Interlude…

17 January 2013 by Kausik Datta, posted in Society and Life

Hello there! Did y'all miss me?

Belatedly, to whomever is reading this post, I wish a happy and healthy 2013, hopefully filled with peace, reason and sanity. The inestimable Khalil, our kind and ever-watchful community manager, asked after my health today, and it made me realize that I have been sorta kinda neglecting Scilogs for a while. Not that there is a great deal of interest evinced in whatever I write anyway, but blogging about science-related stuff at Scilogs is one of my more pleasurable activities. But of late, I have been languishing in a modicum of funk, and haven't been able to find any lasting interest in professional topics. There is a reason for that, though. Allow me to explain.

My science-related interests are blogged at Scilogs (formerly, the Nature Network blogs), but I have another blog, a personal one, in which from time to time I write about things that flit through my mind - about life, society, people and stuff. I have used that blog to express my anguish about certain things happening in real life around me. Very few people actually read that blog, too (which is perhaps a testament to a certain lack of writing abilities in me), but it has given me a channel to vent.

And since the beginning of December last year, there has been a lot to vent about, and consequently, I have been writing in that blog of mine - in preference to Scilogs. Those who have followed events of recent past in India would perhaps know what I am talking about. I have been outside India for 11 years now, living and working in the US. But that has not diminished the emotional ties that I have with the country of my birth, my growing up and my education, the country where I still have family and countless friends. That is the reason why incidents happening in India still affect me, deeply.

Don't get me wrong. I am not some sensitive flower wilting at the mere mention of unpleasantness. I have been known to be severely critical of, but otherwise unfazed by, the religion-inspired idiocy that goes around in much of India's public spheres. I have been surprised, shocked, devastated at news of terrorist attacks or natural disasters, fearing for the safety of my family, friends and their families and friends. I have been deeply concerned about the state of science and education, and the current economic crisis in that country. But very few events of any magnitude have affected me at a visceral level, as did the spate of news from India about continuous - and unrelenting - occurrence of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women in contemporary India.

The Indian society is mired in patriarchal traditions and customs, which are ably bolstered by religions of various hues. One may be hard put to find any particular custom which doesn't have the sanction of a corresponding religious tradition. All the spheres of societal life are intricately associated with religion. Which is perhaps why, on any matter of local, social or national importance, religious leaders, as well as self-appointed guardians of public morality - who often fall back upon quasi-religious justifications for their actions - feel impelled to comment publicly, and their utterances are faithfully lapped up by their followers.

The problem is that in this patriarchal society and its customs/traditions, the scourge of misogyny is deeply entrenched. And the putrid stench of that often permeates all aspects of society, including legislature and judiciary. Therefore, rape laws are antiquated and ineffective; victims are treated inhumanly and unfairly; even in case of apprehension of the culprit(s), the legal processes drag on, sometimes for decades, often resulting in utter humiliation of the victims - and justice is often denied in the end on some ground or the other. The worst of all - and the religious and social leaders are often complicit in this - the victims are almost always blamed for their own terrible calamities. The sheer ludicrousness of some of the victim-blaming statements that these uncouth people have spewed forth is mindboggling, and would have been funny, if they were not associated with a heinous crime. I have been writing and commenting upon these aspects in the other blog.

One silver lining of a very dark cloud has been the fact that aided by the internet, particularly social media tools, the citizens of India, especially the youth, have decided not to remain silent this time. Outrage has poured in, demonstrations have been organized, demands have been made of the government for swift and decisive action. I don't know if anything will eventually come out of it, though. Nothing ever does, really. These incidents mostly would remain within public memory, flicker after a while, and go out, returning to status quo - except for those who have faced them personally.

Sexual violence against women has become this country's collective shame. Delhi, the city close to my heart - where I studied for my Master's degree and worked towards my PhD - has been dubbed the 'rape capital' of India. Unsavory as it is, the epithet seems le mot juste, since even while all this outrage is going on, rape incidents - including cruel and inhuman gang rapes - continue unabated in Delhi, in other North Indian states, and also elsewhere in the country. Even children, little girls, were not spared.

All these things have been bearing upon my mind rather heavily. I am a scientist, and science, to me, is a way of life; but these incidents and their repercussions have made me realize that I am a human being, too - mostly filled with impotent rage and frustration. I hope you'd bear with me for a little while longer. I hope to return to a more equanimitous frame of mind, and re-initiate my science-blogging.

See you soon, and take care. Ciao!


3 Responses to “Interlude…”

  1. Khalil A. Cassimally Reply | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this honest piece, Kausik. I don't feel connected to India as you do (I'm a fifth generation-removed Indian, I think) but the happenings there are disheartening to say the least. I am even more appalled to learn that they are not uncommon. As you've mentioned, that the population has risen (which is very unlike Indians and numerous other Asian populace---no offence intended) is good news. Even if the bureaucracies are heavy and slow, the only way this can be changed is if the people voice their frustration.

  2. Lee Turnpenny Reply | Permalink

    Ah, sussed yer .

    Happy to read you... whenever, and on (though not necessarily of) whatever you write.

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