In a week I will be going back after three years. It is not a big deal you would think. So many have done this before and survived. Yes, many have gone back home, survived, thrived even. I am sure I will too! But there are a few questions, a few ‘cultural’ practices, a few ‘excuses’ I am not willing to embrace or accept or ignore or turn a blind eye to, because that is what most of us have been doing since we could make meaning of the community around us.
What is this rant all about?
Yesterday, I was going through my daily Facebook ritual and lo and behold another article of a public molestation, this time in a city I had stayed in for four years and in a location I knew. I knew the place and therefore it struck a little harder. I was hoping that in my interim plan of action until I catch the next wind to somewhere, I was going to work there, live there, make friends there, party, post blogs and write from there. And then, this happens and I am reminded of one of the monologues about being a girl I had watched last year when Eve Ensler was touring the UK. It went something like this, ” I don’t want to have to keep looking over my shoulder to feel safe in a city.” It hit home. I grew stronger in London. I learnt that as long as I always knew my way back home and the nearest tube stop I was OK. I un-learnt to stop looking at the ground every time I walk on the street, something I did out of habit and the second message in a string of direct and subtle received when my parents realised that I wasn’t sitting the ‘girly’ way and getting curvy. I started crossing my legs and would ‘avoid trouble’ by walking with my head held down, never looking people in the eye, unless spoken to. I won’t blame them. I disobeyed and wham the vultures swooped in. I wouldn’t blame my parents for they taught me what they knew as the only survival mechanism known to young parents of girl children in India. Avoid, avoid, avoid – even when you did nothing wrong or have no intention of doing anything wrong.
But now I am older, confident and have learnt, seen, participated and have been encouraged to not just see but actually look at the alternative. And it feels good.
This confidence, this walking with head held high, looking people in the eye and the simple things in life, for instance choosing to wear what you want without fear will all be challenged this time next week.
Hence the dillema. On the one hand I am going back to the only place I have ever known until three years back. Ideally it should be like the books non-resident Indians usually write or talk about, a sweet home coming steeped in family, love and endearing memories,
I am not going to visit, I am moving to live there for a few months, to work and even hoping to do research based in India. This is not romantic and I am not asking that it be a path strewn with petals. All I am hoping is that I see some semblance of social change. An indication – big or small that I can be a young, hard working and ambitious young woman in the prime of her life, fresh out of one adventure and willing to dive into another without fearing for her safety.
It seems like a hard ask. I am willing to put in my share of questioning and fighting. Heck! if I didn’t it would be a disservice to the many wonderful Indian women I have met in my life. I want to be positive because I believe fervently that good things happen to people who think and do good. Call it a coping mechanism, an attempt to look at the bright side and stop whining, call it what you like. But I refuse to be a pessimist. I would rather be an optimistic realist. I write it as it is and hope for it to get better.
It seems I have come full circle albeit with a much more refined viewing lens.