When I packed my bags to shift to Hyderabad for my job, I was eager to meet new people and gain new experiences since it was the first time I was moving out of my home-town, Guwahati.
I, indeed, met some really great personalities, made some great friends; I learned about their hardships and I told them mine. But in the short period of time that I was there, I failed to make friends with a few; one of them is Nirbhaya [name changed].
As soon as I reached Hyderabad, I rummaged for a PG near my office. I found a two-seater room, adjacent to two other rooms where four more girls stayed. The next day I checked out from the Hotel I stayed the previous night, to begin my stay in the PG.
In my hurried search for a PG, I failed to notice the fact that the road that led to the PG I selected is always dark and deserted and hence, unsafe. I decided to move out the succeeding month itself.
Those were the days when our training at office had just begun and we, the freshers, were having a hard time trying to cope up with a 9-5 job for the first time in our twenty two years of life. I’d return to my PG every evening, open my JAVA book to study and soon doze off. In the morning I’d hurriedly get ready to not miss the bus to the office. In that “busy” life of mine, I had no time to talk even to my roommate. I hardly knew the names of all the girls who stayed in the adjacent rooms.
It was the night before one of the exams I was preparing for, when I went to sleep early since I needed a fresh mind the next day. At around 10:30pm, I heard a knock at my door. My roommate, a manager in a bank, opened the door to find a tensed girl panting for breath. She was one of the girls who stayed in one of the rooms adjacent to ours.
“Nirbhaya, my roommate, hasn’t yet reached here and her phone is switched off,” she said fighting back her tears.
I checked the clock and thought there was nothing to be scared of as it was “just” 10:30pm.
The thing about peril is that we can’t foresee it, nor does the possibility of it scare us, until it happens to us or someone we know.
At around one o’clock Nirbhaya reached the PG and told the police that the driver had taken her to a wrong route. “What happened? Was she raped?” were the questions that some of the women asked me and the others. I had earlier informed the female friends I know, that a fellow PG-mate of mine had been kidnapped. I immediately informed that she is back now. “Was she raped?” the curious minds asked.
Somehow, for me, it was more important that she was in safe hands now. It shocked me a bit for I expected the first question to be “Is she safe now?” rather than “Was she raped?”
Whether I should have asked or whether I did the right thing by not scratching her wounds, I do not know. The next day I didn’t ask Nirbhaya, nor did I ask her roommate. I consoled her in the morning and asked about her well-being. She smiled and said she was fine; she wasn’t crying and I thought it was brave of her to not cry. By the evening she had shifted to her Aunt’s place.
Sometimes, it’s people who make the life of a victim difficult. No doubt, criminals are the real culprit, but somewhere, we, the people, unintentionally inflict some agonizing pain in the victims by the way we look at them, the way we treat them, the way we ask questions to them or the way we say things to them.
A few days later, I read what happened on the newspaper. Two lowly devils had set their minds to rape a young woman. They saw Nirbhaya, a twenty-three year old woman clad in a salwar kameez, outside a shopping-mall at 8:30pm waiting for a cab. The driver pretended to be a cab-driver and offered to drop her home at almost half the price; the other animal pretended to be a passenger. As they reached the deserted highway, they snatched her phone and stopped the car. They did what they were capable of doing – threatening the girl to kill her if she complains to the police, inflicting the fear within her that she will be defamed and no one will marry her if word gets out that she is raped , and then raping her one by one. They dropped her off 1km away from the PG and she walked her way towards her PG at 1:00am in the night.
How can anyone be safe when rapes can be pre-planned? How can the night be anyone’s enemy when rapes can happen at a time as early as 8:30pm? And how can someone’s attire be blamed, when a woman wearing a salwar kameez that doesn’t expose anything but one’s hands and face, can be raped?
It was traumatizing to hear that rapes can happen even when you’re being so careful; it still is. There’s no guaranty that you can’t be the next victim of such animals. And when it happened to someone staying next to my room, it terrified me that I could have been in her place and so could have been my roommate or my best-friend. What was more heart-rending to think about is that if on reading what happened can cause me and my friends so much trauma and pain, what would she, the victim be feeling, who fought off her tears and lied to the police that she wasn’t raped, that she escaped before they could do anything to her, just to save her the trouble of answering to the “society”, the same society who accepts it if a girl loses her virginity before her marriage but seldom accepts a woman who is raped, which cannot possibly be a fault of hers.
It was when the police saw stains of blood on her dress that they suspected she had been raped. It was only three days after, when the police found the “kidnappers” by the help of traffic cameras, that the beasts confirmed that they had plans of raping a woman that night and they told the entire story. The police indeed did all they could to give her justice; and I really bless them for that.
But can justice bring back the same old innocence she carried before?
I heard that Nirbhaya had to leave her job in a reputed company. Should the managers have stopped her from doing so, making her believe that no one is going to judge her and she would have the same respect as she had before, or in fact, even more? Should I have done something for her instead of behaving like a traumatized and fearful little girl?
There are no answers. The questions are slowly dying too. All I have in me now is a fire, a rage. And all I hope is her fire is still kindling too.