Features Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute| December 16, 2014| 11.00 am IST On December 16, 2012 Delhi was jolted by the shocking case of rape that later came to be known as the landmark Nirbhaya case. Though laws around rape and sexual harassment of women were amended in the aftermath of this incident, progress has been slow. On the second anniversary of the gruesome Nirbhaya rape, author of the digital novel 'We Are Angry', Lyndee Prickitt traces her journey while researching for her novel and raises an important question - whether anonymity to protect the victim is also a forced form silence? Rape is a vile act. Of that there is no question. Yet the shroud of blame that often hovers over the victim of rape in India is equally vile. Was she out too late? Was she dressed provocatively? Was she drinking? Was she thinking herself as free as a boy? With such questions being asked by many people, never mind some pundits and politicians, it is no wonder that the victim of rape in India prefers not just anonymity but silence. If a rape victim in India does publically speak she is understandably masked behind a dupatta, blurred out or blackened on TV screens and almost always flanked by well intentioned do-gooders who speak as much or more than she does. With a few noble and rare exceptions very few victims of rape in India rarely raise their voice against the perpetrators of the crime against them or the patriarchal accusers who believe she was, in some way, at fault. This is why I wrote We Are Angry – a digital short story about a young woman who is raped in India and the society around her, which is grappling to come to terms with its treatment of women. The story is written from the point-of-view of the victim because, for once, I wanted her voice – even if fictionally – to be heard. Weareangry.net is home to the fictional short story of about 6000 words written in the voice of an ambitious young woman who is raped in New Delhi. Just who she is and exactly what happened to her (was it her fault, was she asking for it, was she a prostitute) unfold as the narrative progresses. Her story is interspersed with different perspectives of society: the police who apathetically get the victim to hospital, the students-turned-protesters who are fed up with poor policing and governance, the surgeons who can’t help but wonder why a woman is out so late at night, the parents who blame themselves for giving too much freedom to their girl-child, the wrongly accused who is brutalized, and the politicians who say little and do even less. Not surprisingly I was motivated to write this by the revolting Delhi gang-rape that happened two years today. I was deeply upset by Jyoti Pandey Singh’s death (her parents have released her name, believing she has no shame) not just because it was a brutal and tragic way for someone to die, but because she seemed to epitomize “India rising” – someone self-possessed, intelligent, ambitious and, most importantly, a young woman supported by her dear and noble parents to make something of herself beyond a “good wife.” And I was far from the only person who felt this sorrow. The outpouring of grief and anger was unprecedented in modern-day India. Being a multimedia journalist I also wanted to capture this turning point in India’s history. And since we have the technology to do more with the written form than present one-dimensional words on paper or a screen, I decided to bolster all the fiction with real facts. The text is peppered with hyperlinks, which can take a reader deeper into the facts behind the fiction. For instance, when there is a reference to killing the rapist a hyperlink can take the reader to a pop-up with a curated list of editorials on the death penalty debate that raged in India. When a protester shouts at a reporter about the low conviction rate of rapists, a hyperlink gives the reader the real stats with a URL to the source material. Even the Hindi swearwords and cultural references, like Eve Teasing, are all translated and explained via hyperlinks. Because I also wanted to showcase the swell of anger, each page is illustrated with a piece of art, many of which were painted in response to the rape crisis. Beyond that I also incorporated many multi-media elements to give the reader a different story-telling experience – from video recordings to audio and interactive graphics. On one page there are flashing news headlines, which can be clicked on and the “news story” read. Another page begins with a video in which two police officers are seen prodding the unconscious, supine victim on the roadside with their lathis and speaking to her as if she’s a prostitute, which according to the narrative, is filmed by two students who post it on Facebook and it goes viral, leading to days of protests. At this point audio and photographs from real protests are seen and heard. There are cartoons that appear when the victim is being sarcastic. Dissonant music plays when she thinks she’s dying. Thought-bubbles appear with tangential contemplation. It is, some have said, a bold move for me – as an American not of Indian origin – to write such a provocative story. But India has been my home for nine years. I am a woman who has had to navigate the terrain carefully. But I choose to live here because it is a place I love. My husband is Indian and we have a desi girl of two-years-old. The treatment of women in India, and the world, is deeply important to me. And if ever there is a topic which deserves more coverage, more debate, more discussion, more voices, more 360-degree multi-media treatment – this is it.