19 December, 2012

I Am a Woman in India

I have had my breasts fondled.
Not by a lover,
but strangers on a bus.
I have been gyrated against
as I navigate the city:
packed like sardines
they are more depraved than animals.
I have had penises flashed at me
whose owners I know not;
they only come with a pair of lust-laced eyes
and a soulless smile.

I can hold my own on issues
about the environment. 
I can wax eloquent about literature and music.
I am told, I am the future;
and for a moment I am bent into believing
in the bubble I have bought into.

But every morning,
I cower.
My ego slouches 
as it is castrated at the hands of
crotch-clutching goondas.
I have lost count:
there are too many to fight.
I may be liberated. And educated,
but my fire has been doused.
Neither rhetoric nor review can
bring me solace.

And so, I turn the other cheek.
I have become deaf to the whistles and
blind to the lewdness.
I adjust my dupatta
and look straight ahead
as they line the streets and pucker their mouths.

I am just a woman in India.

Written in response to the gang rape of a 23 year old in the city I call home. I have travelled in white-line private buses with 'Yadav' flaunted on their flank. I have been harassed and fondled, eve-teased and ridiculed. I am part of every woman that gets raped. I want to risk asking why

Update: Interesting perspectives by The Delhiwalla and Ankit. Deconstruction of the issue by Anand Soondas.


  1. Great poem Chandni! You reflect the struggles of so many of us.

    I am interested to know, though, how you came to describe your ego as being 'castrated'. Do you define your ego in male terms, or was that just a turn of imagery?

    There are so many more similarities than dissimilarities among us. Keep speaking up :)

    1. Yes Fungai, I used 'castrated' for the imagery. Using an essentially male descriptive to explain my helplessness is a commentary on the celebration of the male ego, (it is mollycoddled and decorated, a male ego is fragile, it must be indulged and loved). In contrast, a woman's does not even invite adjectives.

    2. WOW! I love that deconstruction. It speaks to a whole commentary we can provide on maleness and all the artefacts of virility and powerfulness that are being perepetuated and normalised to mask a deep fragility about men. I don't want this to be misunderstood to mean that I am sympathetic to brutal men. I am not. But there is more about the male psyche that has to be unpacked if we are going to ever end the cycle of violence and domination.
      And that male ego and the fear of fragility has a lot to do with this.

  2. Anonymous10:44 pm

    Much as I empathize with the cause, the answer to why is deep rooted in our own culture. A rape is no more heinous than murder which has equally been on the rise everywhere while raising fewer alarms since we are now numb to it. A nation divided in more ways than any other in the world, where corruption is rewarded and is a way of life and where extremes are not just b/w the very rich and the poor, but even the destitutes and the common man, where families are still patriarchal and middle aged husbands seek virgin wives, where the competition runs so deep that man cannot be concered with anything but his own path to success, but most of all, where thought is ridiculed, pelted and strangled because its not the normal thing to do, however reasonable.

    Such a nation is bound to glorify crime in all its visage. Some part of our culture has somehow restrained the widespread penetration of drugs, but its not too far when every single vice in India would be as prevalant and shamelessly public as murders half a decade ago, rapes now and mumbai drug cartels in the near future.

    1. You sound cynical but I can empathise with that. I too feel overwhelmed. Thank you for reading.

    2. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/shooting-the-messenger/article4151363.ece
      This, and the boy accompanying the physiotherapist are subject to much severe punishment as opposed to those perpetuating the crime.

      So yes. When those who take actions actions as humane beings are the ones that are behind bars, I can't be anything but cynical.

    3. Yes, yes I understand the cynicism for I feel it too. But more than anything I feel helpless.

  3. This rape is a symptom of the disease in our sociocultural fabric, a society that is inherently misogynistic,at least in the North. Starting from prenatal sex determination and destruction of the female foetus, to the lamentation on the birth of a girl child, the yearning for a male 'heir' or 'scion', a daughter being labelled as "paraya dhan", this bias against women continues till their death. The widows of Brindavan is another manifestation of this misogyny. Bride burning is become a part of our lexicon - I think India is the only country where a life insurance policy includes a clause for a woman's death within seven years' of marriage as 'suspicious'.
    We see sons getting preferential treatment over their female siblings in food, clothes, education and social acceptance. It is from boyhood that the Indian male imagines himself to be special and looks at the female of his species as something inferior.
    Rape is committed to demonstrate a cowardly male's power over a hapless woman.
    I'll write something on my blog to express my views on how these degenerates should be punished.

    1. Very true. We perpetrate this myth of the supremacy of the man as a society. I remember how people in Rasmai never counted daughters among their children, only the sons got a mention. As if the 'paraya dhan' only deserved invisibility. I'm looking forward to your post.

  4. http://divyaphoto.blogspot.in/2012/12/punishments-for-rapists_21.html

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  6. Anonymous2:11 pm

    On a side note, I'd love to fondle your breasts. With your due permission of course :D Can I has franships?

  7. Beautifully written Chandni. I was shocked by this case and have been closely following it since it happened. Still now I read Indian newspapers to see how the trial is unfolding. Sad to see that the case is being consigned to small titles instead of headlines as it should be. I hope India will not forget this and will still fight for its women's rights.

  8. Anonymous10:41 pm

    Otoh, this too is true

  9. felt real bad. good one. loved it.



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