The State of the Nation

I am a proud Indian.

I come from a family of patriots, a family of true patriots. My blood relatives have served, and continue to serve in the Indian Armed Forces. There is never a prouder moment for me than when I see the the tricolor flying high in a world event such as the Olympic games. I’m proud of our nation’s history and I am proud of its heroes. I take pride in thinking and believing that our nation is one rich with culture and one with a heritage unmatched throughout the globe. I take pride in the fact that young children are taught about morals and values at a young age and that we are taught about culture and respect for elders from the day we are born.

I think that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world. We respect other people’s culture, we listen to the history of their country and even when they proclaim their nation as the greatest in the world, we smile and nod along with them. We’re not ones to start a tirade about how India is better, for we don’t need to. In our heart of hearts, there is only one greatest nation that the world has ever seen and that is ours. And because we truly believe so, we don’t need to force our opinions onto others and convince them of it. For they have not experienced an Indian life, an Indian upbringing and they have not heard stories about the hardships that our ancestors went through. They will never be able to relate to our stories and they will not understand that a truly great nation does not take pride in its technological advancement and scientific knowledge; it takes pride in its values.

โ€œIndia is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay.โ€

After spending two years abroad, I’ve heard all that there is to hear about Indians. I’ve been told they’re messy, they’re cheap, they smell and that their cooking reeks. I’ve seen advertisements for apartments that clearly state “No Indians” and I’ve been refused entry to nightclubs and been looked down upon in upscale events simply because of the color of my skin. I’ve been physically attacked for being Indian by an ignorant drunk and I’ve felt unwanted on more than one occasion. I’ve wanted to lash out, to portray extreme rage that I often feel when faced with such circumstances, but the reasonable side in me always beckons me to overlook the ignorance and shortsightednessย of others. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned a world where people would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. These people have failed him, I should feel bad for them.

After having gone through all of that, I am still a proud Indian. It’s going to take more than the ignorant and the uneducated to get under my skin and question the belief I have in my culture and heritage. And then I woke this morning. My Facebook newsfeed was overflowing with information on a Delhi gang-rape, about a harmless young girl attacked in a moving bus who is currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Digging into news stories revealed that 572 rapes were reported in Delhi last year compared to 635 this year. And then I was informed that out of the 635, not one has got justice. Not one.

My heart broke. The first line of the Indian National Pledge states, “India is my country, all Indians are my brothers and sisters.” Is this how we treat our sisters? In a country with a widely celebrated festival called Raksha Bandhan which celebrates the relationship between a brother and a sister, one in which a brother vows to protect his sister, you’d expect things to be different, a whole lot different. Women are being treated as objects, they fear for their safety as soon as the sun has set and they constantly look over their shoulder. They live in fear in a nation that takes pride in its freedom.

I will not tolerate this. I can overlook being called cheap, I can neglect being called smelly and I can tolerate being called a curry-eater. I can discount an apartment listing that says “No Indians” and I am willing to take no notice of people who claim to hate Indians for their long-winded ignorant reasons. But being called a citizen of a country of rapists is something I will not tolerate.

Our values are greater than this and our upbringing has taught us different. Women in my nation deserve to travel freely without having to worry about their safety. The ambitious ones deserve to work into the long hours of the night and not worry about being mauled on the way home after a tiring day. Those who work out and strive to stay fit and look beautiful deserve to wear the clothes that compliment them and not worry about them being ripped off the moment they step out into the open. They deserve to be protected by their brothers when in need and they deserve to have crowds stand up for them instead of turning a blind eye.

For everyone waiting for a miracle, it’s not coming. Change is not easy and it’s not going to happen on its own. We all must play a part. For every Indian male reading this: Tomorrow, do a random act of kindness for an Indian woman who is a stranger to you. Stop your car to let her cross the road, help her with a heavy bag, pay for her lunch or just smile and open a door for her. While this might seem trivial to you, it will be your part in trying to make them believe that good men still exist. To make them believe that an Indian man still thinks of them as a sister, still respects her as a woman and still takes pride in her for having the strength to live in such trying times.

In fact, why do it tomorrow? Do it today. And why do it just today or tomorrow? Do it everyday.

India Against Corruption can wait, India Against Rape is the need of the hour.

I am a proud Indian. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.

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22 comments

  1. aashimajohur · December 18, 2012

    Nicely put. Let’s start small, but let’s start right? Since morning I’ve been asked to join a march, update my status on facebook (which by the way, does not make any sense to me personally) and what not. I live in Delhi, and am beyond paranoid when it comes to travelling alone. Leave me, check with my folks! (You know them.) I don’t see a solution to this. Unless any guy misbehaving with a girl on the streets is stopped by a thorough thrashing, for which lawyers like me would gladly defend any charge of assault/ battery, I don’t see anything making a difference. The problem is the people who need to get the message cannot be reached by the means being used, nor will it make a difference. It’s too deep rooted. Ask the khaps, the cults who swear by selling their girls off at too tender an age to imagine. Flipside, they don’t, they lose the girl to utter disgrace. Honour of the family and the male in India, and the lack of it for a female is too deeply rooted, right from the scriptures and their absolutely wrecked interpretations.

    But then I guess, every voice matters right? So does every action. Yes, let’s start. Stand up for girls here, in any small, big, medium sized way – and not just men, women too. Let’s inculcate a sense of security, and then hopefully, live upto it?

  2. Tessa van den Hout · December 18, 2012

    Great story Avtar intense subject! You have so much talent.

  3. Avtar · December 18, 2012

    Aashima, the crux of it is in your first sentence. We have to start somewhere, and everyone has to start. It can’t be a concentrated move by 40 people in one city or something. With strong individuals like yourself on the right side of the law I’m sure change is imminent. I feel our generation to take pride in the fact that we have the opportunity to bring change to a nation, to leave something behind to the generations to follow and be remembered by. I agree with everything you’ve said, I can only hope that the message gets to them through some other means. Also, thanks for the proofread as always, you’re vital for these to have the right touch to them. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Tessa, thank you so much, it was very uplifting how simply you put it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Deshna · December 18, 2012

    Again, perfectly well written. The article hits the nail on the head – while talking about the major current issue today, it doesn’t let one forget how our beautiful culture and heritage is now over looked because of such atrocities. I completely agree with you on every point. Even while living abroad, it is absolutely sad how I have to think twice about what I’m wearing before I enter Indian dominated areas. And just like you said, it is high time that each citizen of India does his/her bit not only to stop such crimes, but also to truly feel proud of being an Indian.

  5. mthesailor · December 18, 2012

    Very well written. Rightly mentioned, this issue is far bigger than any other issues in the county. Let black money be there in the foreign banks, let our corrupt politicians continue doing millions of scams, but respect for Women is something which India should fight for.

  6. Manasi Yadav · December 18, 2012

    I don’t know about the end of the world and jazz but the Delhi gang rape certainly marked the end of humanity and civilization. Come to think of it, the state of the Nation and its women who continue to live in terror everyday is not only shameful but astonishing. What happened with that girl could have happened to me, my sister or one of my closed friends. We continue turning our backs to these cases, fooling ourselves into thinking that such a disaster can’t hit our lives. Well, it very well can, we need to stop waiting for that to happen and act. Act strongly to make small amends,one by one, because the Government is clearly failing. It boils my blood when I read statements from these nincompoop Government officials asking women to not wear flashy clothes, to not work in BPOs, to not step out after 8pm. Seriously? Is that the solution to this hideous problem at hand? Should a woman’s life be altered and moderated to lower her chances of getting gang-raped and molested?
    All this in a nation that prides itself in its culture and traditions and celebrates a nine day festival – Navratri every year, to glorify the nine avatars of a female deity.
    I wonder why this hypocrisy of worshiping celestial goddesses when people can’t respect the women around them. The women, who tirelessly give so much to the society, who make a house a home and nurture their families with all that they possibly can.
    Avtar, loved what you have written,hope these words resound in the heads of men everywhere, men who think women are a lesser species and deserve to be treated as an object.

  7. Tara · December 18, 2012

    Very well written Avtar. Being from north India – the epicenter of female feoticide, rape, dowry murders, the kakaji culture – I have always been reminded by anyone with ‘good sense’ that being a girl I need to be indoors after dark and never respond to lewd comments passed by ‘road side romeos’, no matter how lewd they get. If someone squeezes your breasts while you are walking, the key to not getting other parts of you squeezed and viloated by inciting/insulting the ‘man’ who is merely being led by his ‘manly’ needs, is to pretend it never happened and not make eye contact. If you do respond aggressively or perhaps actually go and lodge a complaint at the police station – this guy’s pride will be so hurt that his loyal friends will jump in to teach you a lesson and redeem his pride.

    So, far I thought it was a flaw Indian men in particular had, perhaps because of the divide caused by the caste system – interms of the various shades of brown we all come in – and is merely a matter of haves and have nots. But it is not an Indian thing. Its a Ass hole thing. In Bombay/Bangalore, women feel safe among Indian men. I couldn’t believe it at first. The same Indian men, coming in all the shades Indian men do, don’t pose a threat to women. Is it because they are mostly working unlike the ‘kakaji’s’ of Punjab/Haryana – those listless jobless men the size of hulks who one finds standing aimlessly everywhere in Delhi. Who knows? But all I know is that it is not impossible for women to be safe in India, in the company of Indian men – in dark or well light areas. Its possible.

  8. Roshni Kaura · December 18, 2012

    ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’ ?
    Maybe if the kids in school would’ve really meant it while pledging to it.

    635 cases ? That is NOT all. These are the cases which were recorded. Most of the women don’t file charges against that ‘man’ fearing the society, fearing how society will look down upon HER and not the man. Fearing how society will blame HER for going out after the sunset or for wearing clothes of her own choice. Bottom line : Its the girl who invites a guy. Yea, Sounds right to me -_- So much for freedom ,eh ?

    Then in most of the cases these rapists are from influential families (rich or with a political background) So yay to the system, lets save the Rich guy ! Lets save the politician !

    I have lived in both Delhi and Chandigarh. My Dad has forcefully had me chauffeured around everywhere , ALL the time, even during daytime. And I ask WHY ? Why should we girls who have done nothing to be treated this way live in a fear of being abused ? Why should we turn a blind eye and walk straight ignoring the pathetic comments by roadside guys ? Why ? I have many WHYs. We all do.
    But then again nothing happens

    Studying sociology these days, we research on extreme cases like a father-in-law getting his daughter-in-law pregnant and SHE is the one who is forced to accept her husband as her brother. Not kidding. We had a good laugh in the class after our teacher gave this research paper to us but then when she started giving us research papers like these everyday we realized its not just one case, atrocities on women are executed everywhere, in rural as well as urban areas. Cases which make you sick. Cases which makes you wanna throw up.

    Once in a while a case like this Delhi case gets highlighted by the media somehow and there are debates on news channels about how to go about these issues. Everyone gives their opinion and go back home.
    Any change ? No.
    Nothing happens.

    Arguments ? CHECK. Debates ? CHECK.
    Change ? The numbers just keep rising.

    Its getting really hard to be proud of my nation these days.

  9. Avtar · December 19, 2012

    Deshna, thank you. Exactly, I’d like us to be recognized for our culture and history and what we currently stand for as a nation, and not ridiculed for what a handful of people do. We need to however not let those people let us down, and continue to be proud of who we truly are. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Mohit, thanks. It honestly is an issue that deserves the kind of attention it’s getting now and I agree wth everything you’ve said.

    Manasi, perhaps December 21 can be interpreted by each of us in our own different way, and maybe the Mayans weren’t wrong about the end of “humanity” as we know it. You’re absolutely right. You raise a good point about the “it can’t happen to me” syndrome, and it’s time everyone realizes that it’s not happening to “someone” it’s happening to “us”. You’re bang on right.

    Tara, isn’t it just horrible that women are told to turn a blind eye not just to lewd comments but to physical harm as well? It’s the saddest thing about our so called society today. And I agree with you, it’s an asshole thing for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay safe, although I’m sure a strong North Indian woman like yourself knows how to handle herself.

    Roshni, I meant it. I still mean it. I know a lot of others do too, but if only when witnessing something such as this they’d feel it then and there and realize that it’s up to them to take action. And agree with you, 635 is most definitely a fraction of the cases. As a sociology student you’ve probably come across crimes that are extremely heinous and I can only imagine what the perception you hold of the world becomes, being a young girl. We need change and we need it now.

  10. nitinpshukla · December 20, 2012

    I suppose it’s too complex a subject to analyze the culture that makes India, but i’ll put in my two cents real quick in any case.

    We have rich cultural heritage, we have a rich history, we have this proverbial set of ‘values’ that I hear about all the time (It’s insufferable honestly). However, none of this applies here.

    Of course your heritage impresses down on you much heavier than others, your familial background does as well. A downtrodden Dalit in a ‘dog eat dog’ world feels much differently. Which brings me to an important point. Not everyone has the same value system. There are a number of nominal customs in Hindu society (Rakhsha Bandhan for instance) that make us think of it as homogenous, as far as these values are concerned, but rituals are not values, and values unfortunately are not homogeneous.

    You are not the average Indian. You are far from it. Why you read ads in the rental for no Indians should not offend you at all. We are an inconsiderate society. For whatever reasons and whatever historical turn or any other causality, we find ourselves this way. We shower others in the world with our inconsideration.

    For instance in the UK, we love to spit paan on the walls because it makes us think of home, or UK feels less homely if we don’t. Alright maybe the Pakis and Bangladeshis contribute to that as well, but I think it’s easy to accept that we do many things wrong. And you can blame the situation or you can blame the people, or both in varying degrees.

    It’s hard to look in black and white at causality for such huge sexual repression and the backlash that follows it and I don’t think you are aiming for that. I do appreciate the sentiment of appealing to a higher sense of values. Forgive my cynicism Avtar, but most rapists don’t read your blog, so perhaps much of your purpose is lost.

    But than again, that’s just my take on it.

    We need upright individuals in ALL fields of life in India. We lack these people. We NEED desperately for these people to speak out without alienating themselves from the dominant culture around them so as to spread in the underlying layers of it, because it seems like we are overrun by injustice and insensitivity.

    One can perhaps start by making a stand, taking the shit head on. Getting mauled by it, getting thrown around, standing up and once more, speaking the truth, speaking for justice and speaking for a higher moral sentiment.

    The time for Gandhi is gone. We need a thousand Gandhis, heck we need better stuff than Gandhi now. With the assumption that cultural change is what we are aiming for by methods of triggering culture shift, let me say this. We need you and everyone who reads this (and beyond) to be strong people who make a stand each time they see wrong in the world. Anything short of that cannot in my mind trigger cultural change. We need you, we need your voice, we need your action, for such a change to happen everyday, for the rest of your life.

  11. chana · December 20, 2012

    Ive often had talks with my friends about matters related to rape cases.. some would agree its wrong and most of the guys would say that girls shouldnt b dressed provokatively. Its a shame how educated boys of my age, from good families have such low thoughts. It has to be made clear that women dress well for themselves n not to attract roadside cheapos.

    Livin in bangalore, ive realised that north indians rnt treated as well as the localites here…luvkily i knw the local language here. The point is , whn thrs discrimination inside the country, amongst its own people….how can one expect Indians to b treated well outside?

    Yes…a change is needed. A change in how we think. V hv to learn to respect each othr. Men, women evryone has to learn to respect human feelings. What happened recently in Delhi ws not fair. When we’ve heard people rape dead bodies, the latest news about the gang rape wsnt a shock t me…but to know how brutally the 23 years old girl was treated was painful to listen to.
    Its strange how a person can feel satisfaction by hurtin someone.
    I wish to be a proud Indian. I really do.

  12. Avtar · December 20, 2012

    Nitin, excellent input. I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that it’s important for all of us to take a stand. To do away with the fear of mobs and being put in harm’s way, but to stand up for what we believe to be true and right. I should clarify though that my purpose wasn’t to convey this to rapists, but as you put it, to appeal to a higher sense of values within all of us in order for us to – you guessed it – take a stand.

    Chana, for events like this to rob us of our patriotism and belief in humanity is depressing. Truly is. We create demarcations among ourselves and for a nation that talks about unity everyday, we’re a very disjointed bunch. What’s even more shocking is that for some the 23 year old’s rape didn’t come as a shock, and I wish we lived in a society where it caused chaos. This incident truly has, and I wish every single incident hereafter does.

  13. Radhika Dang · December 20, 2012

    Very well written Avtar. I like the spirit you portray. I am just tired of seeing and reading sensational headlines, gruesome pictures and extreme explicit descriptions of the incident. None of that is going to help. It might grab initial eyeballs and stir simple talks but what about real change? Who and what incites that? It’s great to sign petitions and take part in agitation marches but there’s got to be a more positive way of looking at it and working for change. I take complete responsibility of my society and so, the change, indeed, needs to start with me. I love the idea of doing a little bit everyday. We can not decimate the power our these little actions that begin at home, today, for me!

  14. Avtar · December 20, 2012

    Thanks Radhika, the most heartening thing about your post is that you realize that this is a problem that lies within and that we all need to take some form of responsibility for change.

  15. AT · December 21, 2012

    The problem is with conscience. I can’t understand how people are not repulsed by the mere thought of doing such actions. Apart from the fact that they are somehow not afraid of the consequences and even if they are, the supposed thrill makes the fear go away, don’t they FEEL? Don’t they realize what they’re doing is inhuman and unnatural? Or they simply consider themselves too superior to think about the victim’s significance?
    A change can only be brought about by a radical transformation in the mentality of these low-lives. And it ain’t coming in a flash. It’s going to be slow and gradual. It’s a long road ahead.
    So cross your fingers and do what is best. Care, protect and respect.

  16. AT · December 21, 2012

    The problem is with conscience. How can people not be repulsed by the mere thought of doing such actions? Apart from the fact that they are somehow not afraid of the consequences and even if they are, the supposed thrill makes the fear go away, don’t they FEEL? Don’t they realize what they’re doing is inhuman and unnatural? Or they simply consider themselves too superior to think about the victim’s significance?
    A change can only be brought about by a radical transformation in the mentality of these low-lives. And it ain’t coming in a flash. It’s going to be slow and gradual. It’s a long road ahead.
    So cross your fingers and do what is best. Care, protect and respect.

  17. Arundhati Bhan · December 27, 2012

    Discussing the issue of injustice and the very poor condition of women in India is the need of the hour.
    I don’t know about how complex the issue is or how one should be very careful with the words they use with regard to this issue. All I know, we all need to develop a healthy eye towards women. She’s a woman after all. And the change. We’re all for it. Part of it. And wait for it even today. Hoping for a positive wave.

  18. Avtar · December 27, 2012

    Arika, absolutely, change is going to be gradual, but it needs to start now. And as for the conscience, we all wonder don’t we? And the answers that we get is something even worse like she was looking for it, or she deserved it or she was dressed for it. It’s more than just sad.

    Arundhati, the first line pretty much sums it up and I hope we can change the thinking of people in those regions of the country.

  19. Shireen · December 29, 2012

    Today this girl died and there are protests and candle light marches in Delhi. i really really hope that she gets justice because people need to know that they cannot do something inhuman like this and get away with it. It’s so sad that in the past 10 days we had 16 rape cases which were reported and 5 were from Delhi itself. When I read this news in the morning I wondered is anything going to change, or will the people forget about this conveniently tomorrow when work burdens them like they have in the past with the other stories that they heard or read about .

  20. neonsensical · January 7, 2013

    After all that is said and done, I’ll be honest and say that I’m actually glad that she passed away. Don’t get me wrong. The physical scars that were inflicted upon her were going to be lifelong. Everyday she would have been reminded of a mistake that was committed UPON her and not that she committed. That’s no way to live. That’s the way the perpetrators ought to live but knowing our judicial system, I’d be happy if they are convicted in the first place. The whole patriarchal psyche needs to be overhauled and that will take decades if not years. Does that mean all us women have to continue to look over our shoulder in fear every time we step out of the ‘confines of home’? Sadly, yes. This is India. Nothing here ever happens in a hurry. Nothing ever will.

  21. Tanya · January 22, 2013

    Tharoor, whom you have very tastefully picked and quoted here, has very keenly observed this societal derogation and has come up with this out of the box explanation for the same. He had also spoken something in a press conference which is synonymous to your feelings about your nationality as expressed here.
    โ€œIndia shaped my mind, anchored my identity, influenced my beliefs, and made me who I am. … India matters to me and I would like to matter to India.โ€
    We might be operating very chaotically , but there is a ray of hope nonetheless. ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Vanitha Lang · March 19, 2013

    No women has to go through this, I am a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother and last but not least a “female” where is the Mercy for this woman, I hope that all the brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands will do something about this, if not, one day your daughters, your sisters, your wife’s or your mother’s could be the next victim, lets put our hands together for once and say “Enough is Enough” stop this violence against all women, we have to put all the pressure we can to the present party that is ruling the country, if we are not able to bring justice, then we have let ourselves down.

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