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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Getahead » 'Every time I hear: Be safe, I cringe'

'Every time I hear: Be safe, I cringe'

By Divya Nair
November 27, 2015 16:15 IST
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'I am 29 and my mother still worries about me. I am married and my father-in-law worries for me every time I travel back home alone, late evening.'

'What is my fault? Is it my gender? Is it my profession? Or my religion?'

Why are we Indians uncomfortable with the ugly truth about the country we are so proud of, asks Divya Nair.

When I first started writing columns for, my mother was unaware of its content.

I did not tell her. In the past she had warned me not to share my personal life with strangers. She felt people target those who speak their minds.

That never stopped me from speaking the truth.

In all these years, for the first time, I must admit I felt frightened.

An actor shared his personal concerns on public platform. Some of my friends and family abused his religion, his line of work and even made some nasty comments about his personal life.

I read and re-read the actor's concerns.

For all those retards who jumped the gun -- Aamir Khan never said India is intolerant -- here's what the actor said: (please click here for the external link)

'I do feel there is a sense of insecurity. When I sit at home and talk to Kiran. (Wife) Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers everyday. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet... growing sense of despondency. You feel depressed, you feel low.. why is it happening? This feeling exists in me too.'

I have never met Kiran Rao. And Aamir Khan is not a relative. Yet, I could connect with every word, every concern he'd raised.

All my growing years my mother had an opinion about what I wore, what I spoke about and how I behaved in public.

I would get angry when I was told not to wear a sleeveless kurta because the men in my neighbourhood might make nasty comments.

The day Aamir Khan was ripped apart, I chased a man who was trying to take a picture of me. I lost him and a rickshaw driver passing by said, "Chodo madam, bhaag gaya."

It did not end there. It does not.

I am 29 and my mother still worries about me. I am married and my father-in-law worries for me every time I travel back home alone late evening.

Every time I hear: Do not travel alone. Or: Be safe, I cringe.

What is my fault? Is it my gender? Is it my profession? Or my religion?

I have asked my parents what they are worried about the most and why.

They worry I will be mugged in the night. They worry that someone might abuse -- read rape -- me. But most of all they worry that if something happens to me, when I am alone, there will be no one to stand up for me.

They worry that people would blame them (my parents) for allowing (me) to wear certain types of clothes, for allowing (me) to stay out alone so late... so on and so forth.

Who are these people, I asked. Why do we blame the victim and not look at the source of the problem?

Why do people commit crimes in my country? Because they know they can get away with it easily.

We all have a rare gift called short term memory. We know how to conveniently hide our flaws in the guise of resilience.

In my country, we guard our daughters. Criticise and condemn them. But we do not tell our men and sons to behave?

We will go to good schools, even send our child to one, and say: All Indians are my brothers and sisters.

But when we (including my parents) return to our homes, we want our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to marry someone from the same caste. Why this hypocrisy?

Last year, when a non-Indian director released a documentary in which she interviewed a rapist in one of our jails, we all burned in rage.

We banned the documentary saying how can you show this side of India to the world?

I burned too. Not because of the documentary. But because most of us missed the point.

I was enraged that most of us were not comfortable with the ugly truth -- that the rapist did not have the slightest remorse for what he did.

Like any of you reading this, I am proud of the many things my country is. At the same time I do not need to turn a blind eye to the (man-made) flaws.

I will not hide its flaws nor will I direct my anger at anyone who speaks up.

I am ashamed when a minister in my country says that chowmein causes rape. I am ashamed that a celebrity, who spoke the truth, was targeted because of his name, his religion and his fearlessness.

Kiran Rao, I don't know you, but you have every right to be frightened. I am frightened too. My mother is frightened every day.

I am frightened, as I write this column, that people will judge my history, my religion, my political association (or the lack of it) and even attack my parents.

But I will not judge my country.

No country is ever safe. That is because we humans are flawed.

I am not going to join you guys and make fun of Aamir Khan. Or Kiran Rao. Or anyone who speaks the truth. Today I have a choice. And a voice. I am proud of that.

Till today I was angry because my parents told me how to dress. Maybe tomorrow my country, and its people, will ban my voice and teach me how to dress and even tell me what to eat.

Congratulations guys, we're almost there.

You guys who blamed the media for influencing you (about Aamir's statement), you too had the choice to decide what to share on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. I hope you were proud of the information you shared.

How would you feel if you tried to upload a funny image on Facebook, tomorrow, and you were denied permission because someone felt it was inappropriate?

Would you be angry and frustrated? Or would you just ignore, accept and move on?

As a proud daughter of this country, I fight this battle every day.

Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters

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