Sunday, June 2, 2013

We Cannot Afford To Ignore Those Warning Signs Anymore

This is my second entry to Indiblogger's "The Moral Of The Story Is...." contest in association with Colgate. Check out My Healthy Speak Blog.

My first entry can be read here.

5 year old Raju wakes up with a start. For a second he wonders what woke him up. Then he sees his father – his thin figure swaying back and forth. He takes a menacing step forward and aims a kick at his cowering mother, completely missing her in his drunken stupor. Enraged further, he grabs the little alarm clock on the bedside table and throws it at his wife. The clock strikes her on the forehead before hitting the floor and smashing into a hundred pieces. Satisfied, he collapses on the bed and almost immediately starts snoring.

Little Raju had been huddling under his thin blanket with his heart beating furiously. Now, he slowly creeps up to his mother and buries his face in her lap. His mother strokes his hair and whispers to him, “It is okay Raju. He is drunk. He is not in his senses. All men are like this – remember how Mani maama created a ruckus yesterday? It is my fault, I should not have asked him why he came so late. Don’t worry, everything will be fine in the morning.” Raju nods silently and gradually falls into a dreamless sleep in his mother's arms.

10 year old Raju shouts frantically at Lakshmi who is sweeping the floor, “Why are you not wearing your uniform? Hurry up! It is getting late!

Your sister won’t be coming to school anymore Raju. You get going,” says his mother.

Why not?!” asks Raju perplexed.

Well there is a lot of work to be done at home. I can’t manage everything all by myself can I? Besides what is the use of her going to school? Anyway she’ll get married in a few years; she’d better learn how to run a household properly.

But… but…” stammers Raju.

You’re going to be late. Run along now!” says his mother, gently shoving him out of the house.

12 year old Raju is walking back home from the market. He hears someone shout, “Hey Raju! Come and see what we’ve got here!” He turns and sees that three of his classmates are kneeling in the dusty alley looking at something. Curious, he goes over to find out what is happening. “Oh my God! What are you doing?!” he shouts in horror.

The boys have tied the legs of a puppy with a rope and are poking and prodding it with a sharp stick. The poor animal looks terrified and is obviously in pain. The sight moves Raju to tears. Noticing this Mahesh laughs, “Haha! Look at this cry baby! He is going to cry!” Kanna chimes in, “Are you going to cry? Are you a girl? Go home and wear your sister’s skirt!” Raju runs away with jeers of “You’re a girl!” “Cry baby!” ringing in his ears.

16 year old Raju is lounging in the tea stall. As he is about to take a sip of the steaming hot masala chai, he hears his friend Kumar shout, “Super figure! What is your phone number darling?

The girl in the yellow chudidhar, across the street, stops in her tracks and gives him a hard stare. Raju and his friends break out into sniggers while Kumar starts whistling. Disgusted, the girl turns and walks away. Kumar too joins in the laughter. He hitches up his shirt collar and says, “These girls think too much of themselves nowadays. How dare she give me that look? Everyone knows that she is a slut. I saw her come home late last night – that too in a miniskirt. She deserves a bottle of acid on that pretty face – that’ll teach her who is the boss."

18 year old Raju is dancing in the movie hall. On screen, the heroine is gyrating and moving her hips enticingly in the latest item song. It is a peppy number with suggestive lyrics that has become a chart busting hit almost as soon as it was released. Raju and his friends can not stop clapping and jumping around to the beats. “She is so hot!” Raju thinks as the heroine gives him a sly wink and bites her lip, seductively.

20 year old Raju is cruising in his auto looking for a fare. It is quite late. Just as he is wondering if he should give up and head home, he sees her. She is standing in front of that big, shiny building and looking up and down the road. She notices him and waves her hand to signal him to stop. She gets in. “K.R. Nagar,” she says and settles back into her seat. Raju turns the meter on and starts driving.

Thoughts are racing in Raju's mind. “What is she doing here so late? Surely, upto no good. Otherwise why would she be wearing such figure hugging clothes? I’m sure she is one of those snooty bitches who needs to be taught a good lesson.

He looks around carefully. There is hardly anyone to be seen. He steals a glance at her in the rear-view mirror. She has plugged in her ear phones and is listening to some music with her eyes closed. A side road is coming up ahead. Raju turnes into it.

In December 2012 the entire nation was shocked to hear about the brutal gang rape in Delhi. We all shuddered to think about the plight of the young woman and we all wondered how men could be so cruel. Want to know how? You have your answer above. While this is a much simplified version, it is by ignoring such warning signs that we, the society as a whole, create such monsters.

Raju’s mother must have told him that his father was a hooligan. She should not have justified his actions, thereby validating that it is okay if men use their physical strength to intimidate women. Instead of standing up for him and accepting that this is how men behave, she should have taught Raju that hitting a woman is wrong. She failed to see that the domestic violence that Raju grew up with as a child was a warning sign that told him that hurting a woman is acceptable.

Raju’s sister should have gone to school with him and studied just like him. Denying her an education and confining her to the hearth just because she is a girl, is a warning sign that implies to Raju that a women’s place is in the kitchen and that she should be limited to the house.

When Raju found himself feeling sorry for the helpless puppy and sympathising with it, he ended up being made fun of by his peers. In our world today, boys are not allowed to express their true emotions because it is considered too “feminine” to be sensitive. The message that is ingrained in us is that men are supposed to be steely and strong – if not, they are not man enough. Such gender stereotypes are a warning sign to us – it places unnecessary pressure on boys to conform to the restrictive idea of masculinity and equates masculinity with power. But we continue to ignore them.

There can be no Indian woman who hasn’t experienced street sexual harassment – or “eve-teasing” as it is lightly referred to. Yet, hardly anyone does anything to stop it from happening. Public spaces belong to us too and we have equal rights to be wherever we choose to be, with whomever we want to be with, wearing whatever we want to wear. But sadly, this is far from reality. A woman on the street is an easy target – to catcall, to bump into, to brush against, to grope, to pinch, to whistle, to ogle at, to threaten… and the list goes on. This deep-rooted social evil is again a warning sign – of how deep the rot runs. What do men gain from it? Power. The power to intimidate a woman, the power to keep her in her place.

Movies – the most popular form of entertainment for our masses. Movies are a huge industry in India and this industry regularly churns out “fun” in the form of racy numbers with obscene lyrics which serve no other purpose than commercial, cosmetic ones. Most of the songs - and often the entire movie itself - are focused on objectifying women, reducing them to a sum total of their body parts. These movies give out such loud warning signs as they shape the public psyche; the guy who hounds the girl incessantly will eventually make her fall for him, if a girl says no – oh she doesn’t mean it! Keep trying and she’ll say yes! But we don’t see these signs. We continue thronging to cinema halls and applaud the mindless trash that is churned out religiously, we make our daughters dance to risqué songs and show off to our friends, we take pride in our sons mouthing lewd songs and dream of them winning in reality shows.

The moral of this story is that it is high time we noticed these warning signs in our society. Remember, a man doesn’t turn into a monster overnight. It takes years and years of social conditioning – subtle messages that permeate his consciousness – until right and wrong becomes too muddled up and the day comes when he thinks being a monster is alright. Being a monster is fun. Being a monster is the right thing to do because it makes him feel like a "man" - not even realizing that there is a difference between being a man and a monster.

Spot the warning signs. Do not ignore them. Do your bit to prevent such monsters being created so that India – and indeed the world – will never have to bear witness to another Nirbhaya.


  1. EXCELLENT post! You've brought out all the warning signs clear and loud. Loved how effectively you've written this post! Hope you win :). Can we vote someplace?

  2. Thanks Neeru!If only you were one of the judges ;-)

    I've submitted it on Indivine here -
    but then Indivine votes don't matter anyhow. So it's okay :-)


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