We are mere hours away from welcoming Diwali as I write this. It is the festival of lights and brightness and all things good. But this time, my spirit of celebration is overshadowed by tales of horror doing the rounds. Horrors that are as real as the women who face them everywhere they go.
Each narrative of sexual harassment by women around me, women I grew up playing with, attended my classes with, women I work with, all alike, are piling up in my heart. The weight of our shared sorrow is like dirt in water that settles down at the base and grows thicker with time and incidents that are added each day. Sexual harassment does not stop with a hashtag; it does not stop with a complaint. It does not even stop with a widespread acknowledgement of the needs of the society we are a part of.
The weight of this collective grief arising from unique and solitary incidents is relatable and nostalgic. It is much more depressing and suffocating than the pollution that Diwali would bring. The sheen of celebration is lost with the realisation that no festival holds any meaning, until we cannot enjoy something as basic as crossing a street without being catcalled.
It has happened inside the walls of our houses, inside classrooms, inside families. We do not even need to count what happens when we go outside. Those hands and mouths belong to friends, domestic workers, and relatives which touch, grope, violate, humiliate, invade our bodies and lives and validate such actions by normalising it, taking the magnitude of such occurrences in consideration. We need not even start about what happens in the company of strangers.
Five years ago, we lost Jyoti Singh Pandey, and we are still losing many such lives every day to the animality of our own people. It’s a long way till our efforts bring down these numbers, but we can start by lending our ears and shoulders to those who have suffered until they muster the strength to get back on their feet.
As important as it is to bring a change in the society’s thinking, it is also important to comfort those whose hearts have been bruised.