Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Where the mind is without fear ...

Shireen came in my dreams yesterday.  In my dreams, I was happy I heard back from her. She is one person who keeps pricking  my conscience from time to time. I wrote a part fiction, part fact version of Shireen’s story with a happy but cynical ending for one of my previous blog post 

This time around I really want to speak up. And say it all as is…

TRING … TRING the phone rang …
Shireen has just finished her dinner when her mobile phone rang. It is about 9.15 pm. That must be her Cab driver.

Shireen has had a good day ( night) yesterday and she is happy.

Yesterday, during the quarterly Rewards and Recognition ceremony she was pleasantly surprised when she won the ‘soaring eagles’ trophy for best performance across North-West region. Her client manager had specially recommended her for the award citing her outspoken qualities and leadership abilities during the last three years with the team.

The cab driver is waiting outside on the main street. She looks out of the window from her first floor window to confirm the car number. Shireen pulls up her Burkha over her salwar kameez, slips into her sandals and walks towards her cab. Her fellow cab mates are already asleep in the cab. She is usually the last to be picked up.

The cab driver, mumbles something about the traffic and the delays, and how he would lose half of his day’s wages for no fault of his and zooms the car past the narrow alleyways of her street into the main road. From the middle of nowhere a motorbike emerges and stops in front of the cab.

B****c****d  shouts the already frustrated cab driver, peeping his head out through the window of his vehicle to the two riders on the motorcycle. The motorcyclists are unperturbed. One of them quietly walks over, opens the door of the cab and pulls Shireen out.

Shireen protests and screams. The fellow passengers are woken up by the sudden brakes applied and screams emanating from the only female member of their cab.  Before they realize what is happening, Shireen has been pulled out of the cab onto the ground and is being kicked around by the two gentlemen who alight from the motorcycle.

Here is what I wish should have happened:

I wish she had smart suraksha. 

I wish her colleagues in the cab had smart surakasha. 
With Smart Suraksha they could have alerted the transport helpdesk, her family ( although in hindsight we knew that would not have helped) and kept a record of her movement over GPS when she went missing for the next two hours. I wish it was a straight case to solve.   

Here is what actually happened :

Her family, her colleagues (that included me) did not know where she was for the next two hours.
The cab driver was instructed to go to the police station and report the case.  The police came down to Shireen’s home and the rest of the puzzle was to easily fall in place.

Shireen was not contactable over her cell phone. When a badly bruised Shireen with torn clothes re-emerged at work, she was not at all coherent with her version of what happened in those two hours.  

There was one thing that was evident.  She was being blackmailed and threatened and asked to show her face at work inorder to clear up the police records.  

By whom ?  For what ?

It was all easy to guess for those who had known Shireen all along. 

But she maintained her version of the story. It did not make sense. 
She sensed that others knew, it did not make sense.  
But she stubbornly maintained her version of the story. 
But then, what options did Shireen have ?

 Ideally what Shireen needed was 'Suraksha'. The kind of 'Suraksha', that would have let her have the guts to press the right buttons.  The 'Suraksha', from the police, from her employers and from her family, that if she spoke up, she would be protected and not attacked.

The right buttons included the support of her family, her employers and the police.
None of those buttons worked at that point in time.

She was taken to the police station by her family, the next day to withdraw the FIR. 
She was asked to quit her job.  The reason, it was not safe to ferry her for her night shift, from the place where she lived. She could have changed her mind and stuck to her job. She could have shifted places and changed shifts. But she did not. At work, she was assured that when her ‘personal problems’ were sorted out, she could get back to work and her organization would happily rehire her.  

Speaking up against violence: Sexual, verbal or emotional is the fundamental button that we all need to push. 
It is easier said than done.
And I should know.

I write this piece as I was witness to the turn of events that happened after that fateful night in  Shireen’s life. It pricks my conscience even today. I do not know where she is and what she is doing.

I tried convincing her not to quit her job. I tried telling her that it was her abusive relationship that she needed to quit and not her job. She needed to take that giant leap in confidence and stand up for herself.   

But she did not.
And I instinctively understood. 

To console myself,  I let her go and then googled to read Rabindranath Tagore's

Where the mind is without fear …

I am participating in the Seeking Smart Suraksha contest at in association with Smart Suraksha App.

 Smart Suraksha Contest

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