On 18th December 2012, I was having morning tea when my husband showed me a newspaper article about a girl being raped in a moving bus in New Delhi. The cruelty inflicted on this girl during the attack was brutal enough to make me feel sick to my stomach for days to come.
In the beginning I thought it is a passing distress one feels hearing something bad that happened to some remote person. But even after months, I was not able to leave the haunting story of this woman, Nirbhaya, the Fearless One, behind me. I felt deep empathy with this woman, not sympathy but empathy. Fortunately, I have never been sexually assaulted. But either me, or any woman I care about could have been in her place and suffered equal misfortune.
This thought disturbed me so much that I started researching about the nature of sexual crimes. As a clinical psychologist, I wanted to know what goes in the sick minds of the perverts who commit such heinous crimes.
I delved deeper and deeper in the literature written about sexual crimes. After doing this research for around six months, I went to Anjum Rajabali Sir, who had mentored me at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune during my screenplay-writing course, with a one-page synopsis for a screenplay.
I told him, “I feel let down by the Juvenile Justice System of India that it is not ready to amend the law.” As I spoke these words, I trembled with anger. He said in a composed tone, “Unfortunately, In India, with its deep-rooted patriarchy, sexual violence has become an acceptable crime. Misogyny is such an ingrained part of our society at this moment, that even at home a girl is hardly treated equal to his brother.”
He also added, “The anger you feel is legitimate and fair. Now is the time to sublimate this anger for more meaningful pursuits.”
I continued with my research. As a matter of fact, I was reading so many books about rape that the library of my house was looking weird to my friends.
For another one and a half years, I researched on sexual violence with the curiosity of a psychologist. By this time, I knew that I don’t want to write a screenplay but a novel about the topic. Not just this, I also knew that it has to be a novel written with a purpose. I have a 35 pages long appendix at the back of the novel titled, Psychoanalysis of Rape, which is my hypothetical theory resulting from two years of research.
But even after putting all this research in place I didn’t write the novel. First, I wrote detailed character sketches. Readers have complimented me time and again that the characters are crafted out in brilliant details. That is because I have spent six whole months on that. During this time, I kept asking my characters all the questions I possibly could ask them. And they gave me answers, which I never thought I would get when I started with this project.
Discovery of Aarush Kashyap, the Antagonist
I never postulated in my wildest dream that I would write the character of a rapist, which would seem so real as if I know him in person. As a person and a woman, I find sexual crimes most unforgivable kind of violence.
And yet, as I was writing the novel, I became more tolerant about Aarush Kashyap’s character. I could see the long chain of events. I could see how he was failed by the society before he decided to twist the arm of the society in the most unacceptable way. Not that I have forgiven him, I believe in Theory of Karma that every action has equal and opposite reaction, but as an author I had better understanding of him. I let him rent my mind and live there. I kept observing what he does in his day-to-day life.
My first encounter with Aarush Kashyap is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. I was working on my laptop at three in the morning. I was writing a tragic chapter and I was crying aloud.
My husband, like any loving husband, said, “Enough is enough, you have been working for longs hours, now take some rest.”
I stood up from my chair and gushed at him, “I won’t stop!” I shouted.
He was shocked to see my reaction. Next day, when he came back from the office, I went to him and apologized. And I said something, which I find hilarious in retrospect but at that time it was as real to me as my nose. I said, “I am sorry for the way I reacted, but it was not me, it was Aarush Kashyap!”
Good part, my husband didn’t file for a divorce on grounds of mental insanity. He still loves me!
Rape is a very complex crime. It’s unfortunate that society does not pay enough attention to understand the nature of this crime which plagues the lives of so many people- survivors and perpetrators!
The theme of the novel is,
“Not enough people understand what rape is, and, until they do, not enough will be done to stop it.”
- Rape Victim, quoted in Groth 1979 (p.87)
What kind of reaction have I received for the book?
In one word- overwhelming! I never thought that the book would be received so well. Women felt validated in their anger with this book. I had touched a raw nerve.
One especially memorable moment is when one of my readers, called me and cried, just cried, non-stop for ten minutes.
In spite of having no support from traditional media, the book has become a bestseller in India only because of the word of mouth publicity. My readers have become the stalwarts in spreading the words for the novel #IAm16ICanRape: The War AGAINST Rape Culture.
Kirtida is a clinical psychologist turned screenplay writer who completed her education from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, India. Her passion for psychology and writing inspired her into writing psychological thrillers.
Find out more about her on her website http://kirtidagautam.blogspot.com.
Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam
Category: Contemporary Women Writers