• Antara Basu


She sits under the free moon, silver mist mocking her white cashmere. Her skin is etched in red welts, each a remnant of stories alike. They hear her recite every scar as if it were sacred verses, flowing from ancient sages scripting sermons beneath holy trees.

8 months before, they forced young women to strip, to authenticate that they were indeed not menstruating. These are institutions of education to be revered, but their female students are subjugated to religious norms being barred from common areas, and places of worship on the grounds of their questionable purity.

7 months before, they hanged four men. Candle light vigils died down, protests turned silent, and injustice scorned us for 8 years. Yet, 16 minutes is all it takes, for another rape case to make its way onto the constable’s worn wooden desk. Another file someone slams over the stack marked ‘Cold Cases’.

6 months before, they struck another string as routine. Each morning, evening, and night news media screams in violence. Another woman in the throes of dowry abuse, acid attacks, or honour killings. And now our morning chai cries to our evening coffee about the nightly unanswered, unheard prayers to equality.

5 months before, they killed a young woman for sexuality. This turned the scorching spotlight on ‘conversion therapy’. Headlines flashed for 24 hours, social media outraged for a few days. But no one remembered the new occupant in another deaddiction centre, the next day.

4 months before, they declared we had attained basic equality. Logic, rationale, and statistics burned on a pyre, with fallen widows. And just as social media erupted in the claws of privilege, they scratched the wounds of profound patriarchy and nurtured the ego of inequality.

3 months before, they threatened a woman with rape. Publicly, openly, socially. A voice revoked, a joke rescinded, a video taken down, and an apology issued. And in the backdrop, free speech lost a fight to rape culture and toxic masculinity.

2 months before, they fuelled a war of words and wit. 223 rape cases, 639 kidnappings within a period of one month. They fought over statistics and data, but not policy. It seems safety and empowerment lost the privileged position to politics.

1 month before, they wielded swords of caste superiority. Another woman lost to the battle of equality, dignity, and respect. Another life pushed off the bridge of sexual violence, drowned in shallow waters of caste brutality as our candles lit up again with permanent disgrace.

She raises her cup to take another sip of the brown liquid; a bitterness that seems bearable compared to the bitterness around. She fiddles with the tag stitched into her white cashmere. It says, 'Unfreedom' Made by Patriarchy.

11 October 2020. Today, they celebrate the birth of the International Day of the Girl Child.