I watch his father smile proudly. It's a boy. An asset. An heir, who will carry the family name forward. Of course, I exist in his father's psyche. That's how I first come in contact with the boy. Through his father, I show him what it takes to be a man. I show him how to be aggressive. When he cries about something, I tell him to stop whining like a girl and be a man. Sometimes, I don't tell him things directly, but rather, show him. I make his father shout at his mother and, sometimes, even beat her. The mother takes it silently because she's scared of the monster in me. The boy sees this and learns.
Soon, he's ready. His education is complete. He has successfully ingrained the conditioning of the patriarchal Indian society. I'm now, officially, a part of him. He goes out into the world, ready to establish his authority and prove his mardaangi. He does all the things right. Violence, aggression, sexual abuse, gender inequality, a fine vocabulary of women-oriented cuss words. Full marks to him. After he's had his fun, he gets married, makes sure he has a son and the great Indian tradition carries on.
But things changed on 16th December 2012. I made six men rape and kill a young woman on a moving bus in Delhi. They did things to her, things I cannot imagine, things so horrible that I shudder to think. I'm not proud of this. Until then, I always thought that this is the way of nature. This is how it was meant to be. After all, when the Indian society became patriarchal I was told that this is God's will. Men dominating women, stifling any effort they make to break these bonds. Because men are masters, and women their servants.
I never thought it would go this far. I mean, many a time it was harmless: a playful comment, a brush of the arm, a glare, a whistle. It wasn't much. Sure, it made the girl a little uncomfortable. But this! This was inexcusable. I mean I have even provoked men to indulge in sexual violence. I told them to rape a woman to maintain the order of the universe, to show who is the boss. But this! The girl's shrieks still ring in my ears. I'm ashamed – not just for what I did to her, but for every little crime that I've committed against every Indian woman since the dawn of this universe.
I've learnt the error of my ways. I repent my mistakes. Now, I know right from wrong. I submit myself to my fate, to the severest of punishment. I have persisted for far too long. Things must change. Please kill me – the insecure, perverted, aggressive, chauvinistic and patriarchal man. Kill me and I'll be re-born as a new Indian man who doesn't need to dominate women, doesn't need to prove that he's a man by raping a woman.
I can be this man. It's a long and hard process, but it can be done. Every Indian man must unlearn centuries of conditioning and accept me as his new psyche. Once every Indian man has realised his folly and accepted this new order of things, the transformation would be complete. He will know women to be equals. He doesn't have to allow women to be equals. Women don't need his permission. They have always been equals, by their own virtue, in their own right. He's been blind to this for centuries. He only has to open his eyes and realise that women are his equals. When this transformation happens, I would gain a new identity as the psyche of the Indian man.
So, to set the ball rolling, I make a pledge to change. I solemnly swear that...
I will not treat women as second-class citizens, sex objects, servants or property
I will treat them as equals because they are
I will not breed or promote gender stereotypes
I will not hit a woman to establish my dominance and silence her
I will respect and support them
I will not feel insecure or threatened by their progress or freedom
I will not do anything to make a woman feel sexually uncomfortable
I will not say that a rape victim deserved it
I will not call a television actress a thumkewali
I will not be a Ravana who abducts another man's wife
I will not be a Lakshman who defines a rekha for a woman
I will not be a Ram who questions the character of his wife
I will not be a Krishna who has 16,108 wives
I will not be a Dushasan who disrobes a woman in public
I will not be a Yudhishtir who pawns his wife in a gamble and then sits silently as she is disrobed
I will not laugh when a friend uses the word 'rape' in jest, but tell him that it's not funny
I will not tell a friend that 'tu choodiya pehenle (wear bangles) because that is sexist
I will not use women-oriented cuss words because that is sexist too
I will abolish the word 'eve-teasing' because sexual harassment is not fun
I will not differentiate between my son and my daughter
I will not promote gender stereotypes by giving my son an action figure and my daughter a doll or by painting my daughter's room pink and my son's blue
I will not say that I'm progressive because I let my wife work because it's her decision and I only support it like she supports my decision to work
I will not watch women's tennis because the players wear skirts but because they are good players
I will not force my wife to stay at home to take care of the kids
I will not say that women are bad drivers because that shows how ignorant I am
I will not have my girl child aborted
I will not exploit the young female intern by trying to mentor her
I will not indulge in casting couch
I will not look up girls' skirts in class because they are called privates for a reason
I will not prove I'm a real man by raping a woman
I will not question or judge a woman's character if she's in a nightclub
I will not include item songs in my film
I will not feel uncomfortable if my boss is a woman
I will not give away (kanyadaan) my daughter when she gets married
I will not have a wedding that doesn't let my wife be an active equal participant in the rituals
I will not ask for or give dowry
I will not feel “proud” that a woman heads the government because if I do that, I will just be patronising her
I will not use the words item or maal to describe a woman because only adjectives can be used to describe a person
I will not ask my wife to wear “decent” clothes or cover her head with a dupatta
I will not ask my wife to wear a burqa while I wear jeans
I will do household chores because it's my house too
I will teach my son all of these things because I'm a good father
I will not hide behind the cover of tradition to excuse myself from doing all of these things
I know this list is long but to tell you the truth this list can be infinite. When the question is of transformation, lists don't matter. Attitudes matter. It's not about making a list and mugging it up and forcing myself to follow it so I can feel better about myself, feel like I've accomplished something, to show that I've changed by mathematically calculating my performance on a list. If I can change my attitude, I will fulfil this pledge automatically without ever having to refer to a list.
I'm the reformed psyche of the Indian male. I'm aware. I'm ashamed. I'm repentant. I'm ready. I will change for myself. I solemnly swear, to myself.
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