It’s an image and sentence that has been circulating Facebook and other social media, stemming from the recent decision by the Indian government to ban the media from publishing “Damini’s” real name.
Damini. Lightning. Although this nickname originally stems from the 1993 film of this name in which the heroine witnesses a rape of a servant woman and fights for her justice, the name was appropriate for Delhi rape victim for a different reason as well. Her experience has wreaked a complete storm across India and the rest of the world, quickly and sharply. The news has shaken people out of the growing indifference to these crimes, like a lightning storm itself, so that people sat up straight, horror growing in their minds. It has unearthed a basic, deeply-rooted sympathy stemming from somewhere deep inside the human conscience, which is often buried underneath other concerns of life, business, family, and success. The problem is if, like lightning, this awakening leaves as quickly as it came. The inherent indignation and anger boiling blood should not simply flash and then go away, leaving the same calmness, the same cool indifference.
The status quo is wrong, but people already know that. It’s not a lack of knowledge that plagues us; it’s a lack of memory. An incident brings back these memories and with them the same seething horror, but then like a wave the incident recedes somewhere far back in our minds. Then the same fear in every girl’s mind as she walks on a lonely street, the same blame on a girl’s “provocative” clothing or makeup return– not from ignorance but from forgetfulness. But we can’t forget.
It is so easy to let our daily lives take over us and block these tragedies by pushing them into the past. It’s not that we don’t care about the issues or that we explicitly condone them, but when tragedies are not happening, they are easier to unconsciously brush aside. Not only for this rape, but also for the unforgivable number of shootings this country as witnessed in the past year, embassy attacks like the one in Benghazi, and natural disasters, it seems that only the magnitude and frequency of these events create any action. Only after all the shootings we experienced last year did a real momentum for gun control legislation emerge in Washington. Only after the suffering following Hurricane Katrina did the proactive nature of the national government toward natural disasters become so important. The bottom line remains the same: the pervasive nature of problems in our society does not preclude us from having a consistent concern for them. Rape in this world is not a problem only when one of the cases comes to the forefront of our society; it’s a problem every day, everywhere, for more people than we may every know. We owe it to them and ourselves to remember that.
“Damini” may exemplify the spirit of the girl who fought until the very end, but for what we should take away from this incident, her real name is more important: Jyoti. “Jyoti” is not lightning, but light. A light of constancy, of awareness, of unwavering remembrance.
Jyoti. Light. Pure, awakened, eternal.