'Sick in my heart that people could think that half our population couldn't "help" wanting to prey on the other half, I mused that the faceless dead girl on the road wasn't just a victim of murder, but also of the misogynistic society she had spent her short life in,' says Geetanjali Krishna.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Earlier this fortnight, when I went out for my morning constitutional, I saw a group of people gathered near the fruit stand by the park.
It turned out that earlier that morning, the partially burnt body of a girl had been found in a gully in Khizrabad, less than a kilometre away.
"I saw the body up close," an old woman claimed. "It looked like she had been strangled and burnt elsewhere and simply dumped here."
Everyone was wondering why the killer had chosen to leave the victim's body in the middle of the road in a crowded residential area.
According to the police, who had arrived soon after the body had been discovered, the victim seemed to be about 19 years old and had been killed late at night.
Other than the old woman, two more in the group said they had seen the body.
"Her face was burnt beyond recognition," said one. "All one could make out was that she had a very fair complexion."
The older women said the victim had been wearing leggings. "I think she must've been from the Northeast... good girls in our neighbourhood don't wear such clothes."
After the expected bemoaning about what this world had come to, the conversation took an unexpected, misogynistic turn.
Her complexion, her clothes and her being out in the street at night, all led to inescapable conclusions being drawn about her "character".
Since nobody in the neighbourhood had reported a missing person, it did seem unlikely that the girl was local.
Then, the speculations went from bad to worse. The old woman said that although it was hard to tell now from the victim's burnt face, it seemed she had probably been good looking.
Perhaps, she had a boyfriend, speculated another. "Perhaps, the boyfriend killed her," said a third.
"I always say girls that age are best kept at home under strict supervision."
Some of the women exchanged hushed asides about the rumour that the girl had been raped before she was so brutally killed.
"What was she doing out late at night anyway?" queried another man.
"This is the reason good girls always stay home and under the protection of their families."
The crowd fell silent, perhaps finally thinking of the tragedy of a young life lost, and most of them dispersed.
The old woman and a couple of younger ones walked into the park with me.
An occurrence like this one was doubly sad, one of the younger women said.
"Our daughters aspire to be equal and independent and educated," she said. "But now, we will all be more inclined to keep them at home, fearing what evils await them outside the safe confines of their homes and families."
The older woman wasn't as sympathetic. If girls insisted on going out late at night, she said, then they should be prepared for the consequences.
"Men can't help being predatory," she said. "Girls who don't understand that suffer the consequences."
A little sick in my heart that people could think that half our population couldn't "help" wanting to prey on the other half I mused that the faceless dead girl on the road wasn't just a victim of murder, but also of the misogynistic society that she had spent her short life in.
Parallels with the murder case of the much younger Arushi Talwar were inescapable, and I wondered why people were so ready to jump to salacious conclusions when a girl had been murdered.
The sun suddenly seemed dimmer on that bright morning.
"I wonder who she actually was," said the old woman as the group finally broke up.
"Someone's daughter," I said as I walked into the park and away from it all.