Country needs model families to battle gender horror, says Kishwar Desai (Interview)
Told to Madhusree Chatterjee
This country right now needs role models in families and in how men and women relate to each other to inculcate restraint, balance and values in younger generations to check gender atrocities like gang rape and abuse of women, says award-winning writer Kishwar Desai.
“Look at Obama and Michelle. It is a perfect relationship. They are role models. People say we want to grow up like them. But here in India, we don't know anything about our politicos. What kind of men they are, how many wives they have, what is their background and how are their relationships within their families contexts — it is important for us to know so that can judge whether they can be trusted,” Desai told this correspondent in an interview.
“Only then the nation can look at them as role models and parents can teach their children how to conduct their lives,” Desai said.
Desai's new book, “The Sea of Innocence” narrates the tale of Liza Kay, a British teenager who is reported missing in Goa around the New Year. A disquieting video of a group of boys attacking Liza appears on private investigator Simran Singh's phone. Singh, the lead of Desai's social thriller series, is desperate to holiday in Goa after a hectic schedule as a private eye. The video clip makes her realise that something dark is brewing in the sylvan sea-side paradise.
Singh finds her trail tangled in a web of lies, intrigues and dangerous nexus between the shadowy underworld and the local toughs who control the beaches. She is targeted as she probes deeper into the rape of Liza and her disappearance - forcing her into silence like the rest.
Kishwar says her book indirectly refers to the gang-rape of a young woman in the capital – described as Nirbhaya by the media — despite the fact that it was planned three years ago.
“But it has not been inspired by the Nirbhaya case or any other rape. I am very moved by stories of women. Indian women have been treated very badly like separate caste — lowest of the low. Somebody should be looking after their issues. Gender crimes like rape and gang rape have been happening for a thousand years. I was getting increasingly upset. The book just happened. I finished it last year,” Kishwar said.
The writer says “Nirbhaya is a turning point for us whether we are physically there or not – mentally all women have to be connected”.
“I don't believe women are responsible at all. I don't buy that argument that women asked to be groped. Women wanted to be treated in a respectful fashion in mutually consensual relationships. Gangrape is the most degrading. A woman cannot live through it unless she is a masochist,” Kishwar said.
The writer said “a clash of lifestyle between modernism and tradition in middle-class Indian families” was hindering a rational outlook to gender and liberation.
“That is an area we have to examine in our society and families. Most incidents of rape happen in families because women in a patriarchal family are not told what they should do and what they should not do. A girl is a victim of mob violence since childhood. The family turns into a mob at birth and tries to kill her birth, holds her back in youth and torture for dowry after wedding,” Kishwar said.
A girl is rarely allowed the space top grow up, she pointed out. “Most of the rapes are unreported because they are perpetrated behind closed door at home. Only when victims like Nirbhaya – who are found out- and those connected to important people are reported in the media,” Kishwar said.
The writer, who has authored “Darling ji: The True Love Story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt” and “Origin of Love” won the Costa First Novel prize for “Witness the Night”.