KANPUR, (chhotebhai*) — Does this sound like a lethal expose? It may or may not be, depending on how “shock proof” you, the reader, are. So ready yourself for some eclectic shocks!
I am a senior citizen, happily married, with two grown-up children. Though financially burdened I cannot pretend to be under privileged. I was educated in elite Christian schools and enjoyed many of the best things in life. I have interacted with the highest in the Government and in the church, and held (or still hold) important positions in Church and Society. Yet I consider myself a potential rapist. If this revelation shocks you, then you need to read on.
The recent brutal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi has focussed media attention on rape, sexual assault and molestation, and to the vulnerability of women in India. The media, both print and electronic, has gone to town on the issue. Most protesters, commentators or panellists have either blamed the police, or demanded that rapists be hanged or chemically castrated. Some have spoken about social mindsets, family values, the Bollywood influence, etc. But most of the “angered species” come across as terribly self-righteous. For want of a better term I will call them the “Self–Righteous Indignant Brigade“. In Jesus’ time many of these were Pharisees, who were shocked, indignant and disconcerted by the former’s words and actions.
Rather than point fingers at “the other”, it would be more useful if I began with myself. At the tender age of 7 I was packed off to an elite boarding school in the hills. My twin sister simultaneously went to the adjacent convent boarding school. Two Sundays in a month brothers were supposed to visit their sisters in the convent. I seldom did, because games were more attractive than dames! For my Intermediate I moved to another prestigious boarding school, where homosexuality and sly visits to prostitutes were par for the course. I was now 15, and gradually becoming aware of my own sexuality.
At 16 I entered degree college (don’t be surprised), which was co-ed. It was here that I really found myself being attracted to the fairer sex. At 62 that fatal attraction has not ebbed! I had very strong and enduring friendships with various women before I got married, but I never had a strong sexual urge, though several opportunities presented themselves. It was only after marriage that I actually discovered my sexual appetite.
Now I find this appetite whetted in a way. So I see myself as a potential rapist, who has the carnal instinct to seek sexual gratification in another woman; and I cannot pretend that I will not succumb, should the opportunity present itself. Though this does not mean that I will actually do so. I am very fond of good food. If I am walking past a shop selling biryani or tandoori chicken, and the aroma hits me, I will be sorely tempted to indulge myself. This does not give me the licence to raid the shop. I am also not supposed to eat sweets, but temptation is always there, and I often succumb.
The determining factor here is that of self-control. This is the tipping point. How do I develop it? A priest once said to me “Do not lose in a moment of darkness what you found in a moment of light “ I was impressed and repeated it to my spiritual guru, another priest. “Rubbish”, he snapped at me, “nothing happens in a moment”. The reality sank deep into me. There may be a “Tipping Point”, but it is always a gradual build up over time. Hence raiding a biryani shop, or raping a woman, is not a sudden act. It is a premeditated build up, because of one’s personal conditioning.
A management guru once spoke of one’s ”Area of Concern” and “Area of Control”. We are concerned about many things – nuclear war, crimes against women, inflation, civic problems, etc. We often focus so much on these “Areas of Concern”, that we do not give due attention to the “Areas of Control”. In the given instance what is under my control – my desires, my attitude towards women, etc. Should I blame society, police, my parents, etc, or should I assume responsibility for my own thoughts and actions?
Social conditioning does have an impact on us, just as I was exposed to different situations in boarding life. On the other hand there was also family and a religious conditioning, where I learnt a strong moral code, of what was right and wrong. This sense of morality in turn was rooted in religion, in my case Christianity.
I must confess that at the age of 20 I fell head over heels in love with a young lady and even left the comfort of my home for her sake. But the relationship soured, and so did my attitude towards women. I lost respect for women, and now only viewed them in a frivolous and flippant way, a fun thing to be used. Fortunately this flippant phase ended four years later when I personally encountered Jesus in my life, and committed my life to him at the age of 25.
I was now told that each human being, including myself, was a temple of the Holy Spirit; hence should be held in that high esteem. Unfortunately, this remained a spiritual or intellectual notion, devoid of substance. Nevertheless, it did have some kind of sobering effect on me. But I still found myself strongly attracted to the opposite sex, though devoid of a brute carnal instinct.
In the course of my spiritual journey I met a seminary professor who frankly stated that most Catholic priests are celibate, not by choice (self–control) but by lack of circumstances or fear of consequences! There is lesson in this. Besides control, we also need to avoid circumstances (situations) that unnecessarily excite us, and also need to remember the consequences (both legal and moral) emanating from our acts. For the weak–kneed, fear is a strong deterrent.
Rather than sermonizing or being self-righteous, I have chosen to share my own story, in the hope that it will touch the heart of another potential rapist like me, or even a clerical paedophilic (another equally heinous act).
The more we increase our Area of Control, we consequently decrease our Area of Concern. The Vishwa Gayatri Parivar, with whom I am closely associated, has a slogan “Hum badle, sab badle” (change one’s self, and others will follow.) We need to being with ourselves, if we want to change society, and make it a safer place for women.
I believe that, as parents, we begin by inculcating the correct values in our children, with no gender disparity. Co-education is the best foundation for boys to discover that girls are also intelligent beings with equal potential and feelings. They will not see them as “objects” but as persons. Without being prudish we also need to avoid all forms of pornography and anything else that inflames uncontrollable sexual desires, as also drugs and alcohol that numb our sense of right and wrong or give us a false bravado.
I do not want to give a long list of do’s and don’ts. My humble plea is that each one of us men accepts that we are potential rapists on the one hand, and temples of God on the other. Self-understanding is the first step towards self-control. As sinner turned saint, Augustine of Hippo said, “Help me know me, help me know thee”. Another great saint, Francis of Assisi, on seeing a criminal being led to the gallows said, “There goes Francis, but for the grace of God”. Let all of us potential rapists increase our self-understanding and self-control; and humbly implore God’s grace.
* The writer has several years experience in youth ministry and marriage counselling.