Perhaps for a moment we can set aside the conspiracy theories and just wish this young woman all the luck in this world as she travels to Singapore to a super speciality hospital on a foggy night in Delhi.
On the television, the anchors reassure us that we have the best doctors but we don’t have the best equipment. It’s tragic that a country of a billion people does not have a super speciality hospital and must send this critically injured young woman to Singapore. But then this entire story has been a story of our failings laid bare to us. We learned that very few hospitals in Delhi can provide an ambulance with a ventilator. This young woman has become an unlikely VVIP not because the government is generous with every aam aurat in her situation, but, because it was forced.
But at least it is reassuring that a government that has been so tone deaf and inept seems to have suddenly responded on a war footing to this young woman’s crisis, putting her health before its pride.
"This was like a preparation for war," said a news anchor.
And so it was. The secrecy, the conference calls, the rising anxiety over the postponed medical bulletin all played out in front of an increasingly tense nation.
It’s just tragic that it took this kind of a galvanisation of a national outrage and the death of a constable for the government to demonstrate its seriousness of purpose. For the government, the political fallout will not end here with the air ambulance taking off for Singapore, whatever happens there. It will continue to suffer grievously from many self-inflicted wounds because it was not prepared for the level of outrage. But that reckoning can wait for another day.
For the rest of us, we still have to grapple with the fact that it took an assault as gut-wrenchingly brutal as this to shake us out of our torpor. The doctor attending on her said in his 30 years he had not seen a sexual assault as horrendous as this one. A couple of days ago traveling on the Metro I overheard one young man tell another “Have you seen that slogan on Facebook – don’t tell you daughters how to dress, tell you sons how to behave?” His friend said yes, he had seen it on many friends’ pages. It was just a simple conversation but for the first time there was a small sense of something shifting in attitudes, not wholly but in some measure.
For the media, it was a lesson in patience, in following a story because it was the right thing to do, not just the TRPs it would bring. Watching the reporting of the air ambulance taking off it seemed there was a slew of trucks and cameras chasing the ambulance. If so, shame on us. One hopes that the media will show restraint now that it’s clear which hospital in Singapore she is going to.
Over these ten days this young girl had become a symbol, like the candles so many people lit in her name. Now, there is talk of night policing and fast track courts. So much change in the name of a girl who is at this point still nameless.
Will these changes last? Are laws made in the supercharged heat of the emotional moment really good laws? The young woman apparently asked if the men who did this to her had been caught. But will we remember the difference between justice and vengeance?
All those questions and debates don’t end because she has left India. It's not like we have passed the buck on.
But the questions can wait for another day. For right now after 10 days of being a symbol, she is once more just a patient, a critically ill patient and her health trumps everything else.
In an emotionally shaking scene in the classic Ritwik Ghatak film Meghe Dhaka Tara (The Cloud-capped Star), the young sister in the sanatorium suddenly whirls around and tells her brother “Dada, aami kintu bachtey cheyechhilaam. (But brother, I wanted to live.)”
It’s a breathtaking line, burning with fierce intensity.
This girl has shown that kind of will to live. That’s what impressed her doctors everyday. She had been operated on three times. She had gone into cardiac arrest on Christmas day. But she’s still hanging in there. I won't say she deserves all the luck in the world because it implies some other victims don't. But let's wish her godspeed because in a country where it's so easy to give up against a recalcitrant unchanging system, she has just refused to give up.
Brother, she wants to live.