It was a cold, foggy morning. Rain fell in sprays but it couldn’t dampen our spirits. My heart beat a trifle nervously as it is wont to whenever things are to happen the first time. It happens to everyone, this nervousness. But generally I am the one for whom the tag of the faint-hearted is reserved. Finally, the moment arrived. The road resounded with my footfall, though much fuss was created earlier to keep the path blocked for me.
The world sat up and took note as I led the contingent to give a booming salute to the authorities sporting officious bandhgalas and feisty turbans. Images of my presence as I marched on Rajpath, or stood poised shoulder to shoulder with my male counterparts on the navy tableau; army tanks; open jeeps; were splashed everywhere and generated pride. Some even remarked that it was the best sight for the eyes that day. I chose to take this remark in the right spirit.
I have come to understand that I am a positive message of hope for millions of girls who are either killed in the womb or denied the right to a life fulfilled through education, empowerment and realisation of dreams. But to become such a symbol, the journey for me has been a meandering one through tortuous debates that questioned my physical capabilities and mental tenacity, focusing a lot on my vulnerabilities. To tell you the truth, a part of me wonders how things would be for me when the images of that rainy day fade away from memory. Would the growl of the tanks somehow strengthen my heart into not missing a beat when a bus moves around like a prowler in the late hours, triggering memories of a chilly December night a couple of years ago?
In fact, I am a little confused now. Why am I presented with obstacles when I want to empower myself ? You don’t seem to understand, but actually I need you to be considerate towards my vulnerability there, there, when I am out on the dark roads trying to reach home safely after a gruelling day at office. I want you to debate about the adequacy of safety measures for me in hospitals, in lifts, in schools, and well, let me say it, in the army. I hope you have caught the drift.
Though I appreciate your concern at not sending me for open combat, would somebody please specify in what circumstances I would have to bite the bullet (during peace times of course) —when I dare to love outside my caste, or when I obey my parents and reject a person on the same grounds? The question may zap you but contradictions of this kind often mark my life. For example, I may proudly hold the Tricolour atop Mt Everest, but people still find it convenient to abandon me on the stairs of the temple of the goddess, especially if I happen to be the second daughter. Rest assured, I really don’t have much objection if I am projected as the face of a new India under a new political agenda, but please remember, I can still be defaced with a bottle of acid bought with a paltry sum over the counter.