I can’t get her out of my head: Kalki Koechlin

Kalki Koechlin

I can’t get her out of my head. The TV, the internet, and the newspapers are constantly updating her status, and bit by bit releasing more and more details of her violent gang rape so that each day the picture in my head gets a little more gruesome. Maybe it’s because I’m living here in Delhi at the moment, and have myself been experiencing difficulty getting around at night alone, using cabs and autos, feeling that unnerving gaze as I wait on the road or walk to the corner shop, feeling like prey to an animal about to pounce. Maybe it’s because of the increasing injustices against women I’m reading about in the papers, the Guwahati molestation case, the rape and murder of Pallavi Purkhayastha, the girls who got arrested for their facebook status, and now, the Delhi outrage. Maybe it’s because most of the women I know do not depend on their husbands, boyfriends or relatives to chaperone them wherever they go, most of the women I know don’t have their own chauffeur driven cars, and most of the women I know are young, independent and attractive. Maybe it’s because somewhere I know the scary truth that this could have happened to a friend, to a relative or to me. Whatever the reason, since I read about this Sunday’s gang rape horror, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head.

What do I do? What do any of us do? Apart from be outraged, talk about it, and write about it like I’m doing? What else can I do? I’ve been wracking my brain about what to do. Protesting on the streets, but who are we protesting against? Our government? The government we voted for? Our nation? The ‘democratic’ nation which each of us is a part of? Don’t get me wrong. We must complain. We must make loud protests, we must put immense pressure on the authorities to take immediate action. Safety is not a priveledge for those who have drivers, those who stay in gated communities, those who don’t venture out at night or don’t take public transport. Safety concerns all of us. It is a basic human right. It has to change now, this minute. The streets should be safer at night, from tonight. If we have enough police to make sure our seatbelts are fastened and we don’t cross red lights during the day, then we have enough police to be patrolling the roads at night. We need the laws to be tightened now, we need police to act faster, and catch the culprits more often so that the law can be taken seriously right now.

But there is something else we can do, which can change the nation’s attitude towards women, if each of us takes part in it. Each one of us individually needs to review how we treat each other and respect one another as equal human beings, no matter what our gender.

We must in every cultural, social and political way, prepare the way for the modern Indian woman because she is not the woman that most Indian men grew up with at home. Mothers pamper, mothers cook great food, mothers stay inside. The woman of today’s generation, may not know how to cook, may want to earn her own living and may choose who she wants to marry (if she wants to marry at all). Of course I’m generalizing, but you have only to look at how the youth behave in front of their parents and how they behave with their peers to realize that there is a huge generation gap that makes for people to hide their true selves and change frivolously to suit the company in which they find themselves. So until we stop hiding under our social guises, the reform starts at home, with parents treating children equally and accepting their differences, and their choices. It continues to apply to schools and education, boys and girls should be treated equally, should be encouraged to work together on school projects. Boys should not see the girl as a strange, mysterious ‘other’ species only to be stared at and not talked to, wondered about, shown in small spurts almost teasingly, locked away most of the time and eventually conquered by the patriarchal system of marriage or simply by pure physical dominance. Then, of course, there’s our entertainment, our television and our films, which often portray the ideal woman just like our mothers, perfect cooks and virginal beauties. And for sexual relief we are served the ‘item’ť girl, shown as property bought to entertain and satisfy men’s sexual urges. Where are our real, present day women portrayed on screen? Where is the woman who goes to work, shares a place with her boyfriend, takes public transport and goes for a drink or a movie on the weekend? In our on screen fictions the ‘modern’ girl is rich enough to have a chauffeur driven car and the ‘conservative’ girl is so poor and pious that she doesn’t need anything but a man as answers to her prayers. Where are our women vegetable vendors, cab drivers, construction workers, writers, artists, students or porn downloading youth? How often are they represented on our screens?

So yes, we blame the government and the authorities, yes we put pressure so this girl gets some justice, so the arrests are made, so the attackers are severely punished. But what next? How to we prevent this from happening again and again and again? We have a lot of work to do. Countrywide, we have rape cases that are going on, girls as young as our own daughters, women as old as our mothers, raped by somebody’s brothers, fathers and sons. We have an epidemic that has spread across the nation and cannot be controlled by law and order alone, but also by it’s people. By each and every one of us.

Bosses be sensitive to women employees and their complaints, take action.

Colleagues stand up for the woman who’s being objectified at work, take action.

Teachers, encourage your students to mingle and mature together, take action.

Mothers and fathers, don’t give special treatment to your sons (or your daughters), take action.

Writers and directors, make your stories relevant to today’s men and women, take action.

Actors, be brave enough to portray characters that speak their own minds and are not necessarily conventional, take action.

Media, don’t let us forget injustices quickly, take action.

Politicians, be quiet and take action.

Men, respect women who are not like your mothers, take action.

Women, don’t let slide even the smallest eveteasing, take action.

Neighbours, don’t ignore a cry for help, take action.

Bystanders, for God’s sake, take action.

People, let’s not live in our bubbles until the injustice affects us directly.

Take action.


  1. We need broadcast education on this…so it drills in their minds ! if there can hoardings on family planning and female foeticide….Letz have hoardings all around saying “A girl wearing a skirt is still a girl , not a bloody “rape Pulling Station !!!”

  2. I complete agree with you. Today’s papers carried few suggestion what the government has proposed to be safe. One of the suggestion was to call 100 when in trouble…I would like to bring to everyone’s notice that, few years back a girl was raped by few cops in Mumbai. Its surprising to note that they don’t intend to take measures to stop rape. It looks like they government and the law in the country is washing their hands off. you try and be safe that’s all they can do. As you said change needs to happen in every sphere and from ones own house. We call ourselves culturally a rich country, i feel ashamed to know that the men in my country don’t know to respect the women or are not thought to respect women.

    How long will we have to go through this? Will we talk about this for a few days and forget about it?

  3. The entire nation is talking about it…somewhere every Indian girl has felt this apprehension, this helplessness, this objectification. This has to stop. This write up is so right,we have to take action while we do it we know bystanders won’t budge but we must, somewhere we will swell into a crowd, until then lets just start walking.

  4. Totally agree! Especially about the fact that the change has to start from home! But hey, what are we women doing about trying to fight for equality where the system favors women! Simple things, why do we play 3 sets in Tennis while men play 5? Arnt we equal? Why dont we raise our voice to that? Why do we need Alimony when we are capable of standing on our feet? Sorry about the diversion in topic from Kalkis case but I strongly feel the need to protest against everything that treats us women different to men. Seriously, I dont need special treatment just cos I am a woman… all I need is to be treated like a human!

  5. Completely agree with you Kalki! As a society, we need to take this responsibility such that young boys (and girls) learn to respect each other and others around them, they don’t grow up considering that the world owes them everything, and they take responsibility for their own actions. And as pointed in one of the comments above – education has to play an important role in this!

  6. U r not the only one feeling the pain it’s all over India. My friends in UK, USA , UAE are litreary saying the same thing u mentioned in ur article. May be it was gods will for us to awake n take action so that such things do never ever happen in future. But watever it is I can’t pass a second that I don’t think of this gruesome murder of humanity in form of rape n torture of that poor girl. She is far more courageous than we can ever be. All of us need to do is pray for her recovery and make sure quick and sound justice is delivered to her n her friend who also suffered. I salute to her spirit to live n fight those monsters.

  7. Dr.R.Sengupta

    Education begins at home, so mothers and fathers should make it clear to their son that touching a girl or lady against her will is a crime. There should be such punishment so that it will be an example and no one dares to rape.

  8. Accurate and to-the-point article… Kalki has done a gr8 job! Hope we dont just write these things, but TAKE ACTION tooo!

  9. i feel absolutely the same but i also feel all the action has to take place right at our own houses where due to the prevailing patriarch systems, still the wives arent treated well, the daughter is made to feel inferior to her brothers and the sons are allowed to pass comments in the streets. If and only this mind set up can be changed, we can move around freely.

    Another way may be is to ensure the conviction of these criminals so that next time such a heinous crime isnt repeated to add to our statistics…

  10. There has been a lot of discussion and debate across India and abroad. In reaction to what has happened, need for justice and need for reinforcing legislation are on top of the priority list. Another very important statement people are talking about is ‘the need to change people’s mindset or men’s attitude and behaviour towards women’. This is an approach/solution that directly addresses the root cause.

    I work with an organisation called Equal Community Foundation. ECF is one of the few organisations in India that empowers men to end violence and discrimination against women.

  11. Totally agree…we need to change ourselves before we want system to change…It’s. Not the first rape but we can try to make it last with the help of effective punishment….recently I hv posted on my fb regrdng the kind of punishment should be given….death penalty will be an easy punishment, those guys must be castrated ( removing gential part without annasthesia) and also their hands and legs should be removed….then only they will get afraid….

  12. I agree with the intent of your article, but feel that the actions advocated are surficial. Even in developed countries like US, where some of the advocated actions are being followed, rapes still happen. It’s not about what a common man do to reduce these incidents. Being alert and doing our part solves only part of the problem. The significant part of the problem that remains unsolved is how to improve the rate of reporting rapes, how does society accept the victims of rape without judging them, how does judicial system ensure that criminals are brought to justice. Rape is not a sexual act, it is an act of crime and should be treated as such. Another issue is of Media reporting every single thing about the victims and robbing their privacy in a bid to increase TRP’s. Can we as responsible citizens, stop watching these news channels who sensationalize the whole issue and indulge in intelligent debates instead?

    A somewhat unrelated issue but completely ignored in Indian society is child molestation. That too is a crime of equivalent nature. Can our schools educate children in identifying and reporting these incidents?

    As I said earlier, I agree with your intent and accept responsibility to do my part. But the issue should be looked into the roots and not just ways to avoid it. It’s like telling Indians to report any suspicious activities to avoid terrorism while not discussing the other national level safeguards that bring long term solutions.

  13. Beautiful and apt! I just wish Anurag Kashyap had read this article before hiring an MCP rapper who calls himself ‘balaatkari’ and promises to mutilate girls’ ch**t. Or does everything goes just because its popular?

  14. Kalki you are so true.
    This is for you to read or listen this song of the movie Pyasa(your husband is great fan of this movie)-
    madad chaahtee hai yeh hawwa kee beTee,
    yashoda kee hamm-jins radha kee beTee,
    payambar kee ummat, zulekha kee betee,
    jinhe.n naaz hai hind par woh, kahaa.n hai.n,
    kahaa.n hai.n, kahaa.n hai.n kahaa.n hai.n,
    zaraa mulk ke, rah-baro.n ko bulaao,
    yeh kooche yeh galiyaa.n yeh manzar dikhaao
    jinhe.n naaz hai hind par, un-ko laao,
    jinhe.n naaz hai hind par woh, kahaa.n hai.n,
    kahaa.n hai.n, kahaa.n hai.n kahaa.n hai.n,



    NASIR(The Great Poet From India).

  15. A very well written piece! Cleaning should start right at your doorstep!

    All I have done is rant about it on FB/Blog, shed a few tears, go to India Gate and participate in the protests, face some tear gas and escape some lathi charge, and discussed this amongst my social circle. Important thing is to not let the fire die and not forget all of these gruesome acts that happen all across every single day. Justice needs to be delivered and we need to raise our voices to demand it. Now! Until then, let’s walk the path together to build a safer nation.

  16. Thank you Kalki…this gives me hope too. I am a mother fighting a case of child abuse for the last 10 years, my own child who was abused by her so called ‘dad’, right now that is a notional tag for him. I prefer to call him ‘that man’, ‘animal’,’it’…
    the point is not what i call him,the point is that this self proclaimed CEO is free, a risk to society, giving donations to orphanages and at one time wrote on values in a leading national daily,and in reality has a sic mind.
    the point is as you rightly said, take action. believe you me,i have taken action, my case is going on for the last 10 years, i am fighting a child molester, i am fighting the judiciary and above all the sheer apathy that is there…the ‘chalta hai’ attitude.
    someday, i hope the judiciary machine will wake up from its slumber, there will be more accountability and justice will be not restricted to a file number being heard for a decade.
    that day, hopefully daughters in India will be safe and children born as daughters will be proud of their gender.

  17. deepika Tandon

    The denial of bail and indefinite incarceration makes a non-person of the undertrial. The SC has imposed three directives for jails to follow 1) that the prisoner not be reduced to a non-person 2) 3) The jail conditions not aggravate the suffering already caused by incarceration.
    The denila of bail violates both I and 3, especially as denial of bail results in overcrowding of jails eg Tihar has a capacity for housing approx. 5200 inmates as against the current population of 11,000 + (as per thi s petition)

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