India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear by Rose Chasm

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by The Messiah, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear

    Please note that CNN cannot independently verify the events described in this post.


    When people ask me about my experience studying abroad in India, I always face the same dilemma. How does one convey the contradiction that over the past few months has torn my life apart, and convey it in a single succinct sentence?

    “India was wonderful," I go with, "but extremely dangerous for women.” Part of me dreads the follow-up questions, and part of me hopes for more. I'm torn between believing in the efficacy of truth, and being wary of how much truth people want.

    Because, how do I describe my three months in the University of Chicago Indian civilizations program when it was half dream, half nightmare? Which half do I give?

    Do I tell them about our first night in the city of Pune, when we danced in the Ganesha festival, and leave it at that? Or do I go on and tell them how the festival actually stopped when the American women started dancing, so that we looked around to see a circle of men filming our every move?

    Do I tell them about bargaining at the bazaar for beautiful saris costing a few dollars a piece, and not mention the men who stood watching us, who would push by us, clawing at our breasts and groins?

    When people compliment me on my Indian sandals, do I talk about the man who stalked me for forty-five minutes after I purchased them, until I yelled in his face in a busy crowd?

    Do I describe the lovely hotel in Goa when my strongest memory of it was lying hunched in a fetal position, holding a pair of scissors with the door bolted shut, while the staff member of the hotel who had tried to rape my roommate called me over and over, and breathing into the phone?

    How, I ask, was I supposed to tell these stories at a Christmas party? But how could I talk about anything else when the image of the smiling man who masturbated at me on a bus was more real to me than my friends, my family, or our Christmas tree? All those nice people were asking the questions that demanded answers for which they just weren't prepared.

    When I went to India, nearly a year ago, I thought I was prepared. I had been to India before; I was a South Asian Studies major; I spoke some Hindi. I knew that as a white woman I would be seen as a promiscuous being and a sexual prize. I was prepared to follow the University of Chicago’s advice to women, to dress conservatively, to not smile in the streets. And I was prepared for the curiosity my red hair, fair skin and blue eyes would arouse.

    But I wasn't prepared.

    There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. Walking to the fruit seller's or the tailer's I got stares so sharp that they sliced away bits of me piece by piece. I was prepared for my actions to be taken as sex signals; I was not prepared to understand that there were no sex signals, only women's bodies to be taken, or hidden away.

    I covered up, but I did not hide. And so I was taken, by eye after eye, picture after picture. Who knows how many photos there are of me in India, or on the internet: photos of me walking, cursing, flipping people off. Who knows how many strangers have used my image as pornography, and those of my friends. I deleted my fair share, but it was a drop in the ocean-- I had no chance of taking back everything they took.

    For three months I lived this way, in a traveller's heaven and a woman's hell. I was stalked, groped, masturbated at; and yet I had adventures beyond my imagination. I hoped that my nightmare would end at the tarmac, but that was just the beginning. Back home Christmas red seemed faded after vermillion, and food tasted spiceless and bland. Friends, and family, and classes, and therapy, and everything at all was so much less real than the pain, the rage that was coursing through my blood, screaming so loud it deafened me to all other sounds. And after months of elation at living in freedom, months of running from the memories breathing down my neck, I woke up on April Fool's Day and found I wanted to be dead.

    The student counselors diagnosed me with a personality disorder and prescribed me pills I wouldn't take. After a public breakdown I ended up in a psych ward for two days held against my will, and was released on the condition that I took a "mental leave of absence" from school and went to live with my mother. I thought I had lost my mind; I didn't connect any of it to India-- I had moved on. But then a therapist diagnosed me with PTSD and I realized I hadn't moved a single inch. I had frozen in time. And I’d fallen. And I’d shattered.

    But I wasn't the only one, the only woman from my trip to be diagnosed with PTSD, to be forced into a psych ward, to wake up wanting to be dead. And I am not the only woman who is on a mental leave of absence from the University of Chicago for reasons of sexual assault and is unable to take classes.

    Understanding my pain has helped me own it, if not relieve it. PTSD strikes me as a euphemism, because a syndrome implies a cure. What, may I ask, is the cure for seeing reality, of feeling for three months what its like for one's humanity to be taken away? But I thank God for my experiences in India, and for my disillusionment. Truth is a gift, a burden, and a responsibility. And I mean to share it.

    This is the story you don't want to hear when you ask me about India. But this is the story you need.

    http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1023053

    Quite a lot of comments.
     
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  3. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    AFAIK, many, many girls who went to the Pune study abroad program at the UofC felt this way - so much so that a sizeable portion of them left early, something unheard of by girls from any other study abroad program at UofC, even the one to crime-ridden South Africa.
     
  4. cw2005

    cw2005 Regular Member

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    An old professor told us that Democracy is a sharp knife. Give it to a wood artist and he could turn out a master piece. Give it to a child and it would cut himself all over. People's freedom is very limited. One's freedom hinders others will not be tolerated.
     
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  5. t_co

    t_co Senior Member Senior Member

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    Certainly, the behavior of certain Indian men toward women is absolutely disgusting, much as the article indicates. But though the Indian political system has its flaws, this rampant misogyny is neither its fault nor a cause of those flaws.

    On-topic - what do Indian women themselves think of this article? @roma, care to elaborate?
     
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  6. praneetbajpaie

    praneetbajpaie Tihar Jail Banned

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    I have nothing to say here. As an Indian man, this is the most disgusting thing I have ever read in my life. I really don't know what is wrong with the Indian man but I would day the sooner we change this habit of ours, the better for all of us.

    No wonder, nobody wants to come here and we are thought of as a shithole all over the world. 5000 years of wonderful civilization. going down the gutter. The Land of the Mahatma and Swami Vivekananda. Disgusted, appalled and everything else.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
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  7. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    i know tons of women who have visited india alone and had a great time - then there are these cases , which are also real

    it depends who you are with

    but sure as a general rule a woman cant walk alone - it seems dangerous

    i feel that a lot has yet to be done for woman in india

    additional:- i also feel this lady has some personal psychological issues eg disappointment after unrealistic and illusionary ideas abut "dream india-land " or "dream-land india " perhaps for many years, and her disappointment that those dreams were so brutally shattered by the reality - there could also be some "career" and life issues , like after this disappointment , what is going to happen now to her career in this area which she now finds to be hard to continue after such disappointments

    none the less attitude towards women traveling or walking alone , have to change

    many thanks to messiah for highlighting this issue
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
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  8. praneetbajpaie

    praneetbajpaie Tihar Jail Banned

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    It is true Roma Ma'am. There is a lot that needs to be done for women in this country. I feel it will take a long long time for the mind of the Indian man to grasp the fact that respecting women is equivalent to respecting oneself and respecting oneself translates into respecting the nation. When are we going to unshackle our so called Third World mentality?

    P.S. Cringe worthy article to say the least.
     
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  9. SPIEZ

    SPIEZ Senior Member Senior Member

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    Sad article but true.

    When Indian women go out, there are always people like this lurking around. This happens to most good looking Indian women, even with conservative clothing.

    This situation existed even in the most conservative cities like Chennai.

    JJ tackled it by posting many female police officers in important public places.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2013
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  10. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

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    actually people - especially foreigners should get to know that india isnt one country or one society

    there are many "indias" or many indian societies, but they are physically side by side and there isnt any defining boundary

    you have to know when you are crossing from the civilized, perhaps rich and decent part of india, into something else

    and unfortunately, there isnt a sign or something like in berlin of past to say " you are now crossing into the soviet sector "

    i think this is the problem when one person says india was horrific and another says it was great

    they are talking about different "indias"
     
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  11. praneetbajpaie

    praneetbajpaie Tihar Jail Banned

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    Well in that case it's time the Indian society changed for the better. An India we all aspire for. Where the the ideal of a good world exists. Not the one which exists now. Time for all of us for some introspection, I feel.
     
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  12. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Pune is considered one of the safer cities. They should have visited saddi Delhi to get real taste of India & Indian men :)
     
  13. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    AFAIK, female police officers themselves keep getting assaulted in UP & sometimes even in Delhi
     
  14. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    This ain't gonna change really, trust me, even in times to come. There are many fundamental factors at play beyond morality, ethics or sensitization (& beyond scope of discussion) that cannot be addressed by mere lip-service that we seem to be doing.

    Things are going to be like that. Because, we are not ready.
     
  15. praneetbajpaie

    praneetbajpaie Tihar Jail Banned

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    Well, in that case its a sad state of affairs in our country. We can kiss developed status goodbye till we keep our house in order. We have to forget about tourism or medical tourism cause frankly who would want to come here.
     
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  16. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    People under democracy are most matured, Given its in right hands..

    In Wrong hand nothing no system stands united and strong ..
     
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  17. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    I do not think that Democracy or Dictatorship is really a primary factor here.

    It has more to do with historical (read, our colonial past), socio-cultural factors (the ongoing flux in those values & gender-wars which is only going to intensify), economic (our highly feudal setup) & above all, law & order related factors.
     
  18. praneetbajpaie

    praneetbajpaie Tihar Jail Banned

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    Whatever the reasons TS, we have to change our behaviour. How cringe worthy such incidents have to be before we realize what huge mistakes we are making?

    Saree sellers groping and touching breasts and groin

    People banging on the door to try to rape the woman

    would bet all these people are from the lower strata of society.
     
  19. SPIEZ

    SPIEZ Senior Member Senior Member

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    In that case girls with guns will make a better option.

    Besides the city will be clean without a few rats
     
  20. Abhijeet Dey

    Abhijeet Dey Regular Member

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    DRDO's chilli spray to help women in distress
    Times of India, Aug 14, 2013

    MUMBAI: Alarmed by the spurt in crimes against women, the defence research laboratory, a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has developed a chilli spray that women can use to protect themselves against attackers and miscreants.

    Responding to a question raised by Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha member Anil Desai and Congress' Rajani Patil, defence minister AK Antony said that the Tejpur-based defence research laboratory has successfully developed the spray, called Capsispray. "It contains oleoresin capsicum extracted from the world's hottest chilli, the Bhut Jolokia, largely cultivated in Assam and other parts of North-Eastern India," Antony said.

    The prototype of the spray is ready, Antony said, and the product is required to be tested for several toxicology parameters. The DRDO will take steps to popularise the product once the trials are over.

    Desai said that in view of increasing attacks on women, he had knocked at the doors of the defence ministry to press for a proposal for a non-lethal weapon that women could have for self-defence. In fact, last year, when the number of attacks against women went up, the Shiv Sena had distributed knives to them in Mumbai. "It was a symbolic gesture. Now that the defence research laboratory has developed the chilli spray, we expect the product to hit the market within six months. If there is delay, we will meet Antony to press for immediate availability of the product," Desai said.

    He said that from the information gathered by him, the chilli spray will act immediately but will not result in permanent damage to any part of the body of the accused. "We expect that once the spray hits the person, he will be immobilised for a while, so the woman can rescue herself," he said.

    According to a senior IPS officer, if the spray comes into the market in the next six months, it will help curb crimes against women. "No doubt every woman will have to buy it, but it will be worth it. The spray will be particularly useful if a woman is alone at home and a stranger forcibly enters," he said.
     
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  21. TrueSpirit

    TrueSpirit Senior Member Senior Member

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    Though violence at any level is not desirable, but somehow I am led to believe "girls with guns" is not really that bad an idea.

    But then, human nature is fickle & self-centered. Guns take lives (irreversible/irrevocable harm) & misuse cannot be ruled out (e.g. for settling personal scores). The judgment criteria who should wield arm & who shouldn't, would be highly subjective.

    Maybe, something on lines of Umreeka's NRA (Indian version) or a loosened gun-control regime would help matters. Though, I have little idea how much that helped crimes in US where crime levels are known to be beyond acceptable level.

    @W.G.Ewald ?
     
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