It’s sad that rape victims are victimised in India – and Southeast Asia. Nandita fictionalises a true incident, in two parts, showing the storms and turmoil within the rape victim, Mandira. After her death, her daughter finds her diary, where she wrote her heart out, “I’m not dead, but somehow a part of my mind tells it was better if I did. The only time after the incident I was at peace was the time I was unconscious…the worst part of my ordeal was not the act itself. It wasn’t the embarrassment of been found naked, not the painful check-up and harassment by the male doctor …nah! The worst part was the acceptance. I was not accepted as a victim. I became the accused. Yes, I could have been more careful but how could I have possibly known there was a predator lurking nearby? Raghav was my colleague. I had been working with him for six months…. The hardest part of this has been acceptance by the society. Yes, I realise that it is an ugly topic for many but I am a survivor.” Here’s the account, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.
The police had cordoned off the double-storied house but the media personnel and the eager public were going berserk, as Mandira’s (not her real name) body was being taken in a body bag to the waiting ambulance for post-mortem. She was in news since last three days. She was interviewed twice, in two days. The social media was flooded with messages, slogans, and discussions. Few in her support, but most indulging in and enjoying her character assassination.
In the living room, inspector in-charge Karim, in a deep hoarse voice queried: “When did you enter your mother’s room?”
Inspector Karim (IK) “Why?”
Ananya: “She did not have dinner last night despite many requests, so when she didn’t come down to have tea till 8.30 our maid Parvati asked me to call her. I went to call.”
IK: “What did you see?”
Ananya: “I entered her room and found her sleeping. I called twice since, she didn’t respond so I tried waking her up, as soon as I touched her body, I realised she was stiff and cold. Then I noticed there was an empty bottle of poison beside her pillow.”
IK: “What did you do then?”
Ananya: “I ran out crying, calling Parvati, who was then in the kitchen.”
IK turned towards the maid, “Did your madam go out yesterday?”
IK: “How did she get the bottle of poison then?”
Parvati stood quite hanging her head down.
IK: “OK. I’m leaving now. In case you remember anything or want to inform anything, this is my number.”
He handed Ananya a card.
Ananya went to her room. She closed the door behind her and ran towards the bed. She took out the diary that she had found under Mandira’s bed. She had found it lying with few pages unevenly folded, lying upside down as if was thrown down in a hurry to hide. Ananya did not tell anybody about its existence because she wanted to ascertain there was nothing that could embarrass and unnerve her more than she already was. She opened the diary. Her heart throbbed like a war drum. She flipped through the pages and found ordinary daily life accounts. Finally, he came to a page, dated the day before her suicide, she read.
February 23, Time: 11.10am: “I’m Mandira, I was murdered in the middle of the night, murdered but not killed. No please! Don’t consider me to be in a delirium. I’m not dead, but somehow a part of my mind tells it was better if I did. The only time after the incident I was at peace was the time I was unconscious…the worst part of my ordeal was not the act itself. It wasn’t the embarrassment of been found naked, not the painful check-up and harassment by the male doctor …nah! The worst part was the acceptance. I was not accepted as a victim. I became the accused. Yes, I could have been more careful but how could I have possibly known there was a predator lurking nearby? Raghav was my colleague. I had been working with him for six months. To those of you who believe that a woman with a late hour job, particular attire, alcohol consumption or being friendly with a colleague plays a role in getting raped, explain…why are so many girls from all different backgrounds, situations and personalities get assaulted and raped? The hardest part of this has been acceptance by the society. Yes, I realise that it is an ugly topic for many but I am a survivor. If I need to talk about my experience to make me feel better, to make me feel like some good can come out of my pain, God damn sure! It will. For those, who are unconcerned can go to hell! It does happen, whether you admit it or not – but it’s one of you…your son or your brother. If you want to judge me that’s fine! But know this that by judging me you have time and again let this happen to me, too many others. Next, it could be your daughter, sister or wife. Don’t crib or complain then. If only you had been through what I’m going through, could you understand! And to those that haven’t gone through it, you can’t possibly relate. Thus your opinion is irrelevant. I was raped. There’s not a damn thing I can change about it. Can I blame it on the way I dressed? Blame it on my flirtatious attitude? Blame it on alcohol? Blame it on whatever you want. But, when it comes down to me, I’m blaming it on the sick men, who talk about morality and themselves dishonour it. But I will not keep quiet or bear the brunt alone.”
Ananya thought her mother was courageous enough to fight back, she felt proud. But what had changed in few hours that lead her to take such extreme step? She continued reading.
February 23, 5.45pm: “It has been nearly 72 hours since I was raped. Not a minute goes by that I don’t think about it. Not a second goes by that I don’t think that things would’ve gone a little differently had I been little less confident about my intuitions and gut feelings. Had perhaps overestimated me to be capable of reading and assessing people easily. According to a survey, approximately 73% of rape victims know their attacker; and I fall right into that abhorrently large percentage. The thought definitely struck me once.
“Should I have gone to this man’s apartment? Sure, why not? I met him five-six days a week; he seemed like an okay enough guy. It was the first time, on his insistence that I took two drinks. Yes, I went to his apartment because I didn’t want to return home drunk, I love my daughter too much and dreaded losing her respect. It had not occurred to me once that this could lead me in a situation where my life could be in danger. I’m smarter than others that’s what I thought. Always. No. Women can’t be confident, self-dependent and decisive, they are best when weak, docile and obliging. Six percent of rapists spend a day in jail all say, but my assailant has now spent three whole days and faces many years more. At first, thoughts of dropping the charges swirled through my mind; but images of him shoving me onto his bed, pinning me down, ripping off my clothes…
“I desperately wanted this to go away with him and disappear into the darkness of his cell. I was responsible for having a person locked up in prison, for a number of years…but it’s certainly not something I wanted to be a part of. Can I forget those pleas for my life for the sake of my child! Never dreamt of being carried out by paramedics, know the contents of a rape kit. Of course, it didn’t take long to realise that if it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else. This man, regardless of being an ‘easy guy to get along with at work or outside’ was actually ‘an angry, scary drunk animal.’ He used his own free will to put into imminent danger the free will of another. And thankfully, he will be punished by the law. Still, his voice rings. His torture brings bile into my mouth. Then why this second thought? “I can now understand why statistic shows that 70% of rape victims at some point in time
“I can now understand why statistic shows that 70% of rape victims at some point in time feel guilty for the horrors brought upon them and let go there culprit scot free. I have not sought to counsel. I am not sure what in a psyche brings upon such a ridiculous notion. Is it the social debate, ‘she deserves to get raped for: wearing those clothes; walking home alone in the dark; drinking that much; being deserted by a husband?’ Perhaps! Since one in six women, who is a victim of sexual assault, is taught to silently take the responsibility for everything that happened. Working women are made to feel responsible for not being more family oriented, for being more independent, or skinnier, or more self-assured, or dominating, or just not being a little more feminine, to sum it up the chauvinistic society cannot accept women at par with men. They never take responsibility for our attacker’s lack of judgment, sanity, and misdeed. Is brutality a way for moral lessons to be taught to women trying to break the long accepted norms?
“Somewhere, I too felt bad for my employer being in a difficult situation, losing an employee; my daughter and her possible lack of sleep. Many other thoughts and feelings are now a part of my life along with this horror I have gone through. And am going through. Day one was a nightmare; day two was overwrought with emotion, anger, blame, sadness, fear; day three, I wished for courage, and found a numb shell and overwhelming exhaustion.
I find that many of my emotional experiences and daily dealings are not my own, following an experience that was not my own. I had to be strong, when I called the first media channel, someone picked up the phone and was there to listen patiently. I thought that maybe there is hope that in sharing this horrible secret. That it will encourage the hundreds and thousands of yearly sexual assault victims to be bold enough to speak up. Sixty percent of the cases are not reported, and undoubtedly, a large majority of the survivors go on living in shame. The fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want them to know they are not alone. They will survive and continue to survive for themselves and for others, who want them to. There’s always hope. I was ripped and torn, again to be born as a new Mandira.”
Next page: Time 8.30pm: “I woke up with a start as was in a deep slumber, the sedatives are taking a toll and I feel very sleepy all day. Call from an unknown number, shouldn’t have picked up I regret. For last 14 years, since the day he left me in the lurch with Ananya, who was only two years of age, Anindya never called to know whether we survived or are dead. From where did he get my number? Was he screaming out of guilt for not being here? Nah! I was worried about his reputation, although I’m his past. The media reports mentioned him. People were discussing our relationship. I never mentioned him, rather evaded questions related to my marital status. ‘Why was he furious? Am I to be blamed?’
“Anindya has changed over the years so much, yes! We are strangers but never thought I would not be able to recognise his voice. Why did he call? His acidic words mirrored his annoyance or were he threatening? My mind is too empty and tired. I cannot analyse. I need some more sleep.”
(To be continued)
Photos from the internet.
#Rapevictim #Fiction #Suicide #Dairy #DairyOfAVictim #Victimology #DifferentTruths
A science graduate and an ex-Biology teacher; a trilingual poet (English /Hindi/Bengali), short story writer, painter and a dancer. Born in West Bengal, a resident of Salt Lake, Kolkata. Nandita spent her childhood in different states. It enriched her literary journey. Her writings are published in various international and national anthologies, magazines, webzines, newspapers, and journals. She writes on vivid themes, based on her observations on life, love, ambition, nature, culture, folklore, mythology, etc.