You say I have to watch it.
There was a time, many years ago,
When my mom used to caution me against bad company.
Don’t associate with bad kids, she said,
They’ll rub off on you,
You won’t be able to tell right from wrong.
And so I didn’t – I spent the better part of my life
Sheltered within the four, fortified walls of my home.
But then came the internet, and
I got my own room.
I shut the door tight, but the walls came crashing down.
She couldn’t watch over me anymore.
Bad things have a big presence online,
Great SEO, and viral potential, you know? Everyone’s sharing them.
And I clicked, and clicked,
And pressed and watched,
And chewed and licked,
And laughed and aww-ed,
And through it all I let them in,
And for a long time I let them win.
All the rotten things, 10 inches from my face.
I was the one who allowed them to talk to me that way.
If I met Mukesh in person, I might have said something back.
I might have told him to reassess his thinking,
Showed him how he was wrong,
And if he still didn’t listen,
I’d punch him in the gut and leave the room.
Because mom told me never to associate with thugs.
And I still respect that advice.
Now you say – watch him. Let him speak to me
From 10 inches away,
And you say I have to listen.
I have to listen because I have to know
That this is how it is now.
This is what we’ve become.
But – I knew that already.
When they described the rape
On the news, in the papers,
On my facebook feed,
In gory, vivid detail,
I found out more than I needed to.
I imagined the rest of it, and I assure you,
My imagination is brutally effective.
I could tell you what happened that night as if I were there myself.
If there is filth on the streets,
Huge craters filled with toxic waste,
Right outside my house,
Perhaps even spilling into it,
I would know, don’t you think?
But then you come along,
And rather than handing me a plastic bag and a jhaadu,
To clean the mess up,
You ask me, instead,
To lie down in the filth, face down,
You say I must
Roll around in it, stick my nose in it, inhale deeply,
Feel it coarse through my veins,
Let the stench transmutate into rage
And boil my blood…
Well, I might refuse.
I guess it is important film
If you’ve been blind all along.
Or if you’re silly enough to think
That the trash
Is outside, not inside.
But I… I’m already angry.
Mukesh doesn’t deserve my attention,
A place in my mind.
He can rot in jail, then fade away into nothingness, ignominy.
I would rather not be forced to listen,
Without the power to
Stare back at him
With hurt, outrage, disbelief.
Without the power to speak back.
I don’t know how Udwin did it.
She must have sat across from him,
As documentary filmmakers do.
Asking question after probing question,
Never raising her voice,
And Mukesh got to speak out – to a camera crew
Who seemed nice enough.
I don’t know how she ended the interview.
Did she say – “Thank you, Mr Mukesh”?
Or “I hope you rot in hell”?
Could she have said rot in hell to him?
What if she needed to reshoot?
And what bothers me most is –
Mukesh isn’t going to watch this film.
No torrent in Tihar.
He’s going to go to his grave thinking –
“I raped a girl,
Came in international news,
Then white people came and interviewed me!”
“Yes! They were white!
And the nice lady asking the questions even said thank you.”
But now you’re all talking about it,
And I’m sitting in my closed room with no walls
And no mom to tell me otherwise.
And I might… I might have to let Mukesh talk at me after all.
To be continued.