Continent of Exile

The list is updating itself constantly. Be it from the moving bus, be it the molestation of a Manipuri actress, be it the routine Dalit rapes that tumble out from Harayana….The unabated series of rapes only fuel temporary middle class protest and a tokenism of a fast track court. There we are inside this well-thought out paradox grid. Here constant middle class compromises are being hammered out to snuff out your overt, covert, introvert and extrovert sense of aggression. Which brings me to the crux of the discussion as to what is the new frontier of compromise? If there is one aspect that bothers the nation now (at least some in this nation), it is the changing nature of compromise. If there is one non-axiomatic emotion that has changed most in today’s world it is the concept of compromise.

Take this word out of the dictionary and insert it into our lives – we’ll find that the word is fiendishly tactile. This shape-shifting, genre-shifting word has larger and wide ranging ramifications. To put it pithily, compromise is an act of selling out. But that would be the tip of the iceberg. It could connote strategic, wily silence or a tactical beating retreat or a survival toolkit or taking the easiest escape route. If I were to look at the never ending compromises that I have witnessed, analysed, taken part in, become a part of by design or by default – I would admit to myself and to the world that the goalpost is constantly shifting and widening itself. So much so that one day it might stretch all the way upto the corner flag.

And that is why I don’t see rape being discussed in a more micro-level. That is why I don’t see Haryana deciding to ban Khap panchayats and bringing every offender to court. That is why cut wrists of Kalinganagar, memories of Khairlanji, Mirchpur, Gohana are nowhere in the discourse. What is being discussed is how unsafe is the night, how safe is the day, how should we be wary of potential molesters, how there is a potential molestor in every breathing creature, how to use pepper spray in a more effective manner….all of this is right.


But how about going to middle school. Making the kids hear compositions of Kabir and Lalon Fakir. Read out to them Mahadevi Akka. Read out to them Antigone. Read out to them Kumarsambhava. And don’t give excuses…all these texts have competent translations. Tell them the difference between what we see in Khajuraho is a mapping of a time and phase as opposed to downloading pornography.

How about teaching as to what is welcome and unwelcome touch (classroom teaching, not sensitisation programmes run by the NGO consortium). The idea of how to distinguish between molestation and affection. Because driving an invisible carriage and whipping with an invisible leash cannot lead to any concrete visible change. None of it. Not even in short spurts or sporadic bursts of temporary rage which dissolves into going nowhere posturing.

We have to remember that amongst the ones who allegedly took part in the dastardly act, there was one member under the age of 18 (who is a repeat offender and apparently clinical in his brutality). Who created that monster inside his head. And who created the monster in all those heads that took part in the act. And yes, we the aware, are still debating something so archaic: should sex education be given in schools. Well, if you don’t bring in the idea of the body, then the idea will be imported from a diverse range of sources that include video games to downloaded porn to patriarchy of the K-serials to the brutal machismo of the media.

We are cultivating a new kind of soil. Become a breeding ground of retro-cool, heartlessly lethal violence mongers. What are the rape victims, acid victims, survivors of child sexual abuse telling us. They are saying that between outrage, between multiple insensitivities, between knowing what to understand and understanding what to know, wake up. Stop sermonising take part in the discourse of the body from childhood and tell the religion mongers for once to shut up.

We had to do this issue to remind us of how we messed it up with our definition of the body. This issue chronicles the mechanics of the mess, the anatomy of the mess and our obstinacy about not admitting the fact that we have messed it up.

Let’s clear the mess. The least we could do is it not mess it up any further.

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