Saturday 29 December 2012

Tribute to a Trampled Soul

Nine years ago, in the early hours of one day, I gave birth to my son. A small group of people consisting of my friends and family rejoiced with me. In the early hours of today, a mother lost her daughter and the world is mourning with her. When I first heard of the Delhi rape, I was saddened, hurt and even angered. Today, I am truly shaken by the brutality of the rape that actually killed her. What kind of an attack she must have been subject to … to have her internal organs fail and have her heart stop. I do not know her name or her family but this morning, I wept and hung my head in shame for silently witnessing this crime, and for our collective inability to prevent it. I think part of the problem is the language we use. She is being called “Amanat” (treasure) but we should really call her “Trampled” or “Trashed” because this is exactly what we did to her. We trampled all over her … WE … all of us who have been witnessing this …trampled all over her and thrown her on the street.

I know that the police and the politicians are going to be worried about the outburst of anger on the streets, the activists are going to be busy with planning protests, journalists are going to write articles and citizens like me are going to fill the blogosphere and every possible social networking avenue. We are all going to be outraged today in our own way.

Here is how I paid homage in my own way. One is, I sat with my eyes closed experienced the pure physical pain this 23-year-old medical student must have gone through as she was being gang raped by men driving around the streets of the very city we proudly call our capital.… just so that I NEVER forget this. And the second thing I did was to remember something that Gloria Steinem said “,We've begun to raise our daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” If I stop and think for a second of the men who raped her, I wonder what was going through their minds to be that brutal, to turn such a deaf ear to screams of pain, to derive any pleasure out of the most gory attack. I want to know what they must have heard when they were growing up to think that THIS is what it means to be a man. Maybe we all should look at ourselves and never ask our sons not to “cry like a girl” when they are being sensitive or not call them a “sissy” if they don’t want to play sports or not call them a “weirdo” if they are not interested in being a Casanova. I feel sorry for the mother of the “Trampled” soul and also feel terrible for the mothers of men who committed the rape. What must they be going through to witness this side of their sons. Today, I made a promise to myself to raise my son more like a daughter and teach him what it really means to be a “huMAN”.    


  1. Lakshmi: a beautiful writing....I am sure you touched many by this....I couldn't agree with you with more...


  2. Lakshmi, I am an aspiring writer, teacher and currently a student of the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College Columbia University New York. What has happened in Delhi, the vicious and inhuman act of violence has left me thinking deeply about the injustices and prejudices that plague our society, and how as a teacher, an educationist, a mother and daughter, I can make a difference, can work to not just stand up and fight but to prevent such acts from happening in the future and sensitize our future citizens of the various social issues that still exist but typically get swept under the carpet in our country. I believe that reading can change the world and change has its beginnings in the classroom.

    I believe that we need to introduce our children to texts that touch on deep and sensitive social issues such as gender, poverty, religion, caste, class family etc. Thus as children are taught to read with a critical lens, providing them such stories to read, also helps to bring these important issues up in graceful ways. The teacher therefore does not teach about social issues, instead she teaches students how to read between the lines, how to feel empathy for characters in stories, how to make text to life and text to world connections and through making such connections the students make their own interpretations and inferences, leading to rich conversations and exchange of opinions and thinking. Classrooms then become places where reading really achieves its purpose of not just meaning making, but learning about the world around you, learning how different people view situations, learning to listen to and appreciate another's view point, learning to present one's view and defend it. Through reading I have found that classrooms can become communities of change, communities where all voices and all interpretations have room, where all children can be part of conversation.
    It has been my dream to make this happen in our classrooms in India. As a first step, we need to provide our children books and stories that help them make interpretations, think critically and bring in topics that are sensitive and typically get brushed under the carpet. I have been working with a group of teachers who work with migrant labourers children in Bangalore, and together we are authoring a book about the dreams and life of a poor migrant laborer’s daughter. It is a children’s book authored collaboratively by the teachers in Kannada. I have been their writing teacher, doing writing workshop with them over skype, over the past 4 months. I am really hoping to make writing for our children in India infectious, for if we reach these stories to children in every classroom, then we are opening up such conversations in the most graceful and secure way, as well as making our classrooms truly democratic.



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