I had no intention of writing this column; I could lie that I was hoping the world would end on Friday and it did not and left me with one more disappointment and an unfinished column to deal with. But I am not sure if lying is my strength and whether my lie can hold your attention long enough for you to stay with me for the rest of the piece. Truth be told, I wasn’t unhappy or happy at the outcome of the world on 21/12/2012, yet, on many counts, for me, this last week has been a week of disappointments.
First, Delhi shamed me again. I mean how worse can it get? Somehow talking about the gang rape makes me feel like an old record player singing the same tune over and over again. Yet I cannot help myself from bringing it up. Every time I wonder what more I can say that has not been said before, something springs up from the personal folder of my memory and demands that it be related, which is why I am now going to talk about my second disappointment of the week.
A day or two after the gang rape, a couple of male journalist friends came over to my place for a drink. I had invited them because I had finished writing for the day and was seriously missing human contact; they agreed because they were working late and could use a drink at a friend’s place when every other watering hole in the city was shut.
They arrived a little while after midnight and we began consuming dark rum in earnest. Food was ordered; and by the time we emptied the first bottle we found ourselves in the space which alcoholics call the border between social and hard drinking. By then my friends had emptied their minds of office politics and I had done my share of complaining about the film industry. Our guards were down and we were staring at each other like men do when their minds have been made malleable by alcohol and the prospect of another bottle and more conversation — a time when wife and family are forgotten, a time when an imminent hangover looks like a doomsday prophecy that will never come true.
I think I started on the topic of rape as soon as the new bottle was opened. I don’t know why I did that; I just said something that expressed my disgust at what happened in Delhi with the 23-year-old girl who is currently struggling for her life and who in all likelihood of survival will have to spend the rest of her days minus an intestine. There was silence for a while, less than a minute I think, after which one of my friends said the rape of a woman is impossible. As soon as I heard this, the alcohol level in blood dropped dramatically and I quietly repeated the bare details of the incident. “That’s possible,” my guest corrected himself, “but I cannot believe that one man can rape one woman. I mean it is not possible!”
I looked at my other friend and both of us laughed. For the next twenty minutes, the two of us tried to argue with our comrade but mostly listened. The impossibility of rape of a woman by a single man was justified on account of the fact that a woman could use her hands and legs to defend herself. What if there was a gun involved, one of us asked. Quickly an exception to the gun was made and the impossibility of rape of a woman by a man narrowed down to situations where the man was not armed. I got angry and used foul language to express my displeasure and wondered whether my guest had ever considered the possibility of him getting raped.
The bottle of rum was getting over fast and I was too wasted to argue any further unless I wanted to have a fist fight. Rape is sex without consent, my other friend said. At some point the woman agrees, pat came the reply. It got ugly after that. Most women have some connection with the rapist; some women invite rape; a large number of rape cases registered in our country are false, etc. I did not know what to make of the conversation so I tried to change the topic. We talked about other and soon it was time to eat. After my friends left I went over the conversation in my head and wondered what sort of men are we?
Mayank Tewari is a writer