Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jyoti Singh Pandey : An ANGEL in disguise

29 Dcember, 2012,  2.15 a.m. An ANGEL died in Mount Elizabeth Hospital , Singapore.

To all of us Indians Damini, or Amanat, the gang rape victim, a  Physiotherapist  by profession, became a symbol of CHANGE.  Change for the way we view women   The way we view women' s safety.  The way a nation treats  the second half of is population.

For  thirteen days this ANGEL  held the country together  in one momentum that cried out INJUSTICE. protests occurred all over the country.

 We have had ENOUGH .  It was heartening to see the youth spell out their anger and outrage at this ghastly incidence.  More heartening that the literate and illiterate  BOTH condemn this ghastly act.

It was a sense  of outrage that made me and my daughter protest  at India Ggate with the Delhi cyclists.  Since Section 144 had been declared by the govt., we were  not allowed to go as per our plan to go on a silent protest from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhawan with our banners.  So we stood quietly with our banners, talking  to the media who was present there.

During the past fourteen days,  as Damini battled  with death bravely,  was  reminded of two incidents in my life.  They had been shelved in some back corridors of my life and they were fished out to the present  in wake of what Damini endured.

To be gang raped and be hit by rods.  To have rids inserted in you.  God, are they even humans? What kind of psychopaths  are these men?

My first awareness of what  it means to be a woman in this country and what kind of silent sufferings , fear and injustice a woman has to bear came at age 12.

We were in Mumbai.  The year was 1976.   My mother and my three sisters were stopping by at Mumbai on our way to Zambia.  In the short time we had in  Mumbai, we traveled via  the Mumbai local trains.

I vividly recall what i was wearing   The memory is still crystal clear.  I was wearing a maroon parallel and a green and maroon  skivi.  As we got in the crowded train and stood in the centre, a man who must have been between 25 and 30 touched me in a most offensive manner   Shell shocked i could not believe that this could happen to me when my family was around me.  But he took advantage of the crowd.  I stood frozen, bearing it all unable to protest, call for help or  say a word.  I was all of 12.  Some time later  relief came as i sat on the seat and was relatively SAFER.

I was so stunned by this incidence that till date i never told anyone about it.  But it has stayed in my memory all these years  Damini's death has led me to share my most personal encounter.

The second incidence happened when i 20. I had to travel to Delhi for n entrance exam.  The entrance  exam happened to be in between my semester dates   So i had no choice bit to travel in the afternoon, from Chndigarh after my exam was over.

It was winters and by the time i reached ISBT, it was dark.  I had taken the risk to travel and reach Delhi in the evening as my cousin had promised to pick me up from ISBT. Those days there wet no mobiles.

As i lugged my air bag ans stood waiting for my cousin to arrive, i had the scariest  one hour of my life.  Every passer by gave ma glare  a young girl, all alone, presumably waiting for someone.  And a little while later a  man  with luisty, beqdy eyes came  and stayed put near me.  He said nothinga nd did nothing, but his presence and offensive eyes  sent shivers down my spine.  I havd never seen such evil and lusty eyes in my life.

The bus in which i was travelling  had an elite looking man in his mid thirties .  As i stood waiting there he  crossed me and i was in a dilemna .  could i appeal to him for help? For protection.  He seemed well educated and  from a good family   But would he help? What if he too turned out to be suspicious.  It seemed he too was waiting for someone as he stood near  by me. Althouhg i never got any negative vibes from him  could not muster enough courage to appeal to him for help.  After ll he too was a stranger.  A man. The way this beady man looked  as i  stood there u what i needed to Oscillating between asking for help or not.   i prayed to God for my safety and wondered why my  cousin  had not been  careful enough to reach ISBT at the time we had fixed in advance.

That one hour was full of  cold fright for my safety.  And i  cursed myself for making that trip to Delhi at evening hour.  Finally when i had given up all hope of surviving that day, my cousin appeared  from nowhere and i burst out crying.  Such were our times.

Any young girl/woman who has traveled by public transport has faced  eve teasing and sexual harrasment  ( putting it so mildly) and a fear of her safety at some point of her life. When will all this change?

 As a mother of two young daughters it has always been a dilemma granting them freedom at the expense of their safety.

Perhaps the one thing which has changed is  awareness.  Today it is heart warming  to see young males fighting for women/s cause.   Raising their voice at the gross injustice of Damini's gang rape.

And it is not just the literate man who is aware of the wrongs doings happen to the women in our country.  My dhobi who has two young daughters, said  to me:

I  saw you giving your interview on NDTV.  Good to see such protest .'In sab ko PHAANSI de deni chahiye'.

And  as i sit here typing, he walks in to clean the car and says:  Ladki mar gayi.  Ab to phaansi DENI he padegi.

Damini, you are the harbinger of CHANGE.  With the  PM Dr Manmohan Singh,  The President Pranab Mukerjee ,  CM of Delhi Shiela Dixit condemning the  gang rape and subsequent death of Damini, you have singlehandedly made our country wake up to  the sorry plight of women's safety.

The fight will continue.  We will not let your death go in vain.You will live in the hearts  of not only every  Indian, but every ounce of humanity  You were indeed an ANGEL in disguise. One who sacrificed her life for  WOMEN's cause. For SAFETY  of women. For JUSTICE . For New LAWS . For exemplary PUNISHMENT. For WRONGS  against women

RIP Damini