Again, yes, all over again the entitlement towards gratification and validation (which we call “patriarchy”, for short) raised its ugly head in Hyderabad, as they found the charred remains of 26 year old Dr Priyanka Reddy, under a bridge. All she sought was help from another fellow human being on the road. These incidents make me ponder on the brutality of men against women.

I am appalled and speechless trying to fathom when does this shift take place in a person, from a human being to becoming a brute? What is that moment when one loses all sense of right and wrong, to be guided only by lust, anger and an insane senselessness. How would that be possible?

These criminals also have families.

We have relationships that bind us and we remain bonded to that feeling of protection towards our own. What happens when she isn’t your sister or your mother? Where they do these men lose the plot? What makes a man feel they are owed sexual gratification and validation?

What needs to be stopped? I am dumbfounded.

Is it the soulless, decontextualized nudity and sex in advertizing and media? Films like Kabir Singh, where an aggressive abusive man is the protagonist and the heroine is willingly with him in a toxic relationship? Where do we change the narrative?

Do our school text books need chapters to sensitise boys and girls on gender disparity and exams to mark them meritorious or a failure, just like mathematics or the sciences?

On every empty street, women fear men.
And men, if you want to understand what that’s like, I know for a fact that you aren’t fearless in an empty street either. Whom do men fear? Other men! You don’t even have to fear rape, you just fear their violence. And just that is enough to make you cautious on a dark, empty street. We women have to fear violence, rape and quite possibly death. Harassment and leching are a daily given.

You are able to brush off your fear because you were brought up with the complete fiction that with enough bravado, smarts and stoicism you can triumph in any physical encounter. But you can’t. In the real world, you are always outnumbered or outmatched.

But we women have a realistic idea of our actual chances, because we have known harassment and fear from birth. We know we are helpless in that empty street or dark bridge, not because we’re fragile, but because we have learned the hard way how the world works.

I can’t bear to imagine what the family must be going through right now. They would not have known that she wouldn’t ever again return that fateful day.
What would the mother feel to come to terms with her shattered dreams of seeing her 26 year old little girl grow killed and burnt to death? She would probably be holding on to the other dupattas left behind by Priyanka in the hope that maybe this was just an ugly dream she would wake up from very soon.

It’s like the little sparrow that hops around your home basking in the sunlight and eating grains with its beak and flitting away to a branch when it hears a sound that threatens her safety. Children are like that in their parents’ eye. They are the little birds that singsat home bringing in happiness and laughter as they hop around to find their firm footing in the outside world. Daughters, especially to fathers, even more so.

The gruesome incidents like Nirbhaya, Priyanka and so many more that are unaccounted or unreported, that shake the very conscience of our nation, are a reminder that we are far away from civilization, from progressive thinking and law and order.

I often wonder what would the mother of the rapist do when she knows her son has committed such a heinous crime.

Are rapists simply incurable psychopaths, and the only way to deal with them is to identify them early? Or is it something firmly in the purview of nurture? Did the man’s mother show her vulnerability ever to him? To teach him that every human being is born with blood and flesh and genitals are just a mere difference in body parts. Love, hurt, pain they all have the same process of making us one as human beings.

I think we would have far better answers to these questions if we as a nation had as many serious investigations into this as we do on vague speculations on politics and economics.

I shudder to think that at this very moment some woman, somewhere in this country, is being raped. That even today we look over our shoulder as we walk on a lonely street alone. Do women deserve this? Please tell me my dear men, if Priyanka was your sister, what would you do?

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