A few days back, Savvy, a 5th grader studying in an Indian school in Dubai, came home visibly distraught. Her mother, who was used to seeing her sunny girl come home with a smile on her lips and a spring in her steps, immediately asked her what the matter was. There was a wringing and unexplained ache in the mother's chest even before Savvy opened her mouth. "Please God!" She thought, "let her spell out some childish trouble like Ritika teasing her or Ankita declaring Savvy's specs didn't suit her." Savvy knew how to tackle these trouble-makers and never let her confidence shrink in the face of these hurdles in her childhood journey. Savvy's mother had prepared her well to face these battles of life. So what was it that put the creases of worry and trouble in her innocent face?
"Mom, today the teacher got a newspaper and showed us the news and picture of child marriage. She told us that in India small girls like me are married off. Don't their parents love them? Mom, when I told Lita (a 6th grader in her bus) about this, she told me that this is a small thing in comparison to what she reads in the newspapers. In many parts in India, small girls and women are raped, girl babies are killed even before they are born or left on the road, and sometimes, when girls marry without their parents consent, they are killed. Lita said Delhi is called the "rape capital" (489 rapes were reported in 2010 alone). I asked her what a rape is. She told me even she does not understand properly. However, when it happens, a girl's body is scratched, her clothes are torn and everybody blames her for something and she cries all the time. Sometimes, such girls die or kill themselves. Mom, why do they do all these things in India? Do parents in India not love their daughters? You told me we call India "Bharat Mata" and respect it like our mother. Then, why do women get such treatment in India? I love it when I go home to India. I wanted to go back and live there after Papa had completed his project here, but now I don't want to go back ever. Susila and Mehek Didi (her cousins) are in India, tell them to come here. I am scared for them; I do not want them to get hurt."
Savvy's mother was dumbstruck and tears unwittingly drenched her cheeks. Yes, earlier in the morning, she had read news about rape and child marriage in the Indian section of the newspaper. She and Rahul (Savvy's father) had discussed how unsafe India had become and they were terrified of the day when they have to go back. Rahul said he can't imagine how perverts (rapists) can be set off so lightly. Even a sentence of 7 years was not any retribution for a crime that tatters the very soul of a woman/child. She had told Rahul about the shame she felt when her non-Indian friends discussed news of such incidents. But when she listened to her 10 years old's anxiety, her heart burned. She pulled Savvy and hugged her tight, as if trying to secure her from the troublesome thoughts within the safe haven of her clutch. She knew that even the distance (from India) can't protect or shield her daughter from the pain that atrocities and crime against women causes. She had tried to erect a beautiful image of her motherland, so that Savvy will look forward to going back there. She knew that while the beauty of her motherland will never cease, there was another dark reality that shadowed its charm. In reality, India was also a place where a 12-year-old rape victim faces the looming dangers of pregnancy; a woman chief minister of a state, where Durga and Kali are revered, issues an official statement that the rape story was fabricated without ascertaining facts; a battered two years old is brought to hospital on Republic Day, revealing a horror story of human trafficking; a woman is gang-raped when she opposes the evil of child-marriage; so called honorable ministers derive pleasure from watching pornographic and rape videos while the House is in progress; women are raped even in police custody; the right to life is snatched away from a female child even in the confines of a mother's womb and where women are dishonored, tortured, killed, oppressed and marginalized at every step of life. Adding to the list of various dubious distinctions India has gained is the abnormally skewed sex ratio. Widely prevalent female infanticide and early marriage of women resulting in high mortality of mother and child are blamed for this. The degrading status of women cannot be blamed on illiteracy alone. Research has revealed that while tribal communities have low literacy level, the sex ratio is fairly normal. Clearly a civilized society with humanity as its reigning principle doesn't come with education alone. It comes when we use knowledge to learn and rectify our mistakes, apply it for progress and adopt a progressive attitude.
Issues as vital and generic as safety, right to a life of dignity are still a bleak reality in a democratic setup like India. What and where is the sheen that our country has achieved in the aftermath of freedom? No matter how much one loves their motherland and wishes to return to it, there will always be comparisons and second thoughts when the question of moving back crops up. Savvy's mother loved her motherland and she loved her daughter dearly, but when will every individual in her country learn to give the respect all mothers, daughters and woman in general deserved? Till that day dawns, "India shining" will only remain a mere rhetoric.