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To an American girl, an apology from India

August 20, 2013 11:28 IST

I wish I could tell you that what you had to experience is limited to a few people and a few places in my beautiful country; it is not.

Dear RoseChasm

I read your story on CNN.com, in which you describe your trauma at being subjected to repeated sexual aggression and assault in India.

I was shocked and horrified as the words sank into my brain. How you were filmed in Pune during Ganeshotsav. How you had to lock yourself up in a Goa hotel room armed with a pair of scissors to escape the would-be rapist hotel employee. How you cannot forget the smiling face of the man who masturbated on you in a bus. 

I was filled with disgust and anger -- just the way I was when we unleashed the horror of Delhi in December on another girl like you, except she was an Indian who died in a Singapore hospital.

My eyes filled with tears when I read that the trauma you had to endure left you suicidal and unable to resume classes even when you were back in the safety of your surroundings. And that you were not the only one in your group who had to get psychiatric help.

I wish I could tell you your story is an aberration; it is not. Only two days ago, I read on Facebook how someone called Natasha Zarine has written to the Maharashtra Tourism Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, describing in graphic detail the lewd behaviour she and her friends were subjected to at the Ajanta Ellora caves.

I wish I could tell you that what you had to experience is limited to a few people and a few places in my beautiful country; it is not. From the mountains in the north to the seas in the south, from the jungles in the northeast to the prosperity of the west, India is filled with men who get away with sickening behaviour because we as a society think it’s no big deal to stare at, film, touch, grope, harass women.

Yes, it boils up to outrage when something like Delhi happens, but for every brave girl who dies battling the demons this country unleashes on her, there are many others who suffer in silence. Who don’t have recourse to safety. Who must face demons every day -- on streets, in buses, in trains, at airports, in flights, in schools, colleges and workplaces.

Sexual aggression and assault are not unique to India. I had a friend who had drunk men often say lewd things to her on the streets in the US. I know of another woman who was raped twice -- years apart -- in Paris.

But I wish, dear Rose, that you were not subjected to the immense ugliness that exists --  along with immense beauty -- in my country.

I hope you find the strength to move on and realise, as all human beings are forced to, that nothing really matters as much as it seems it does.

You are probably old enough to be my daughter, and I wish I could show you the beauty of my people and my country. But then I wonder where I would take you to so that I could ensure your trauma is not repeated. I don’t know of a bus, train, taxi or flight where I can guarantee that as an Indian.

Nor do I know of a place. Except, maybe, Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa, the tribes of which have voted unanimously against mining in their area. And a tribe, that I learnt yesterday, that has more women than men -- something not even Mumbai can boast of.

Yes, dear Rose, you are right when you write, ‘This is the story you don't want to hear when you ask me about India. But this is the story you need.’

With much affection

A common Indian man

(My name doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t.)

PS: I just saw that (external linkyour column has been flagged as ‘inappropriate’. Might be one of my countrymen, displaying the gorilla behaviour of chest-thumping we often indulge in every time someone holds a mirror to our faces. So, apologies once again.

A Mango Indian