New Delhi: Allow yourself the moment of despair and desolation you are feeling right now. You deserve to grieve privately the death of a woman that could have been your 23-year-old daughter, niece, sister or grand daughter. Switch off the TV, shut out the politics that will eventually engulf the news of her painful demise, drawn out over 10 days.
In your heart, you already know who should shoulder the blame. We failed her, collectively as a civilized society, didn't we? Our police couldn't protect her while she was being tortured. The men whom we elected did not handle the aftermath well. Our protests were subdued with force. We let the scum amongst us take over our reasonable voices. Our cynicism kept us home when we should have been there shielding the college kids from police batons at India Gate and Raisina Hill, fighting for our rights.
We should have taught our men better
We know we failed the girl who will never celebrate another birthday. She will never do the mundane things we take for granted - of going to a movie, getting late for work, going shopping for clothes. But when the dust settles, when you can bear to look at your daughter without a chill running down your spine, resolve not to have let her die in vain.
There are no words that can measure the depth of the pain, anger, grief and dismay the family of the girl must be feeling at the moment.
The woman whom the media gradually stopped referring to as the 'victim' and fondly christened Damini, Nirbhaya and Amanat wanted to live. How scared and lonely she must have been when she scribbled a note for her mom asking her to save her - wanting to live. That note reminded you that no matter how much the doctors extolled her courage and her extraordinary will power, she was only 23 - a bewildered child to her helpless parents.
How lost her parents must be feeling among hundreds of high profile visitors, television cameras, social workers and medical staff all wanting to help yet none willing to do the courtesy of leaving them alone for a minute from the time she was brought in - naked and half-dead. As long as they live they will relive these days, imagining her pain, multiplying it in their minds, torturing themselves.
In a poignant and sobering interview, her brother said he had to block his Facebook account because every few hours there will be her obituary as someone's status update. Yet the family is aware that she has become the focus of a movement that is an anguished and larger cry for safety and justice - that should have been people's birthright anyway.
She has become a symbol for a process that would not, could not and should not be snuffed out by duplicitous forces. She is only one of the hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children being sexually violated, brutalized, sodomized and left to die across the country. No town, city or village should have citizens dying because the elected representatives who thrive on their money failed to protect them.
Despite the pain she was in, she willingly recorded her statement - twice - to help bring the perpetrators to justice. Let's not fail her by accepting that we are the victim of a failed system. We are the common men and women who make the system. The men who make up the security forces come from ordinary families like ours. Why can't we sensitize them to better handle crimes and understand the plight of those brutalized as if they were their own flesh and blood?
It should not matter if the raped is a man or a woman, an affluent person or a rag-picker - whenever you can, unfortunately if it's someone you know, remind them that they have equal rights. Encourage them to report their violation, accompany them and give them support.
Rape is grossly under reported in India. Let divisive political discourses not divert us from what's really important - the steps being taken in the wake of her horrific fate to make cities safer. The Prime Minister's Office is active on social networking sites - send in your queries, write to your Chief Minister, protest every isolated incident. Let us not kill the will to change things as we numbly accept each reported tragedy. There will be insensitive voices everyday among all political parties trivializing the issue of sexual rights and safety, don't let them distract you from your real aim.
Remember, this helpless anger that you are feeling now, is your most honest and purest form of protest. If you have a son, raise him better. As long as the government is under constant pressure and the issue stays in the limelight, the policymakers will be forced to answer to the people.
Let this death not be in vain. It is not one death.