“That is how they were: they spent their lives proclaiming their proud origins, the historic merits of the city, the value of its relics, its heroism, its beauty, but they were blind to the decay of the years. Dr. Juvenal Urbino, on the other hand, loved it enough to see it with the eyes of truth.”Gabriel García Márquez in Love in the Time of Cholera
It was in 2012 when a gruesome rape of a girl in Delhi shook whole of India. Her real name was not disclosed then to maintain privacy of the victim and was popularly called “Nirbhaya” that means one who is not scared!!! While the police was investigating the case, a 12 year old young girl in Hathras was busy playing hopscotch in her house. Owing to her age she may not have totally understood the ordeal of the Delhi victim then. But the word “Nirbhaya” held with her.
Some months later when she must have been running and frolicking around, one day she noticed a patch of blood on her underwear. Unaware and scared that she must have been, her mother would have told her it is normal and that she is transforming into a woman’s body now. She must have went through the agonizing cramps and pain in her abdomen for the next few days. All this time she was asked not to come to the kitchen, stay aloof and was asked not to touch any person as she was impure.
After five days, everything came back to normal. But this event now happened every month. Sometimes the pain was bearable, but the agony of being ostracized every month and being treated as an even lesser being that she already was compared to her brothers, became a normal part of her life. Her body continued to transform. Her breast was swelling out of her will. It was painful too. She was now asked not to play hopscotch, to stop wearing the long skirt that she had, to keep her eyes low when she walks out, to take someone with her when she goes out. Her freedom was being caged and in order to protect herself from a devil that she could not yet decipher, she was made to feel scared. All this while she remembered that a girl was called “Nirbhaya” by the entire country sometime back.
One day when she may have been going to school, some boys sitting under a shed at her street’s corner, whistled at her. Her cheeks flushed with embarassment. She may have felt a certain urgency to run away from that street. On reaching school, scared that she must be, she may have thought how bold a girl would have been to be called “Nirbhaya” collectively by everyone in the country. She may have idolized Nirbhaya then. To be as bold as her, to not be let down by the whistles at the corners, to not be affected by the remarks like “Baby”, “Item” on the street, to not be scared of men “accidentally” grabbing her breast in a crowded place, etc. The list was long, but the idea of being “Nirbhaya” was much more stronger.
Years passed. She was 20 now. One day like always she was helping her mother in the fields. Suddenly she felt four men grabbing her from the back. She was caught unaware and cried her heart out. Her mother must have come running to “protect” her girl. But the strength of these boys was far more than that of the grieving mother. They may have took the girl along with them. Slapped her, forcibly kissed her, and did everything she had never dreamt would happen with her. It was the end. There was no hope. But then all of a sudden she may have remembered her mantra “Nirbhaya, Nirbhaya, Nirbhaya” and started yelling “Nirbhaya” so as not to feel scared. The boys overpowered by their lust and cannibalism, must have become confused and distracted for sometime. Her constant yelling was disorienting them and that this “second-sex” person’s courage was still undeterred, was not in their rule book of how the world works. So they came up with a solution. In the next second, a piece of meat was thrown onto the floor. The girl now was lying with a naked body, with four men over her and a mouth with no tongue of hers.
The girl was not Nirbhaya anymore. Neither in spirit nor in attitude. She was only scared and within her she kept calling out “someone help me, I am Bhaya !!”