Accepting our errors, expressing remorse: Shebaba by Renuka Narayanan
Each one of us can and must do what we can to make things better.
Many people have expressed utmost horror and fury about Kathua and Unnao, saying this has forced them to confront hard truths about our society and ourselves. They are in despair about the ghastly reality that sexual harassment is the lot of every Indian girl of every community, with almost no redress.
For years, my strongest feeling about the harassment I faced has been regret. Regret that I had felt so sullied by the words or deeds of ‘Eve teasers’ that I usually pretended that nothing had happened. This was the wrong thing to do, I realised, because it only gave them the guts to harass more girls and women.
My silence during those times was wrong. I now feel that I let other girls down by not shouting out loud every time I was harassed by the boys, men and unclejis of Delhi.
Good poetry expresses our feelings when we are glad, sad or sorry and the Bible is a rich source of great poetry. The words attributed to King David come to mind, though uttered in a different context: ‘Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”’ (1 Chronicles 21:8).
And it’s hard not to think of this: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). And also this verse: “For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” (John 3:20).
Each one of us can and must do what we can to make things better. I would like to be able to use these words at journey’s end: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (Timothy 4:7).
It would be sad to have to think, instead, of King Solomon’s moving words of regret; and here, I must leave the modern versions of the Bible and return to the one I grew up with, the King James: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
The goal of peaceful co-existence is stated in the Book of Isaiah that scholars say had three authors: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
What can we tell ourselves, though, as an embattled society? Perhaps we could say: “But understand this; that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive … ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (Timothy 3:1-17)… except, change ‘avoid’ to ‘oppose’.
The views expressed are personal.