This is not a letter to the Indian men I know. The ones I know, the ones I count amongst my friends are very nice people.
This is a letter to the Indian man I--and others--are looking to for opinions. The ones who might change the country. The ones who are trying. The ones who would like to change the country.
Why do you hate me?
Why do you think I don't count? Is it because I'm privileged? Because I'm aware I am. I have a nice home, I earn a good living. Is this why I don't count with you? Do you not care to keep your promises to me as you're keeping your promises to everyone else? Does my safety, and the safety of my sisters, not count with you? I mean, I know everyone would much rather have a lower electricity bill than security for women, but it's a bit upsetting that my cause is a minority cause, while, hey, everyone hates big bills, right? I know you'd rather pacify the ordinary man--that's what one of your parties is named after!--by arresting women for being prostitutes, because it devalues the neighbourhood.
The thing is, I'm in a peculiar position. I'm both immensely privileged and immensely guilty about it. Of course I would rather you dealt with everyone else's problems first! That's been bred in me for generations! From my grandmother who never serves herself first at the table, right down to little ol' me, where I'm like, "Dudes, totally go ahead and do other people's stuff first, I'll wait." At the end, there might be no meat in the curry for my grandmother. There might be no meat in the curry for me either.
You guys are all promises when it comes to women though. It's an easy thing to put in your manifesto: oh we're totally for the safety of women! And then, "Oh what can we do if a tribal group orders a woman to be punitively raped?" "What can we do if a tourist asks someone for directions?" "It's someone else's fault!" And with that someone else's problem go my problems.
Listen, I grew up in Delhi. I can bhosadi ke and kya baat kar rahe ho bhaiyya with the best of them. Do you know how old I was when I first got sexually assaulted? Twelve. I was twelve with brand new breasts I wore with pride. I don't anymore. You people lead the country and you forget about all the twelve year olds stepping out of their houses, heads held high and chests thrust out, look see see, we're grown ups. And all it takes is one quick interaction with you people, and we're cowering behind baggy clothes, crossing our arms and seeing harassment everywhere.
Honestly, I think I'd be sick of people going on about women's stuff if I wasn't one myself. I'd be like, "Relax dude, at least you never got raped, why don't you shut up about women's safety already and enjoy the low electricity bills?" I'd be like, "Look at Tamil Nadu! Do you know the leaders over there said that their women never get raped because they go to the temple? Oh, what? Is it my fault you're a modern woman who doesn't believe?" I'd be sick of women carping on and on about their minority status: look at how much worse it is for everyone else? Maybe I would hate me too.
I know you hate me because you have no fix for me. You have no way to keep me safe. You invade homes, you sit in judgement, maybe you shouldn't be so "adventurous" then, you mutter (Although to be fair, that was a woman who said that, but WHERE DO YOU THINK SHE GOT IT?) You want to own us, what has happened to our women, you wail, it must be mobile phones, those devil's balls.
The thing is, I can pretty much afford to take care of myself. This is all it takes for safety in India: money. Money for homes with locks, money for cars and drivers, money to keep you off the sidewalks and away from predators. This is assuming my predators are outside the home, obviously, which in my case they have been, but in most cases, there's an uncle, a cousin, a dad. Is this why you hate me? Is this why my position is less pressing than others?
Because Dear Indian Man who hopes to lead my country, I can help! I'd love to have a say in democracy. I'd love to say how awesome you are, and I'm in a position of small influence. But I feel like you don't give a shit. I don't know why that is. I pay my taxes, I don't break the law, I've NEVER LIVED ABROAD. Isn't that something? I'm Indian, born and bred. A product of your cities, your colleges, a product as much of you on the road as my parents at home.
I'm asking you for one thing, guys. This is a bit of a jumbled letter, but ultimately, it's the ONE THING.