls wanted to know how it is in MNCs? Our office has subdivisions in Bangalore, we work with teams in Bangalore. "Are all Indian men the same? They all think ill about girls?" We have a few Indian men working in our Singapore office. I had to explain that not all men are same. I explained to them that well educated men(which MNC men are supposed to be) doesn’t think this way. I had to explain about gender difference, cultural upbringing and role of education to convince them that not all Indian men are evil. I didn’t want them to have an impression that all Indian men are vultures who are waiting to pounce on women. The protests in India and its coverage in Singapore media is not helping the image of Indian men, in general.

What if women have to work late in office? Its common in many professions to work late in office. I told them that most offices have cabs with security personnel appointed for drop off. By this time they were already skeptical. What if the security person's mind is corrupted?

Girls in Singapore can roam out alone even in the death of night. They can wear clothes that they want without any hesitation. They can go out on dates and return home at any time. They don’t need their brothers, friends, boyfriends or husbands to escort them wherever they go. For any petty issue they can walk into police station at any time and rest assured that their case gets attention. These lucky girls just don’t understand the situation in India. One of the girls innocently asked me "With all these, how do you manage to go out to celebrate something like a New Year countdown in the night?" This was my turn to laugh out loud (and silently shudder inside thinking about Guwahati case). "What celebrations at night outside, I haven’t stayed outdoor for any such celebration, it has to be indoor". She exclaimed "You girls don’t have a life!!".

There were so many questions from them - Is India safe for traveling girls? How can the government let all these happen? One of them was actually planning a trip to India, I don’t think she will be doing that anytime soon! However there is one thing that they all agreed “You don’t go back to India, stay in Singapore. You have a girl child”!! :-(

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