Reactions To ‘Two Indias’ Monologue By Vir Das Exposes India’s Denial Problem With Rape Statistics
It’s tough being a journalist in these times, no matter what field you chose to write about. But let me tell you my personal struggles of being an editor of a women’s magazine. Health gurus say checking your phone first thing in the morning is bad. Most people still do it because FOMO. I do it because my FOMO, my curiosity to know anything and everything there is to know, is what makes me excellent at my job. So every morning, I wake up not to sweet good morning texts from that hot guy I met off Hinge/Bumble/Tinder, but about news stories of violent crimes against women. Rape. So. Much. Rape.
As the day progresses, my country regresses in the news headlines. My job is to talk about women—their rights, their achievements, their inspiring stories, the art they’ve created or performed in. But what do I get when I type “woman” in the Google search box? Apart from a video of Doja Cat’s ‘Woman’, almost every other day, 3-4 out of the 10 search results on the page are about women being raped, murdered, or raped and murdered, or killed for dowry and the occasional acid attack because a man couldn’t handle rejection. And these are just news stories that won the algorithm game or were reported to the police. What you see is a drop; what you don’t see is an ocean.
And in this ocean are several icebergs that sink our titanic claims about women empowerment. Politicians and members of women’s welfare institutions with their salty statements make a mockery of the nation’s EQ. “It happened because girls are wearing ripped jeans!” “Who asked her to go out so late at night?” “If she had called him ‘bhaiyya’ and pleaded, he would not have raped her.”
Just yesterday, I read about a tutor in Mumbai call a female student a “prostitute” because she had a guy’s head in her lap. He was arrested under POCSO, and that’s great. But iss desh ki arrested development ka kya kijiyega, janaab? Soch kaise badlegi when you’re trolling female comedians, censoring movies and series, and banning advertisements that are trying to usher in progressive thought? This job is actually for the teachers and educators to facilitate proper sex education. But they’re too busy calling their students ‘whores’. Or even for parents, but they’re too busy sacrificing their children on the altar of superstitions, their own sexual deviance, and the caste system.
Also Read: Tutor Called 16-Year-Old Girl A “Prostitute”, Has Been Arrested Under POCSO. Can We Stop Slut-Shaming Girls?
I am not exaggerating. I encourage you to try this Googling exercise yourself. And not just try, but actually, open these news articles and read them. Someone needs to read these women’s stories that are reported and then merely logged under statistics, to eventually not be believed or acknowledged by the citizens of India. You know, because it doesn’t pair well with their brand of nationalism and patriotism which keeps them from accepting that their country has a denial problem when it comes to rape statistics.
Normally, my process of writing such an editorial would be to cite cold, hard facts, supplemented with numbers. I could, for example, tell you that as per reports, rape and molestation cases in Delhi have increased by 20% this year. Or the fact that the toddler daughter of the captain of the Indian men’s cricket team was given rape threats because her father lost a stupid match. In a country that treats cricket like a religion, and calls cricketers Gods, we’re now threatening these gods’ families with very human violence. The audacity.
But do facts matter? Do statistics actually work as a defence against this incorruptible denial that so many Indians have about rapes happening in our country? Nope, they don’t. Because when comedian Vir Das, in a set he performed in the United States, referred to this dual face of India, he was trolled and abused for “insulting” his “motherland” for a few laughs.
Vir Das was performing at the John F. Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington, DC, where he read a monologue called “I Come From Two Indias.” His lines are the kind of eviscerating satire that makes you smile and give you chilling goosebumps, and at the same time, make your skin crawl because the truth is unsettling and uncomfortable.
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He talked about an India that worships its goddesses with such fervour and another that doesn’t do anything to curb the rising rape cases. Or should I say gang-rape cases? Because is it just my analysis or do we have a lot more of those in the news now? I had the disturbing task of assigning a news report early in the morning to one of my writers about a minor girl who was forcibly married off by her father, harassed by her father-in-law, and then raped by 400 men over months, including a cop, before she was rescued.
Also Read: Minor Girl Married Off By Father Gets Raped By 400 Different People Over 6 Months, Now Pregnant
400 men. 400. Four. Fucking. Hundred. You couldn’t get 400 consecutive men to call themselves feminists and speak up for women during the #MeToo movement from fear of their ‘mardaangi’ being mocked. But 400 of these men turned monsters and ravaged a little girl without a second thought because they could. And they might just get away with it. I mean, our world loves to forgive men for “mistakes” they make. Because punishing them for it would “ruin” their lives. As of today, we’ve successfully managed to not ruin the lives of so many boys and men. I hear some of those #MeToo accused directors are returning to filmmaking, and their movies will probably go houseful.
So yay for men, because not all men. But all women. All women, and women of every age, every caste, religious inclination, geographical location, economic standing, and dressing. Oh and every relationship too. Because in another piece of news, a father in Madhya Pradesh raped his daughter next to the dead body of her infant son who died of pneumonia, because the daughter married a man outside the caste. His own daughter…. Remember that tutor I told you about who called his student a ‘prostitute’. We have words for women’s characters. None for this rapist father? I pitch ‘monster’. Or ‘vermin’.
With your head full of those Google search results, and all the news reports of rape, molestation, acid attacks, dowry deaths, sexual harassment and more, I urge you to go and watch the Vir Das video again. Is the denial still there? Explain to me how is it still there? HOW? Maybe the video hasn’t reached the deepest corners of rural India, but I remember this dialogue from Namastey London where Akshay Kumar says that our country has a newspaper and magazine readership of 12 crores in 21 languages. So are these people not reading these newspapers that report on these crimes every day? Maybe not. But then, are they also not looking at their own homes, relatives, neighbourhoods, villages? How can people see all of this and still live in denial?
Also Read: Hautetalk: From Karnataka Health Minister To Abortion Lawmakers In Texas, Why Are Politicians Afraid Of The Modern Woman?
Also, urbanites, with their mobile phones and access to social media, what’s their excuse? Team Hauterrfly posted a snippet of Vir Das’ monologue on Instagram that talks about how India treats its women. And the comments section lays bare the disgusting denial. Pride before progress. Patriotism before pushing out the patriarchy. How do you treat a patient who refuses to admit they’re sick because it hurts their pride?
So much denial. It’s difficult to answer each and every argument. But the ‘rape culture’ being questioned here is a difficult reality to digest. Rape is about power and India’s power dynamic between the genders is undeniably screwed. And those are facts that the people of the United States and the whole world already know. I don’t think one comedian saying it out loud is breaking news to them. And why are people so riled up about facts? When the news about the Taliban’s treatment of women was coming out, there were many men who commented, “Be glad you aren’t living in Afghanistan but in a country like India.” We want our country to be better than the rest as if there is no comparison. And yet when we fail at something, the comparisons with how “it’s happening in other countries also” becomes a valid argument?
What’s ironic is that there are still people who believe that their honour lies in a woman’s vagina. And yet, they will not do the one thing that will curb rapes happening in their motherland to save this honour—teach their men to not rape. Hollow pride. Hollow pride.
Instead of abusing truth speakers and curbing freedom of speech and thought just so you can save face before the world, how about, we save our women first?
Update: An FIR has already been filed against Vir Das by a politician for his remarks. Meanwhile, rapes happen, reported and unreported.