We are certainly living in the worst of times. The pain, the shame, the ruthlessness of it. While a bubbly 23-year-old, with a shattered body and still more shattered dreams, lies battling for life, it is a moment of truth for all of us. Wake up! When the nation's girls and women become victims of gangrape and assault, what dreams of a beautiful future can there be for our nation? And if this is what happens in the national capital, what can we expect in the rest of the country?
Though my aim is not to extol the virtues of the West, yet I cannot help recalling a few things that struck me during my recent trip abroad. As a single woman travelling alone for the first time in the United Kingdom, I could not help noticing the confidence and ease with which the women went about in their daily routine of travelling in public, be it for work, shopping or simply leisure.
Dressed in various hues of the latest fashion, young girls could be seen chatting away happily in the market place, reading quietly while travelling in a local train or enjoying a cup of coffee in a street café, or doing any one of those umpteen little things that form the small joys of life.
I could not help feeling how different it means to be a woman in the West, not being subjected to unwanted male gaze while moving on the road, not having to worry about being 'safe' in a bus, not having to pretend that things are normal even when your heart is seething with rage at hearing a lewd comment, and most importantly, not having to live in fear. Fear of having acid thrown on you, of your family members being assaulted or even killed, of constant harassment and humiliation… just because you are a woman.
As I moved around in busy London, I hummed happily the lines of Rabindranath Tagore "Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high". Suddenly I stopped, realising that this was the dream Tagore had for India and ironically, I had never felt this lightening of the heart, and uplifting of the spirit while moving alone in my own country. Charity begins at home, and though we cry ourselves hoarse over international terrorism, what do we do to protect our women in our very own homeland? For them, terror has become a part of life.
If the young victim, whose gangrape has triggered off a national outrage, has had her life destroyed, we all are the killers. Because we let things come to such a pass where evil and crime can roam around fearlessly, ruthlessly and with impunity. Why are we even debating death penalty?
Death, even many times over, cannot undo the heinousness of it all. Death penalty is the least that can be done in this gruesome case. Justice must be immediate as well as exemplary. Otherwise, can we live with the guilt and the shame?