A father drops off his young daughter at the train station every day. She catches the intra-city train to her work. At 23-24, she’s working for Infosys. Obviously, a direct university recruit. Goes without saying she’s intelligent, smart, confident. Otherwise you can’t really make it into the Infys of the world.
I reflect on the time when I was her age, and took my first job. I am sure you can too. The quiet pride in your parents' eyes. That after their penance, you are now ready to fly. Back then, Appa would drop me to the bus stop on his scooter. It was just a ten minute walk, but the scooter ride meant I got five minutes extra at home. He would also drop my sister to the bus stop on most days. Like Swathi, we’d be out of the house early in the morning. The only difference between me and Swathi, my sister and Swathi is that my sister and I are alive. Swathi is not. No one hacked us to death while Appa and Amma were having their second round of coffee back home, ten minutes away. Was it possible at all? Was such a thing possible with me and my sister? Yes. We had our share of crazies. The ones who stared and stared. The ones who knew at what time we came to the bus stop every morning. The ones who knew which bus we boarded. And so, the ones who knew where I worked, where my sister studied. It is a part of being a young woman in India. There is no statistic to prove which sort of crazy would escalate to full blown violence. You only had to be vigilant. Make your own assessment. That’s how we all function.
I imagine Swati’s family that day. Daughter off to work. Parents getting ready for the routine of the day. Usual morning chores. Coffees and breakfasts. Pooja. Maid walking in. All this, little knowing their daughter was already dead. Some asshole had hacked at her throat with a sickle. It was premeditated obviously. She was now a bleeding body, sprawled on the station platform. Her blood-soaked handbag lying near her body. What did the handbag contain? Her comb? Her compact? Probably a tiffin dabba? My eyes sting. A girl who should have had a fulfilling life—a family of her own some day, a life long enough to see her grand-kids—was lying butchered, orphaned, in a dirty public place. The fact that newspapers splashed the photo of Swathi, albeit slightly pixelated, just enough to reveal the gore, is an indication of the malaise afflicting our disgusting media culture. More importantly, the fact that Swathi’s family, even in this hour of most horrific grief, have requested newspapers NOT TO SPECULATE on Swathi’s character shows how poisoned our society is. How sick, disturbed, depraved we have become. That's what we do to every female victim of crime, isn't it? Sexualise it? Look what we did to that child Aarushi.
For all the rhetoric about our culture, Swathi was finally accorded the place of a street animal that’s killed in a road-hit and left to fester in the elements. There. I spat it out. That dark blob of poisoned thought. For that’s what life amounts to in our country, isn’t it? If it is a sickle here, it is a bottle of acid somewhere else. Or if the killer is slightly more merciful, a spray of bullets. No weapons? No problem. Rape is easy. So easy that it’s almost boring these days. So burn after rape. Kerosene is cheaper than a meal. No kerosene? No problem. Just pull out her intestines.
The trolls are already out like flies on hot shit. Maybe it was karma. There’s always two sides to a story. “Girls like Swathi” deserve this at some level.
Who are Girls Like Swathi? Intelligent? Hardworking? Independent? Know their mind? Speak their mind? Ah. Girls Like Swathi are every patriarchal male and female’s nightmare. Girls Like Swathi are the ones who are a danger to our culture. Our glorious culture. Girls Like Swathi are you and me.
Then there are the kinder trolls. Girls LIke Swathi must learn karate. Girls Like Swathi must hold pepper sprays instead of looking into their mobiles all the time. Girls Like Swathi must do this. Must do that. What about those who inflict violence? Oh, they are disturbed boys. Maybe the movies are responsible? Maybe they got mixed signals? Maybe they have mental diseases? Maybe poverty? Maybe domestic violence at home? So many things can make a young man want to rape, maim, kill. He is not directly responsible. But Girls Like Swathi are responsible for every thing that is inflicted upon them.
Well, we know the drill by now. We’ve had the mandatory candlelight watch. Swathi is now reduced to yet another statistic. Swathi is Simran who was stabbed to death on New Delhi streets by a stalker. Swathi is Radhika who was shot dead by her stalker. Swathi is Jyoti Singh. Swathi is Jisha. Swathi is all of us who just step out in the belief we’ll reach our destinations unmolested, live through the day, and return to the safety of our homes. We’ll move on now – watch the next shitty movie that tells us erotomania is cool; stalking is sexy; sexual violence is romance. Yes, we’ll clap like monkeys when some vacuous “actor” makes casual rape jokes.
I feel sick in the stomach to write the hypocritical RIP. Because our society does not deserve Girls Like Swathi.
© Sumana Khan 2016