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I saw part of a shitty movie from the eighties at dinner tonight and my food turned to sawdust in my mouth. Before anyone asks me why I was watching it….

Come to think of it, I get asked that quite a lot when I write/talk about something I didn’t enjoy watching, as if I live in some insulated world and should have known better than to step out of it. This is akin to victim-blaming, fingers pointed at me for watching rather than at the movie/soap that has objectionable content. How typical is that!  

So yeah, I refuse to go on the defensive and give out reasons how I happened to have been watching a shitty movie, or part of it. Suffice to say that I was.

The bit I caught had this hotshot criminal-lawyer guy, the hero, barging into a house and bashing up a young man. The hero’s sister was raped by this young man, the villain of the movie, when she went to his house in search of her brother as there was an emergency (That’s important, the emergency part, or else the question arises ‘Why was she where she was?’). The hero was hence taking out his ‘justifiable’ anger by bashing the villain to a pulp.

Two older people enter the scene at this point and try to calm things down. One of them, who is presumably the one for whom the lawyer works and who is either the uncle or father of the rapist, draws the lawyer guy aside and offers compensation for the ‘untoward incident’ that happened. It goes without saying of course that he is offering the hero huge amounts of money. The old man who should have known better, also says nonsense like ‘these things happen, young people make mistakes’ and other familiar blah blahs we hear to this day. It is the same old disgusting tune and the lyrics go, ‘Boys will be boys’.

The hero goes into his spiel, helpfully written for him by the story-writer with no originality at all. ‘Money?’ he asks scornfully, his scorn tinged with the color of being the wronged one, ‘You offer me money when my sister has lost what’s more valuable than money!’ His boss looks suitably ashamed for the moment, just that one moment.

When he hears what the hero has to say next, the man is livid. I see it coming too, what the hero is about to say, and brace myself. I have enough money and lands of my own. I’ll give all of that to my sister too. What I want, he continues while I cringe and try to make myself smaller in my seat, is for him, to marry my sister and save her honor. That’s exactly when the food turns to sawdust in my mouth. The ‘him’ here, his sister’s rapist.

This here is the logic that my generation and the ones before grew up on, remember? Our movies, literature and the talks we overheard elders having (yup, in the same *good old days* that is talked about so much), all centered on this one way to right a grievous wrong like rape: the rapist marrying the woman he raped.  Then everything would magically be okay, her honor and that of her family’s would remain intact. What’s more the rapist gets to be treated as an honored guest in their house as the esteemed son-in-law.  Win-win for all. Society and its sick ways.

I shudder to think I watched and heard such sentiments being expressed around me while growing up and never flinched not knowing better. When you are young, you absorb what is being handed out to you from all around as undeniable wisdom. That insistent voice inside you asking, ‘But how can anyone marry the rapist?’ you shush, thinking what do you know anyway. Besides, you reason, who else would marry a ‘spoiled’ girl? Yes, spoiled, the choice term in movies and books and daily conversation, spoiled as in ‘destroyed the quality’, ‘damaged’. Avan avale cheethayakki. Translation: He spoiled her.

Though I grew up with such utter crap floating around freely, I had sense enough to not let the (always questioning) voice inside me die, to let it grow within me and ask more questions so as to learn and know better (though I can’t say the same about all of my peers or even some among the so-called next generation). Such a disappointment that there are so many who refuse to open their eyes to light and prefer to remain in darkness.

Coming back to the horrible movie, I did not forget to angrily respond to the hero on the screen: Yeah, marry your sister off to her rapist, you a***hole so he can legally rape her whenever it pleases him,  no questions asked. On top of that offer to pay him for the privilege too. @&*%@**%* How much worse can it get, eh?

I can hear the uncle or father on the screen refusing the hero, and he throwing off his job too, walking off in a huff. I’ll make sure this wrong is righted, he threatens while walking away. What he means is, I’ll make sure as her brother that the rest of my sister’s life is destroyed too. After all he is a criminal lawyer and he knows how best to go about it.

I can rant and rave all I want against the hero on screen. But when I think that we have had judgments in recent times reflecting the same idea of the rapist being left off the hook if he marries the one he raped, my anger knows no bounds.

The change happening around us is like the frog in the puzzle. In its effort to get out of the well it is in, it takes three steps up and four (or five) steps down. In the frog’s case though we can calculate the precise day it gets out of the restrictive well as long as we know the total number of steps. In the case of ‘change’ in life, the ‘two steps ahead and ten steps backwards’ motion makes things difficult as we have no idea how many steps we have to climb to get out of the theoretical well we are in.

P.S. I didn’t watch the whole movie. I walked out too, when the hero did. I had had enough by then. But I can bet you anything that the sister of the hero commits suicide at the end of that movie. That’s what happens in 99.99% of them.

©Shail Mohan 2016.