Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
Two incidents that have happened in India at the close of 2012 have put things like modernity and forward thought into perspective. One was a forcefully brutal rape; the other was an unexpected suicide.
A 23 year old medical student was cruelly gang raped by 6 men in New Delhi in a moving bus, beaten with an iron rod and thrown out!! The girl in question suffered a lot and died. Angry protestors are demanding stricter laws and punishment and the media has raised both relevant as well as stupid questions around this.
Many intelligent folk claimed that men get provoked by women’s clothing. Tell me, how badly can a 5 year old girl be dressed? In fact, like one of my colleagues pointed out – even if a 5 year old girl isn’t dressed, you shouldn’t get attracted to her! Some claim that these crimes happen when women aren’t accompanied by men. The girl who just died was accompanied by her friend. Some claim rape is a product of the night. They couldn’t get stupider! Few months ago, a girl in Assam was molested by 17 men in broad daylight.
Rewind to 1939. Shri.R.Iswaran married a girl from a very orthodox Tamil Brahmin Iyer family. The girl could sing well, however, it was unpopular for Brahmin girls to sing in public then and so her parents restricted her from pursuing the art. Shri.Iswaran however took it upon himself to encourage his wife and make her an accomplished singer. The girl in this story is none other than the Late Smt.D.K.Pattammal. What a broadminded man her husband was! He was responsible for providing music to many ears, through his wife. Many men that age would have restricted her to the kitchen at home; he took her on stage, sent her to sing in many functions. In the process, he only gained respect. Pity his granddaughter’s husband didn’t have a bit of that attitude, that in 2012!! How our attitudes have shrunk!!
Jealousy and ego – age old defects coupled with a severe depression – were responsible for that suicide. I have only one request to Nithyashree Mahadevan – please continue to sing, better than before. It will help you and your children to get out of the state of mind that I can imagine you will be in now. Please prove to the world that it is possible to reach greater heights despite a heavy loss. Please remember the great Mira Bai – who overcame plenty of odds to reach Krishna. The length and breadth of our country now sings her praise, not Rana’s! I am sure many rasikas like me are waiting to hear you sing again!
Both these incidents have helped put the respect that women in India get into perspective.
Rape, as a reported crime, is very low in India compared to other countries. 1.8 women out of every 1 lakh is a rape victim in India compared to England’s 28.8, America’s 27.3, New Zealand’s 25.8, etc. The problem in India is not this number. The problem here is the basic attitude of men towards women.
Those countries which have a higher rape ratio (call it that if you will) are not drumming about their cultural greatness. They aren’t harping on about the respect that they have been giving to women over millennia. They aren’t beating drums about their traditional values. True, India has rivers named after women (It is supposed to be a token of respect. The way these rivers are maintained is quite another issue.) and has a music director who at the Academy (Oscar) award function gave immense respect to his mother. But then, that seems to be about it.
Women, despite so much talk, are an oppressed lot in India. To start with people don’t want girls to be born. Did they stop for a minute to think how they would be born if not for a girl, I don’t know!! The general attitude in Indian households towards women is pathetic, although it has been undergoing change on the positive side. It is not ok for her to voice her opinion, her movement and thought are controlled by men, she is not herself but someone else’s daughter, wife or mother, and for all things that go wrong, she becomes the easiest target. It is ok for a man to blame the woman and threaten to throw her out of the house during an argument. She is supposed to give in, every time. If she raises her voice, it is considered as arrogance. Her independent thinking is restricted and she can be made fun of in front of others (she is expected to join in the joke). She is supposed to do everything at home and make life easy for others who live in it as well, despite taunts. To cap all of this, a woman is supposed to take pride of this situation. Most men are ok if their mothers, sisters or daughters are successful. But they become jealous when it comes to wife. Wonder how they can think like that!! What were our esteemed, so called cultured ancestors trying to do? Prepare her for a life in hell or something? Beginning at home, this outlook percolates through workplaces and society at large.
According to me, if this attitude were to be extrapolated, its highest point would be rape.
What justice can we as a nation give to Amanat’s family? Agree that women on their part need to be more careful. However, the major change has to come from outside. Punishing the guilty, for sure is a start to delivering justice, but, respect to women at home will prevent many other Amanats from horrible fates. Respect doesn’t mean falling at the woman’s feet or nodding your head for everything that she says. Respect means giving a woman her space, listening to her when she talks, taking her opinion equally with that of men, giving her a sense of inclusivity, looking upon her as an intellectual being, pointing out her faults, asking her to change for the greater good, encouraging her to pursue her dreams – basically allowing her to be herself. It would help if men were taught to look at women and not at her body parts, at home. It would be wonderful if women are mutually loved and respected. It is this that she needs and not 33% reservation or demonstrations on women’s rights!
A paradigm shift in attitude alone can help reduce rape and will be long lasting justice to many Amanats around India.
Let us remember that Mahakavi who worshipped Parashakthi and sang in the 1920s….
“Aanum Pennum nigarrenak kolvathaal, Ariviloanki ivvagayakam thalaikumaam”
Taken from his poem Puthumai Penn (New Woman) the line evokes that “When we realize that man and woman are equal, this world will flourish with knowledge”.
“Nimirntha nannenjum naer konda paarvaiyum, Nilathinil yaarukkum anjaatha nerigalum
Thimirntha gnanach cherukkum iruppadhaal, Semmai maadhargal thirambuvathillaiyaam”
“With upright heart and steadfast look and ideas that are not afraid of anyone in the world- the woman does not falter as she has the delight of wisdom.”
“Aettayum pengal thoduvadhu theemaiyendren niyirunthavar Maaynthuvittar
Veetukkullay pennaip pooti vaippoam endra vindai manithar thalai Kavilnthaaar”
“Those who thought that women should not touch books and learn have died! Those surprising people who said that we have to lock women in homes to do their duties, have put their heads down in shame.”
Let us remember the great Shri.Iswaran and the great Shri.Sadasivam who gave us Pattamal and MS! Let us teach the next generation that womanhood isnt a fate, that it is something to take pride in and something to be respected and loved!