My last 3 reads of 2012

This week, I have been reading a quite a lot and the reason is that each of these books is supposed to be excellent. Let’s find out.

1. The Satanic Verses (by Salman Rushdie):

satanicverses

This book has been at the heart of a huge controversy ever since it was written by Salman Rushdie more than 2 decades back and that is the reason I felt so attracted towards reading it. Banned in India, I obtained a copy from abroad over 6 months back, but only got down to reading it this week. I have just crossed a hundred pages (the book is over 540 pages) and it is turning out to be a difficult and incredibly slow read. The reason for this difficulty is the toughness of language and also the way in which the author has been jumping the plot from present day to flashback and the sequences of events are also slightly difficult to follow, even for a seasoned reader like myself. Though, I will not talk about the plot here because I have myself not uncovered it yet, but I will certainly say that I am impressed by Rushdie’s writing skills. They way he has described his characters and their lives is excellent and the plot seems to be developing still.

2. Into the Wild (by Jon Krakauer):

intothewildI took a short break from Satanic Verses and started reading “Into the Wild”. This is a gem of a book and I was so incredibly hooked to it that I finished it within a couple of days. It recreates, with incredible emotion and detail, the sad but true story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who decided to give up everything he had and break all links with civilization to spend a few months alone in the Alaskan wild. A few months after he goes into the wild, his dead body is found and it turns out he has died of starvation. The news is made public and then different people respond to this in different ways. Some call him careless, reckless and immature to have undertaken such a journey without preparation, while others have a more humane view of the psychology of McCandless. the author recreates the entire adventure using the photographs McCandless has taken and notes he has maintained in his diary. The book is really excellent and a must-read for everyone. If you haven’t read this, you have missed something.

3. The Motorcycle Diaries (by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara):

motorcyclediariesA very popular book, it is the diary of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in which he recounts his exploration of South America along with his friend Alberto, on Alberto’s motorcycle named ‘La Poderosa’, the Mighty One: a 500cc Norton. Guevara describes the days they spend on the exploration and the kind of places they visited, the people they met and the troubles they got into throughout the journey. I have not know much about Guevara before reading this book, but I understand he has been an icon for many and this book is an incredible read that will appeal to all exploration and motorcycle enthusiasts alike. I am halfway through the book and I think it is a very pleasant read.

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A Nation of Rapes

women

On December 16th, 2012, a 23-year-old girl from Delhi was gang raped by five men in a moving bus in South Delhi. Even the male friend accompanying her was brutally beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious. After the rape, they were both stripped and thrown out of the bus. They were found lying on the roads at about 11 PM at night.

What made this episode even more horrific was the fact that the rapists not only raped her but even inserted an iron rod into her which ended up completely damaging her genitalia and intestines.

The girl was admitted into a hospital where she was placed on ventilator and was extremely critical for a few days. The doctors had to remove her intestines because they were completely damaged by the attack and they feared she might be affected by gangrene. The result of this was that even if the victim survived this incident, she would never be able to eat again.

The incident sent shock waves throughout the country and in a surprising development, thousands of citizens across Delhi came together to protest the rising incidents of crime against women (esp. rapes) in Delhi and the prevailing indifference displayed by the political class towards the common people. they demanded that the rapists in this case be hanged for the brutality of their crime. Thousands more across the country jumped into protests in their own cities and for almost 2 weeks now, the movement has taken the entire country by storm. The girl, christened ‘Nirbhaya’ (meaning ‘fearless’) by the media to preserve her anonymity, and her sufferings have become the sole point of discussion in all homes across the country. She has become the daughter of the country and every family is now joined with her in sentiments.

As the citizens Delhi were protesting peacefully near the parliament, the police started using force on them through the use of water cannons, teargas shells and even lathi charge with increasing frequency and without any provocation. Many people were badly beaten up by the police and this only increased the sense of outraged that Delhi’ites felt. People were protesting to demand better policing, stronger laws and their better enforcement and everyone was hoping the political class would finally wake up and take stern measures to ensure safety for women. But they didn’t.

All political leaders in India watched silently as the country protested and displayed their outrage. The only comments that came out of political circles were to suggest that it is the fault of the people themselves that such incidents were taking place. Loose, rhetorical arguments such as “society needs to change itself” etc. were also being thrown in which only went to show that there is a huge disconnect between the political class and the citizenry.

The country burned.

Horribly enough, some politicians even had the audacity to attack women even more. In one case, the son of the President of India even went on to say that the women participating in the protests were “dented-painted” and also attacked the character of the women protesters further by saying that they were all coming to the protests after visiting discos and night clubs. This statement clearly displays how the politicians, who are supposed to represent the people, have such anti-people attitude.

This morning (29th Dec, 2012), the 23-year-old victim has finally breathed her last breath and succumbed to the injuries after battling bravely for 13 long and agonizing days.

There were times in between when media reports exposed that the police themselves were putting pressure on the victim to give a statement that was prepared by them, instead of giving the true account. This caused tremendous uproar among the people.

To just take you a step further towards showing how indecent the political class has become, let me state a few isolated incidents that happened around the same time as this brutal gang rape. A girl was raped in Kolkata, West Bengal, but the police refused to admit her complaint for 2 weeks. Not only that, a few days later, the Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal (a woman herself) shockingly claimed that there was no rape and that the entire “controversy” was “staged”. The victim kept repeating her statement but nothing would change the mind of the CM who went even further to say that the victim was in fact a sex-worker and the incident was only a deal gone wrong and thus there was no need to look into anything. The people of the country can only wonder how the CM obtained such insights into the case.

In another incident, it was reported that another girl in the state of Punjab was gang raped and when she went to report this to the local police, not only did they not register her complaint (as usual) of the vicitim, they started humiliating her by saying that she must have invited them to rape her and that she should “compromise” with the rapists instead of filing a complaint. They used to call her to the police stations “late at nights” to listen to her story but their only purpose was to ask her shameful questions about the rape “procedure” and they kept on humiliating her to such an extent that she was finally forced to commit suicide. In her suicide note, she has clearly mentioned what caused her to kill herself, but even now the policemen are defiant.

The 3 incidents that I have described are only less than 1% of what women in our country are suffering on a daily basis.  These things and the insensitivity of the police are part of the news everyday and we do not find it shocking anymore that such an incident has occurred. It is occurring, not only daily, but hourly in our country and most of those are not even reported because the families of the victims fear humiliation and retribution from the same people who are supposed to protect them, the cops.

The people of the country are angry and outraged while the politicians are hoping that all the noise will die down in a few days, after which people will forget the incident. Till then, just remain evasive. Theek hai?

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