The school newspaper comes out every Tuesday, and prides itself on its tabloid-itude. Student union elections were held last week, and the paper carried a sarcastic report today. Many candidates had, as part of their election promises, vowed to have more drinking water facilities on campus (I know of one water fountain and I've been here six months.) So a scathing snippet in the paper said that with so many people wanting drinking water facilities, the school had decided to dig some wells and let students harvest their own drinking water from them. The text was accompanied by the picture of an Indian girl who had contested the elections.
The girl was shown standing in a well.
Now the paper routinely pisses me off with its sexism and occasional racism. But this time, it hit a very raw nerve. Any Indian looking at the picture of a woman in a well is carrying far too much historical baggage to be able to smile and turn the page. The Jalianwalah Bagh incident, for me, repeatedly evokes not just anger at the cold blooded murder that happened on one day in history, but provokes the rage at centuries of culture that consider the forceful ravishment of a woman as fate deserving of her death. Having seen Khamosh Pani at a Pakistan Society screening recently, the anger was much closer to the surface.
The woman in the well is an icon of a world engulfed in conflict where neither party values women's lives. If I write all this in a letter to the editor, it might just get read, and get published in a parody form next week. I don't expect people who refer to "sheesha bars with Arabian girls and shit" to understand my problem. I'm most welcome to carry my chipped shoulder back home where I belong, where I could be expected to jump in the well to avoid being raped tomorrow.
Well, if it's threatening to rip your soul apart, blog it. And then just hope you've got it out of your system.