A Fire in a Small Town

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A fire in a small town is big news.

An incendiary blast of news and gossip. Who set it…an unattended fire…a gas leak…

It breaks the monotony of routine and shakes the town out of its slumber.

There has been so little to discuss, since the rape case ten years ago. The gossip had been unrelenting:

A young girl, wearing jeans, out alone at night without a male escort! She deserved it. Daughters like her taint the family name.

***

The newspapers would have a field day, she thought: Accused rapist burns to death. Police suspect arson. 

Word Count: 98

Prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-fields

The ‘Correct’ Behaviour Of A ‘Good’ Girl

A day before the Times of India published a report about the documentary made about safety of women in India, I was going out to meet a friend, when my ever-so-liberal parents told me that I must come back home before 9. With Holi right around the corner, they were worried about hoodlums and ruffians passing lewd comments or molesting me. I tried to brush away their fears by telling them that I had grown up in this neighbourhood, and that I knew the place like the back of my hand. What harm could possible befall me here?!

My father grimly said, “Nirbhaya probably thought the same thing. No one plans on getting molested or raped. Be back home on time!”

The idea that restrictions should be based on my movement because of the sick perverted minds of certain men, rankled me, but I couldn’t argue. My parents had my best interests at heart and were their fears really unfounded?

The next day I read the report about one of the accused in the Delhi rape case blaming the female victim for her rape and death. It made my blood boil. The Nirbhaya rape case was a crime so heinous and barbaric that it united an entire country in shock and outrage. It brought about legal reforms. It (and this part I am only assuming) led to more awareness being spread about the violence against women and it led to more crimes being reported. A few questions, as is the norm, were raised against the character of the girl, but the outraged cries silenced them. And suddenly we have in the public sphere the opinions of an unrepentant murderer about how the girl deserved what she got!

At first let me tell you, I haven’t seen the documentary. I have only read about it in the newspapers and heard snippets on television channels.  Being a media student and an aspiring writer, I am a strong proponent of the freedom to speech and expression. Since then I have also read accounts online on how the documentary is actually passing a very strong message about women safety, and for all I know it might be. All I am concerned with is the effect the rapist’s statement will have on the lives of young girls like me, all around the country!

I am also a woman, and probably among the more fortunate ones born in India. I wasn’t killed at birth; nor was I sexually assaulted as a child. My parents sent me to school, and they haven’t married me off to a stranger yet. I have received many of the blessings denied to many other daughters born in this country. Yet even my free-thinking, modern parents cannot ignore the dangers posed to women in India nowadays.

A few years ago, I got into a debate in school with my Hindi teacher, when she stated that for their own safety girls should return home before dark. I vehemently protested against her statement in class. But she, like my parents and like numerous other Indian parents, are only concerned about their daughters’ safety from lunatics. When I express concern over the documentary, I am simply expressing concern over how the accused’s statement would affect my life and the lives of my peers.

In the 2012 rape incident that took place at Park Street in Kolkata, there were accusations levied against the woman’s character. “No decent woman, wife or mother would be out at a pub after midnight”, they said. Then happened the Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi at 9pm, and much too soon the gang-rape at Shakti Mills in Mumbai of a young photojournalist in between 5pm to 7pm. It is still early twilight in Mumbai at that time; it’s not even dark outside.

Am I the only one who seems to notice how the ‘correct time’ for a woman to be outside her house seem to be decreasing day by day? I read somewhere that constitutionally India is the safest country for women, but in reality we do not seem to have progressed much since Lakshman first drew a Lakshman-rekha for Sita.

“For her safety” the girl must still not leave her house at certain times or in certain company.

‘The correct place’, ‘the correct time’, ‘the correct dress’, ‘the correct company’ — I am tired of society and people who don’t know me setting these rules for me. Restrictions that bind me and suffocate me, but which I must obey if I want to remain a ‘good girl’; because a bad girl is anyone’s for taking.

When a child cries for a toy do you close-down the toy store because it is tempting the child, or do you teach the child to have better control on his whims and fancies?  Instead of teaching the women to restrict their movement shouldn’t we be teaching the men to restrain their desires?

Untouchable…yet Raped

She lay shivering on the cold hard ground. In the distance she could hear the sounds of her attackers laughing and walking away, till the sound of their footsteps died down. She got up, and wrapped her torn dress around her shaking shoulders. Silently she made her way home. She knew what the police and the judges would say, if she or any of her friends dared complain – no upper caste man will sully himself by raping an untouchable like her.

During the nine-year period between 1981-86 and 1995-97 a total of two lakh cases of atrocities on the scheduled castes were registered, which means on an average 3,000 cases of atrocities were committed on the scheduled castes annually – and these are only the ones that got reported. The breakup of atrocities for the year 1997 shows 504 cases of murder, 3,452 cases concerning grievously hurt people, 1,002 cases of rape, 384 cases of arson and 12,149 cases of other offences.

The Storm Within: Flash Fiction

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The raindrops reeked of redemption.

He had deserved it, she thought bitterly.

From the moment he had first dragged her into the dark scullery, he should have known this day would come. Like dark clouds amassing on the horizon foreshadowing the storm.

At first she had been distraught. She knew no one else in this country, had nowhere to go. And he knew it. Her helplessness emboldened him, and when he was done filling his stomach with the food she had cooked, he would drag her to the bed with sheets she had cleaned and force himself on her. The detergent smelled of betrayal.

The kitchen had only one window. Tied to the chair, he had begged. From the safety of her mask, she had watched him flail, till his last breath dissipated in the gas.

She dropped the rope on the wet street; the mask dangled from her hand.

The clouds part. A new future on the horizon.

Inspired by Flash! Friday Prompt