Today, Rahul Bose may well wake up with a hangover. Reason: Last night he brought in his 43rd birthday with many beers at the Bombay Gymkhana with his rugby buddies. “I really miss rugby,” he sighs. “Last year, I broke my nose for the fourth time. So I have to be careful. I play touch rugby every week, but I’m waiting to get back into the field next year.”
Meanwhile, the actor is planning a punishing trek to Ladakh with a friend. “We had to cancel last year. I’m told it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” he smiles.
Remind him that it’s not one of the safest places either, and Bose says that he was on the local train in Mumbai a day after the 2006 bomb blasts. Life didn’t change even after the 26/11 terror attacks two years ago.
“You can’t live in fear, you learn from it and move on,” he says, pointing out that he filmed Tahaan (2008) in Kashmir.
Bose will also spend some time with his NGO, The Foundation. “We are planning a coming out party in October, it’ll be a one-of-its-kind event,” he promises.
In 2004, after the tsunami, Bose assisted with relief work. Subsequently, in June 2006, he launched the Andaman Nicobar Scholarship Initiative that provides for the education of five children. Matrena, Pratima, Bindu, Rukhsar and Jinu, from the islands, are presently studying at the Rishi Valley School in Bangalore. “They are in standard nine now,” Bose beams. “I started The Foundation, but now others run it.”
The others have started a division for the survivors of child sexual abuse. “We counsel them and also visit schools and colleges to point out what signs to look out for,” says Bose. His directorial debut, Everybody Says I’m Fine (2001), sensitively touched on the subject and Onir’s I Am… series that features him in I Am Omar, alludes to the dark secret too, in the episode titled I Am Abhi, with Sanjay Suri.
“Fifty per cent of all girls below the age of 16 in our country and 25 per cent of all boys are victims of sexual abuse. And in 80 per cent of the cases, the perpetrator is a father, uncle, cousin or someone who works in the house,” informs the actor, adding that while such abuse can erode self confidence and cause shame, it doesn’t make a person any less a man or a woman.
“A friend of mine was raped by her father for many years, yet she leads a full and happy life now. That’s the power of the human mind.” Bose insists that such abuse is not new. What is new, is that young women in cities are coming out with their stories of molestation.
“But in the rural interiors, the stigma is still firmly entrenched. And among boys, such revelations are rare,” sighs Bose. “The only way to tackle this social evil is through education, awareness and counselling.”