The Taste of Iron.

I pulled my jacket closer to my racing heart; walking as fast as my stilettos would let me without falling. I could hear his jeering and whistles; the lewd comments. I was still untouched, but I felt like each piece of clothing on me was being stripped away slowly.

“Arrey. Where are you running off to, Miss? That too all alone? It isn’t safe. Why don’t you come with me? I’ll drop you. Safe and sound.”

He rasped, hissing those last few words into my ears like a snake ready strike; blocking my way. I felt my body’s temperature drop dead in this winter night of December, my face matching the snow that covered the city and heart whose beat echoed with fear, paralyzing my mind. Instinctively, I tried pushing him away, my gloved palms against his coat of shame; only to find pain shooting up my wrists as he pinned me against the bricked walls of the alley; coming so close to me that I could hear his heartbeat and see the small dot of a mole on the left hand side of his beaked nose.

Trying to free myself from his strong clutches, I screamed for help into the vast skies that echoed my cries in response. Some shops would still be open; the time to shut the doors hadn’t come yet. There would be kids playing somewhere nearby in the fields. I tried screaming again, kicking, all the time as he let out laughs of amusement that tormented me.

“Kyun apne aap ko itni takleef de rahi ho, mohterma?”

There was the ruffling of papers on the road, the steady pulling of chains of a cycle. There was a halt in the movements of my tormentor. He’d heard it too.

 Was there someone nearby?

But the opening in darkness closed as soon as the light seemed to touch my eyes. And I saw the gleam of pure thrill in his eyes that pushed me further into the void.

Screaming my lungs out of breath, I kept kicking and clawing at him; any sort of bruise that might stop him. That might save me. And with each wound I tried to give him, I was attacked with more fervor and left with a wound deeper. Kneeing him in his masculinity, I felt his grip loosen and saw agony in his eyes leave his lips as a hiss through his clenched teeth. Taking advantage of this weakening, I shoved him against the wall and ran. 

Only to hear my jacket rip, be thrust onto the ground as the wind abused my exposed dignity.

“BITCH! TRYING TO ACT SMART, HUH? NOW YOU SEE WHAT I’LL DO WITH YOU.”

The skies bled my tears and became the dome echoing my doomed screams. With every fiber torn, there was a cloud ripped from the sky. With every wail, a crow cried somewhere. The coldness of the crime discolored the winds as it engulfed me in shivers. An agony of an imprint here, and gnash there.

I’d felt the dial of my watch crack as I’d hit the ground, freezing time in itself. Freezing the pain, dragging it for as long as what seemed forever.

“If you love your life, keep your mouth sealed. Otherwise I’ll seal your mouth for forever.”

 I watched him walk away with the steps of content and indifference.

I ached all over; on the outside and inside. I didn’t know which pain hurt more; physical or emotional. As I picked up my shredded dignity, I felt a cry rise in my throat. I hugged my knees and cried into the sky that was dark as my smudged kajal. Cried into the night to swallow me. Cried as the pain lapsed, breaking me into pieces I couldn’t join. Cried for it to be nightmare.

Walking down the streets of the neighborhood, I gave a nervous glance behind me. The fear of being followed never left me. It had been a year but still, empty roads, new people knotted my stomach. I forgot what peaceful nights meant, always waking up the same nightmare with my heart crushed in a fist that left me breathless. I remember walking these roads with a smile on my lips and skip to my walk. I remember laughing at jokes, going out with people. But all seemed lost in a land I couldn’t find on the map now. Neither the love nor the people. The only thing remaining was the ache of memories. Memories of a life I once lived. The ache of a reminder that reflected in the eyes of the ghosts of my past every time I crossed the room. The ache of being the victim.

***

So we all know about the horrific Delhi Gang Rape case. And the end numerous cases that followed it or that took place before it. Okay. Maybe not all, but at least the ones that made it to the headlines. Marches, candlelight marches, protests, debates et caetera et caetera. The world was in a rage. The thirst to punish the culprits was at its peak. The society demanded answers.

Now how about asking the society for some answers?

We demand rapists to be hanged and jailed and beaten; demand them to get punished as severely as possible. Show no mercy. And indeed, they don’t deserve any. But then why do we punish the very same victim we’re fighting for, everyday?

We live in a society where words like victimization exists but not “culpritization”. Why?

Say, I got hit by car. Got admitted in the ICU, hospitalized for a month. Sustained around 5 fractures in total and was confided to the wheelchair one month after getting discharged. Fast forward to around 10 years later. Suppose I were to get married and was on the lookout for a suitor, would you refuse to marry me because I got hit by a car? Would it be “impossible” or “beyond your capability” to marry me? No, it wouldn’t be.

Then why reject a rape victim?

Especially in the era where people lose their virginity by choice?

You demand the law to do justice to them yet you choose to do injustice to them on a daily basis?

Oh and rape? That seems to have no age limit anymore. The victims happen to range from infants to elder citizens.

What joy does it give you to sprinkle salt on their wound? Or for that matter, keep opening it? To torment someone with that look throughout their life? To shun them away in shame for something they didn’t commit but were put through instead? Who are you to snatch someone’s name and give them the tag of a rape victim?

A rape is a wound to the mind. You get wounds in an accident too. But like every other wound, it too can fill up. Maybe it’ll take more time, but that doesn’t mean it can’t heal. Then why stop it from healing?

It’s a scar on the soul. Accidents leave you with scars. But like every other scar, it too can fade. Maybe it’ll take longer to fade, more sorts of ointments, but it doesn’t mean it can’t fade. Then why scar them for life?

It instills a fear in the heart. Just like how you might find a person who got into a road accident have shivering limbs and hesitation to drive again. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ever drive again. And so, like every other fear, this fear too can be driven out. Maybe it’ll take more patience, more therapy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t replace it with confidence. Then why trap them in this fear?

We’re humans. Yet, why have we reached a point where humanity doesn’t come naturally to us? Why must we yearn for humane acts? Crave for acceptance without any wrong? Have questions raised against our character when we have been wronged?

It’s bitter irony.

So why not be a savior? Save them from the grief? Be a shoulder they could support on? Someone who can help the wounds heal, drive the fear away? Why not be give them their right to justice, their right to live happily? Think about it…

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