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No No No. I meant No not Yes.
As the lift grew closer to the ground floor and I was wondering if I should go back to the lobby and wait, I spotted two women I knew. The publisher of a feminist publishing house and a poet.
Again for the first time in life, I went upto someone and murmured, “I need a favour. I need you to walk with me to my room.”
The publisher understood. “Which one is he?” She asked sotto voce.
“The tall one in the blue jacket,” I said.
When the lift arrived, all of us entered it silently. The publisher waited for me to press my button. “We are going to Anita’s room,” she announced to the poet loudly.
The young man looked at me for a moment and pressed the button to the top most floor. I knew there were no rooms there and instead it held a restaurant that too would be shut by now. So it hadn't been me being paranoid after all.
As the two women walked me to my room, I felt a curious depression drown me. I have travelled to most parts of the world without thinking too much of where I was going and how safe it was. I have always believed in an innate goodness in people. I have always thought that I would never have any trouble because all people are essentially good – its just circumstances that make them evil. But perhaps in my naivety, I hadn’t realized that I had just been plain lucky to have not had any direly unpleasant incident. And now this had taught me to look over my shoulder. All the time. I had lost my innocence.
Much has changed in India in terms of women empowerment. There are greater opportunities for education and career. Women have fought hard for an almost equal place. However somewhere down the lines, we forgot an important aspect hadrosaur to sustain women empowerment. No one thought it necessary to teach the boys and men that times have changed.
As a little boy in his mother’s arms, a boy is promised the moon even though his mother knows it is beyond anyone’s reach. His whims are met; his desires fulfilled. He grows up to become a man who thinks it is his natural right to have whatever his heart desires. Even if it a woman old enough to be his mother or a girl out with her boyfriend. ‘No’ is not a word he can neither understand nor comprehend.
So this is what it means to be a woman in India in this time and age: We may be whoever we have worked hard to become. We may be corporate heads or cultural icons; we may be the epitome of power or dignity; we may fly to the moon or call ourselves power women but in the real world of a twisted heaving maleness, none of this matters. For once we step out of our comfort zone, we are forced to remember that we are women. To forget that is to lay ourselves open as prey.
And it is this that breaks my heart.
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