A girl went to the market with her friends. While she was there a young boy tried to snatch her purse and run away. He was caught by a policeman. When the policeman began to beat the boy, the girl stopped him and said, ‘This child will learn nothing from this’. Then she turned to the boy and asked: ‘Why did you do this?’
He replied, ‘I also want new clothes like you people, I want shoes… I want a hamburger…’
So the girl went and brought him everything he wanted, with one request: ‘Promise me you won’t do this again’.
Although her untimely death will always be at the forefront of people’s minds when they think about the Delhi Gang Rape of 2012, I wanted to write something about the girl, the woman, at the centre of this narrative: the light of Jyoti Singh and what her life represented to not just India but the world.
The spirit and character of a girl whose life was a testimony to the courage and strength of womanhood.
The more I watch and read about her the more I see her as a pioneer. The more I am in awe of her. You see, Jyoti wasn’t afraid to dream big, huge, magnanimous dreams.The kind of dreams that are so big we need to grow into them. Dreams that might seem inconceivable but we dare to dream them anyway. Her dreams became her compass.
She had vision. She didn’t allow society to crush her ambitions or dictate what she could or could not do. A young woman who pleaded with her family to spend her wedding money on education. Hungry to learn. She wanted to be a doctor. ‘A girl can do anything’. A friend recalls her saying.
Surviving off three to four hours sleep, working nights at a call centre to pay for her hostel while she was studying, she knew graft.
Her dreams overflowed. Dreams of coming home triumphant to build something that would outlive her, a hospital – to help the poor in her hometown. How many of us dream of leaving an imprint like this? How many of us fantasize of coming home with something more to offer?
And what about her parents?
Her father, a labourer at an airport, and mother, both of little means and income, the lower caste of Indian society. Brave, feminist and progressive in their mindset. What about their courage when they defied family members by celebrating the birth of a daughter with equal measure than if she had been born a son? Who sold their ancestral land to help their daughter achieve her dreams. Their hopes to see their child find happiness and success in a rich and competitive world.
I feel angry, no infuriated, that she was robbed of the future that she had worked so hard for when she was so close – so close.
I am afraid her legacy will be eclipsed by her rape and murder. That all that she was and stood for will be shadowed by her tragic end, the controversy of the case, the gruesome details of her attack…
India’s Daughter brought the world’s attention to not just the cold misogyny of patriarchal society but a new generation that demands freedom and equality in modern India. While one strand exposes the current harsh reality, the other represents hope – the future. A girl can do anything. Both sides equally significant.
I am grateful to Leslee Udwin and her crew for giving the world a glimpse of the incredible woman Jyoti was.
There are many who believe Jyoti’s identity should have remained anonymous.* Maybe they failed to see that her life was just as much a testimony to the strength of womanhood, as her death was to the plight of it.
I hope Jyoti will not be remembered as a victim of the ugliness of this world, but that her legacy of love & hope will continue to burn fierce and bright in the protest for gender equality. Shining amidst all this darkness and injustice and fucking pain. After all that is what Jhoti means, light.
If you liked this post, why not check out ‘On Being A Female Traveller in India’?
*(Jyoti’s real name was revealed publicly before the release of the film.)