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"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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22 December 2012

Why Delhi gets away with rape

I haven't been able to stop thinking (and tweeting) and giving my opinion on The Rape Case. Each one is horrifying, the only silver lining is that this one somehow got everyone's attention and people are actually talking about rape in a real way now.

A version of this short opinion piece appeared in Tehelka. You can read the full article here.

When I was in high school, a popular local boy’s school had a fad with their car horns. Any time you heard these teenage boys, zipping across the city, they’d beep continuously, almost like a tune or a ditty: beep-beep-beep-beep-beeeeep-beep. It was a code, someone told me, laughing, but didn’t reveal the code till later. “Pakad, pakad,ke chod do.” Catch ‘em and fuck ‘em, for those who didn’t grow up in this city where ‘chod’ is one of the first Hindi swear words you learn, ‘chutiya’ is almost refined, and I will rape your ass tossed around at any altercation.  I didn’t think the boys meant it, they were nice boys, my friends, and plus boys schools are dens of sexual deprivation, right? But then, later, I overheard a classmate in my co-ed school laughing about this “really cool” trick he pulled on weekends, going for a drive with a friend around M Block Market, slowing down when he saw a pretty girl and leaning out of the window, grabbing her breasts and driving away before she could react. 

It may not even have been a pretty girl.

The fact is, when the boys got to drive around in their cars, beeping, we were given notes on safety by our parents and our other girl friends. Rules of the rickshaw: never get in when there are two drivers. Rules of the teenage house party: if someone feels you up at a party, obviously it’s your fault, because you were drunk, and you mustn’t be a tease. We were very hard on each other. Girls regularly developed “reputations”, I remember being totally tongue tied face-to-face with one of my peers once, because I had heard behind her back of all the things she did. We never blamed the boys.  It was always the outfit (so low cut!) the booze (she can’t control herself, ya!) the she-asked-for-it (well, she’s always hanging out with boys, anyway.) The boys spoke of it, if you asked, somewhat sheepishly and yet, with a certain amount of pride in their voices, and you’d have to be the Cool Girl, listening, nodding wisely, thinking privately that you’d never be in a situation like that. We let them get away with it, and these were nice boys, boys who were educated and well brought up and probably don’t even think about that part of their lives anymore. Boys who were socialized with girls, who had “rakhi-sisters” and yet.

People say Delhi is the rape capital of the city, and I was hotly defending it on Facebook when I thought about that beep-beep and what it stood for. I know sexual harassment is universal, but what does it say about this city that we flaunt it blatantly? That there’s no going to a dark alleyway or an empty room, nope, people are able to rape people in broad daylight, in a moving vehicle on a main road, and the only thing they have to worry about is banging into someone else’s car, because then people can get really angry. I can bet the men in the situation wore an expression of sheepish pride too, “oh well, it was nothing really that I was able to do it for so long”. They clapped each other on the back. They might have gone to get a cup of tea. What a nice night out, they probably said. How nice to be in Delhi where you don’t have to pay for or beg for sex, you can just pluck it off the street and no one does a thing.


  1. Does it matter eM what we say? Does it really? coz in the end it just boils down to this-

    Hey, I am a man - oooh I have a penis - in short - a license to rape.

    And, unfortunate as it is becoming, I am starting to believe that a handful of us (and I am no torch bearer for the people with great moral values but I do know that I won't want that unfortunate incident to happen ever again) can make a difference.

  2. I thought that such kind of objectification of women was done by a certain section of know the ones who are not properly educated and economically backward. But this article was a revelation... and an unfortunate one. Now i really can't say what is the actual cause behind such perverted mentality.

  3. define "rape capital", miss. other cities are just as bad.

  4. what kind of boys did you hang out with?!And why did you not report them?

  5. @anonymous above the other 'brave' @anonymous - Actually yes other cities are just as bad when it comes to violence against women (nothing to be proud of) but it is quite shameful when the capital of a country regularly sees cases of extreme violence against women. If the capital cannot protect its women, why even question the other cities? Also it just isn't about the ultimate act of violence - it is about the constant fear that something can happen to you. So yes Delhi the city where I spent my teenage years, got my first job and my first salary - also gave me my first traumatic bus ride, my first 'groped by an autorickshaw guy' experience, my first 'how much you for?' question at a bus stop and also the ultimate 'Arre beta yeh sab ignore kar do , dilli hai hota hai'. So the whole argument that it's as bad as other cities fails to work for me and many girls like me. I want to stop making excuses for Delhi. I wish others would too. Maybe then Delhi will be the city it deserves to be - filled with warmth and love and perfect winters.

  6. I disagree. Indian cities are no paradise for women.
    But this Delhi is an exponential order different from the other city.

    No boy in my class has ever admitted a anything.
    Infact when we went to shopping malls, the guys used to ensure that we were sort of protected.

    As Indian girls, we have horror stories, of being groped/flashed but only in delhi i have heard where if they have a car they think any girl will come to them.
    A very pretty friend was walking on the road in delhi and a man just stopped his car, opened the car door, finished his masturbation right in front of her. That sort of story i havent heard in chennai.

    em, it does astonish me, considering your strong feminist background and all that modernish in delhi you girls put up with guys like that.

    kewlness overrules feminism, is it?


  7. I read this somewhere else as well that boys in Delhi school are exposed to terms like rape in a a very casual way and it is very commonly joked about as something that they have a right to. When such serious matters are not tackled in a right manner during the upbringing of the child how do you expect him to take it seriously once he is a grown up?

  8. *shudder* Such shameful acts from so-called civilized sections of society! This was an eye-opener.


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