Post 61 – Day 35 ‘A Sport of Gentlemen’ (Pt 1)

Post 61a Post 61b

However, Day 34 had not ended with that parting. There had still been hours left to the day, and being unexpectedly energized after the completion of the transambulation of the fortress wall, now foot loose and free with the time that remained, I had decided to hike to the town below the palatial tourist complexes that are clustered close to the fortress. I assumed the town in the valley was that of Kumbhalgarh itself. The walk was all down hill, a distance of about five kilometres or so. It was a pleasant stroll, cars, buses and small trucks sometimes driving by but not detracting me from the pleasure of the walk. No one jeered, no one threw rocks, no one attempted to abduct me. A mongoose sneaks past some men ‘and women’ hard at labour in the construction of what I took to be another hotel. The colour of the animal’s coat blended perfectly to that of the soil and dry leaves over which it moved, fluid-like, and just a little bit creepy. The stealthy movement of the animal paralleling those of the mongoose I had observed at the Bimbetka Caves. It was obviously a family trait. There were also several large quail that scurried away at my approach, and a langur of an unfriendly disposition which made it known that I should continue on. This I obligingly did.

Finally arriving at the town I bought fruit and bottled water. I also attempted to transact the purchase of two heavy silver bracelets, however, my enquiry to the shopkeeper as to his ‘best’ price resulted in an ‘increase’ of Rs1,000, one thousand rupees, over that of the original one. A little shocked, more than surprised, I declined the transaction. On reflection I could see where the problem might have been. It was a matter of something being lost in translation, or a nuance misunderstood. I meant ‘less’, as in cheaper, but the shopkeeper misinterpreting my meaning of ‘best’ as a higher price, one more befitting the expensive tastes of a well-heeled foreigner. I could see his logic, for what tourist wants to return home to skite that they got a couple of cheap trinkets by knocking the profit margin out of some poor Third World roadside vendor wanting to do nothing more on this earth than to clothe and feed his starving family. “Surely”, I could see the shopkeeper considerately thinking, “the costumer will want to impress friends and family with a rare ornament of high value”. I know I’m making a bad apology for an obvious attempt to take me for a sucker, but it doesn’t really matter, that was yesterday, and the opportunity to purchase, even at the inflated price, is now long gone. But sometimes, late at night, these many months later, I hear those two bracelets calling from their dark crypt below the shopkeeper’s sales counter; “precious”, they cry forlornly. “My Precious’s”, I whimper in reply.

Next on my walk through the streets of Kumbhalgarh I meet a tailor good at mending clothes, his well-proven sewing machine seated by the roadside so that all may marvel at the mastery of his profession. The man introduces me to his family, these being his wife, two daughters of junior high school age, and his mother. Nice folk. His mother proudly offered homemade sweets of delicately flavoured sugar. Each was individually shaped like tumble-worn pieces of clouded ice, almost in appearance like the sea glass I find at home, these ground smooth by the long action of waves upon sand. I imagined her carefully forming each one, her long-laboured hands gently rolling the sugar back and forth to the required size and shape. I delivered over the last two of my Australian pennies to the well-keeping of his children. Back at the hotel I learned that last night a leopard took a goat, just down the road.


But more lately my thoughts are to the two school girls. For women India, the world’s largest democracy, is a land of terrible and frightening contradiction. In 1966 Indira Gandhi was to become the country’s first female Prime Minister, and in more recent years Aishwarya Rai became Miss World, and from there rose to be the Bollywood film heart throb of countless young Indian men and the idol of millions of teenage girls. Yet Indian women and girls are regularly denied entry to the very makeshift rural theatres in which her films are routinely shown. Others tred the streets at their peril.

India has been labelled the worst place to be a woman among the 20 major world economies (the so-called G20) due to infanticide, acid attacks, ‘honour’ killings and rapes, child marriage and dowry-related deaths. It has been ranked as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women behind Afghanistan, Congo and Pakistan, but ahead of Somalia.

Some statistics claim that greater than twelve million girls have been aborted in India in the past three decades because parents prefer boys and don’t want to pay bride dowries. In 1996 India’s parliament passed the ‘Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act’ which banned the use of prenatal screening to determine the gender of the foetus, in an effort to narrow the growing gender imbalance existing in nearly every Indian state. The more comprehensive and amended ‘Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostics Techniques (PNDT) Act’ was passed into law in 2003. However, there have been major difficulties and obstacles to implementing these acts. In an attempt to stop the widespread practice of aborting female foetuses, so as to prevent the birth of unwanted daughters, the Indian Supreme Court directed state and federal governments to enforce laws that ban the use of ultrasound for the determination of prenatal gender. Reasons for lack of enforcement of laws against prenatal screening as an aid to aborting unwanted daughters have included understaffing and under-resourcing of enforcement authorities, over-working, and no money to pursue legal action against offenders. In addition there is often an unsympathetic culture amongst the very personnel tasked with implementation, court fines are frequently minimal, and clinics that have been closed for breaches of the law often reopen within a few days. Clinical records are routinely fabricated, often with the contrivance of the doctor, or simply are not kept.

According to UNICEF’s 2009 ‘State of the World’s Children Report’ 47 percent of India’s women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before the legal age of 18. The National Crime Records Bureau of India states there was a 7.1 percent increase in recorded crimes against women between 2010 and 2011. However, many crimes against women go unreported, and many Indian’s still view rape in particular as a personal shame, not a violent crime, with male aggression excused as a fact of life. The victim is often blamed, not the perpetrator. And women still are killed by their immediate family and relatives for no other reason than they wish to marry someone deemed to be of lesser caste or social standing, or of a different religion. On the subject of ‘honour’ killings the United Nations states that worldwide 1 in 5 occur in India. In the recent case of 23 year old Dharmender Barak and 18 year old Nidhi Barak the couple were tortured, mutilated and killed by the girl’s father and relatives when they threatened to run away and marry.

Some vocal advocates for the dramatic reform of Indian laws concerning the sexual assault of women loudly call for the introduction of the death penalty. Not all the perpetrators of crime against Indian women and girls are men, but they form by far the greater number.

But for women in Australia life is not without risk. On average two women are killed each week as a result of domestic violence and by May of this year more than 30 had already died. The Australian Bureau of Statistics records that in 2005 alone 12.4 percent of women had reported being sexually abused before the age of 15 and just under half a million women had reported physical or sexual assault in the preceding 12 months. These assaults cross all cultural and religious boundaries. It is an issue of epidemic proportion.


Post 61c

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s