It took me a while to blog about this news item, and not without reason.

Maybe because I am a woman, maybe for other reasons, I do not understand the height of desperation that would drive any man to such measures. Is the urge so violent that one would want to force himself on a woman, and try to break in without consent, even when the woman is senseless with blood oozing from her head? Is his hunger so terrible that a piece of bread, stale and tasteless, would satisfy him? Especially in this age, where consent is not too difficult to find? How callous can one be?

Everyone has expressed a strong opinion (read, ‘correct’ opinion) regarding this incident, I am led to suspect that the ones who deplore it the most loudly are the ones who would do it, given a chance. There, that’s an unkind statement, but one that could be true.

The incident brought two images to mind. The first was the unforgettable scene from Ghajini where Asin rescues a girl hiding in an empty compartment, an action that eventually leads to her death.

The second was a scene from my own life, on a hot, stuffy and unpleasant April day, when I was travelling from Trivandrum in Parasuram Express, better known those days as the Day Express. I thought the journey would never end. I only had a couple of books to keep me company. The train was packed till it reached Shoranur or maybe Kozhikode, in the late afternoon. After that the crowd began to thin. The compartment was more or less empty, with a few scattered passengers minding their own business.

The young men boarded at Kannur or maybe before that. They came and sat near me. I think there were three or four of them. I was pretending to read for want of something better to do, conscious that it was dark outside and I was very alone. They tried to open some conversation, which I resisted and discouraged with a stoic face. One of them asked me, “Where are you going?” I pointed forward (à la Clint Eastwood*). They assumed I meant Kasargode, the next major station. I had no intention of divulging that my destination was Mangalore, which would arrive only by 9PM.

As Kasargode Railway Station slid into view, they rose to alight, expecting me to do likewise. My nose deep inside my book, though I was not taking in a single word, I pretended not to have noticed anything. How can a woman travelling alone be so unconscious as to miss her station? The men were confused no doubt, and at the door, they stood looking at each other and me, and announcing aloud, “It is Kasargode Station.” I raised my head, glanced outside through the window, looked at them and went back to my book.

It must have dawned on them then. They went their way. As the train left Kasargode, I closed my book whose pages I was turning for the past one hour without seeing a thing, let out a sigh of relief and settled down for the rest of the journey.

Nothing has changed after Soumya’s death. We have moved on. The trains have moved on. The rallies and agitations have moved on.
Elsewhere, echoing the closing note of the article on NDTV, “…women still fend for themselves.”

*The Clint Eastwood reference is from one of his famous Dollar Westerns, in which he rides into a town and a guy asks, “Where are you from?” Eastwood thrusts his thumb over his shoulder. “Where are you going?” Eastwood points forward. That’s it. Not a single unnecessary word. I have gotten away with this technique many times in life.