It’s the one year anniversary of the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi. The date also marks the night — The Times of India reminds us this morning — when a nine-year-old boy named Raju was assaulted and sodomized in the city, and Razia left her toilet-free home for relief and was attacked. It’s not just the young modern educated girls out carousing with their boyfriends (How dare she. A movie? Out at 9:00 pm?) who are at risk. It’s not just girls. The protests that erupted were in the name of Nirbhaya, the student, but they were also for these two, and for all those whose skins and boundaries have been unwillingly transgressed at the hands of another. [Read more…]
I stepped into the small shop in Mussoorie to get a bag I’d asked too much of stitched up. The man sat on the floor of the shop, which was not much larger than the strapping SUVs that wrangled their way down the narrow old streets. His wife sat in a chair, stitching by hand. He motioned me to sit on a low bench as his hands reached for black thread, and slipped it it into the spool of the hand-powered, well-oiled sewing machine. His hands moved with a precision born of decades of this motion — gossamer thread, eye of the needle, the smooth movement of cloth under the jabbing point, fingers safe, hand spinning the wheel. As he worked, I looked at the sign taped to the wall above him:
Someone belatedly caught the typo. Made a correction with pen. The tailor was done. He lifted a pair of golden-handled shears that could have cut through armor and with a delicate snip, finished the job. “Kitne?” I asked. “Das rupees,” he answered and I handed him the worn red note worth sixteen cents and gave my thanks to him and his wife and returned to the winding road that led uphill.
The Indian woman whose name we don’t yet know is dead. She was twenty-three years old, a medical student who’d gone with her male friend to see a movie at a Delhi mall on the evening of December 16. They stood at the Munirka bus stand, and when a bus pulled up, they stepped onto it. They didn’t realize until it was too late that it was not public transport but a private bus full of joy-riding men. Men who had been drinking. Men who had an iron bar. They used it to beat the man and – along with the weapons they were born with that make them the coveted sex in South Asia – rape the woman so violently that doctors had to remove her intestines. Two weeks after the attack, she died.
This in the land where goddesses’ lyrical names linger in the legends and lore: Lakshmi and Parvati, Durga and Kali, Saraswati and Shakti. They are celebrated and worshipped with holidays, festivals and shrines in their honor across the subcontinent. But little of their divine power seems to translate to ordinary women, who hang lower than their male counterparts on every social tier that is measurable.