The Faceless Man

It is easy to mourn the Delhi gang rape.

It is only easy to be angry, easy to let 400-odd people in urban middle class India know on Facebook what you think of the barbarism. It is easy to label the rapists animals, to relegate them to death or a life of sodomy in prison. It is easy to be angry in the cyber mob. One by one status messages join the tide of throbbing emotion that thrashes the shores of our consciousness until it ebbs away in time, rising again when the next victim is felled. Yesterday we came together for the Guwahati teenager… today for the Delhi college student… and tomorrow? The statistics of sexual violence are so staggering that they are no longer numbers on a white screen; it is an epidemic that is getting scarily close to claiming the rest of us in its wake.

The truth is, rape or not, you and I are already victims, ladies. And we have come face to face with our perpetrator, countless number of times. We may have seen him… on the bus to school, or at the mall lurking outside Wills Lifestyle, or two cubicles away from us at work… or maybe even at home. We are all too familiar with this faceless man, black holes swimming in the jaundiced whites of his eyes – watching, not gazing… sucking female form into its vortexes, as we scramble to hide our breasts away… behind our clothes, our books, our bags, our arms.

We all have stories of the man. We bond collectively through these stories, applauding each other’s courage while gasping and raising eyebrows at the nerve of this man who feels no shame in taunting, slapping, groping, unzipping, or even ejaculating in public.

But what worries me is that we look back on these… and laugh.

Isn’t it strange that the first time we are molested in public, it is considered as some crazed rite of passage to a world of womanhood where we have to fight for the right to own our own bodies? How did this happen? Who is responsible for this? Everybody has their own answer to this question, and the blame game will continue. Yet we all know who the enemy is.

We need to mourn the day we first met this man, before we mourn for his victims.

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