Gang rape in a Delhi Bus.
This was a tiny headline that flashed on a news website on 17 December 2012.
The very first moment I came across the shocking mishap that would change the country and me forever.
All my life I had tried to not become accustomed to rape news because it trivialised the issue and made everyone insensate towards it. However, at first me and my colleagues were very dismissive of it. Just like good citizens of the country, we shook our heads, exclaimed how Delhi is so unsafe for women and went about our ways promising each other to stay safe.
When the reports of the brutality began to surface, I began to unravel; just like how a lot of other people did, people I had never expected. It began to draw us out. Throughout the first week, media carried only this news. A story that had clearly jolted the society. It wasn’t the first rape case we had heard but its details that were discussed day in and out brought no respite to our sensibilities. I began spending sleepless nights. My mother and I would hold each other every night, crying, consoling. She refused to let me go alone anywhere (not that I wanted to either). She ensured that either my boyfriend or my male friends would accompany me/drop me home everyday. Of course, male chaperoning – the centuries old practice to ‘ensure’ female safety too had stopped being a safer option now. A feeling of despair and doom loomed on my subconsciousness.
Then the unimaginable happened! Common public began flooding the streets of Delhi in protest. People were angry but hapless. No one had a clear idea of what exactly they were protesting against. Was it the police enforcement? The laws? The judiciary? The transport companies? The government?
Days and weeks of protests – that’s when it struck everybody. This war was against the society’s mindset towards women. That was the first time when social media became a platform for mass dissent in unison. It felt like a collective awakening where everyone stood united against internalised misogyny, discrimination, victim-blaming and rape culture. This became a personal war for me as well. It introduced me to my own biases even as a woman. It reintroduced me to the internalised gender-based inhibitions, which had been a part of my own social conditioning. It made me think of all the times when I had faced street harassment, and how guilty I had felt and always blamed my clothes.
And those months now, after four years stand as a grotesque reminder to the paradigm shift in the consciousness of the masses. The conversations pivoted towards the mindset of the perpetrator rather than finding faults with the victim/survivors. This collective change in consciousness while just the first step to understand and dismantle rape culture, I do believe is the silver lining which keeps alive the hope that there is a better brighter tomorrow to look forward to. Despite, the everyday news of violence against women which tend to tell another story.