Insecure in the Land of Saints

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,

That's me.   ---Maya Angelou

This maestro- African American octogenarian has acquainted us with the thoughts of a common woman; a lady who walks the avenues of this burgeoning country; who earns bread for her family or perseveres to do it one day; who dreams of a better future for herself, her family, her children, her better-half-to-be, her poor parents, her studious younger sibling; who toils through the day and night to get a place in her society, to get her deserved respect, her honour. This is the woman of today. A phenomenal urban woman.
This urban woman is somebody’s mother, somebody’s sister, somebody’s daughter, but sadly is hardly treated as one by her brethren. Despite of working equally hard as the men and shouldering the same responsibilities she fails to get the honour that she deserves. She is still thought of as a mere weak creature, which waits to be exploited by the beasts on the prowl.
Damini- the name that shook the foundations of the country will be always a name that India will remember. Be the Kashmiris for or against India in other matters, but it would only have been a stone in the place of a heart that won’t have ached hearing the miseries the medical intern went through on the thoroughfares of the capital just a month ago.
This girl, whose honour was ripped apart by the hooligans in a public bus, has paid the price of a life to awaken the country. But, let us look at it with a different perspective. Haven’t there been big cases of rape in the country before which aroused a similar agitation through the nation? Where are those names today? Where the sacrifices of lives and honour just a waste?
But it happens only in the Indian mainland. Kashmiris have a heart. If the girl were lying naked in the streets of Srinagar for even a minute, someone would surely have helped her. It won’t have taken hours to get her to the hospital like it took in New Delhi.  Plus, it is their culture that made them face it. Wearing tank tops, skin tight jeans in the middle of the night is what attracts the ruffians. Kashmir is a safer place. And on a second note, we remember the injustices done to our girls in Kashmir by the forces. We haven’t let it go waste.  Isn’t that what most of the Kashmiris would have thought soon after the incident?
But sadly, I do not agree to this school of thought. Our Kashmir- which was once called the Pir Waer, is now shielding beneath its bosoms the ugliest of the faces that this valley of saints would have ever seen. This was proved yet again by the acid attack on the woman in Parraypora a fortnight ago.
If the instances of rapes in our valley aren’t seen in huge numbers, but there shouldn’t  be any element of doubt if I say that every tenth woman is eve-teased every single day. Be it at on roads, at schools, at colleges, at universities, at offices, at malls or any public place- there always is a female individual who is sexually harassed. Are you a lesser a criminal than the men who rape the women if you touch a woman unlawfully? Haven’t you let the sacrifice of hundreds of Kashmiri women go waste?
And the key word Eve-teasing! Whenever we hear that a woman is eve teased, we take as light as a feather. It doesn’t matter if she was just ‘eve teased’, as long as she wasn’t molested. The problem lies with the way we take the word. If you ask an average American or a European what eve teasing is, they would hardly understand the word.
It is euphuism for a public sexual harassment or assault used in the Indian subcontinent, where people do not find it comfortable to use the real word as their counterparts in the west do. The assault may include touching, catcalls, brushing and suggestively sexual remarks. At times it is also referred to as a “little rape”.
The women are being assaulted in front of our eyes. Whether they are covered from top to toe or wear anything trendy, they aren’t safe. A hound of a man will lay his hands on her. And what do we do? Stare, and contribute to the menace? That definitely wasn’t what the saints would have thought of once they’d come here to preach.
 If your wife, your mother, your daughter, or your sister doesn’t deserve to get eve teased, how can anybody else’s deserve to?
As long as the women don’t dare to speak against the wrongs done against them, and the males don’t get the sense of humanity and stop thinking of women as playthings, the society is not going to get better in any way.
For all the women out there, you need to stand against the beast who tries to sexually assault or pester you anywhere. Hurl a shoe at him. Take off your sandal. And I kid you not, once a few men get a revolt, they aren’t going to repeat it the next time. Prick the man in the bus with the needle pin of your headscarf. Hit him with your bag. Mark one on his face! You may do whatever to stand in the espousal of your honour, and trust me it won’t be wrong in anyway. But it is certainly going to be wrong if you don’t.
And for the men, treat the women if not as your sisters, but as honourable humans. And for heaven’s sake, behave like men. It is the beasts’ work to prey on females. Give the women protection rather than fear. Make them believe that they truly live with humans, not animals. Stop your peers who take up on eve teasing. After all, there might be a man who could harass your sister too.
If this urban woman has decided to set her foot to work on having a better world tomorrow, give her a safer and respectable today. Let her live freely.
The Eve was made from Adam’s rib, so that she would always walk under his shadow. It was the epic metaphor of Adam’s arms rising only in protecting the Eve, not teasing her. 

This article was published in today's Kashmir Reader, an English daily newspaper of Kashmir. 

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