SEEMA MUSTAFA | 11 AUGUST, 2017
When a woman challenges the prototype and indeed the stereotype attached to her gender, when she comes from a family that encourages her to do so she takes decisions that might be instinctive but come out as bold and courageous. And this perhaps is the lesson for women and families to learn from the Varnika Kundu case, where she fought off a determined effort by two goons to abduct her on the empty midnight roads of Chandigarh.
This is the lesson that she herself has understood. In a flash, through an ordeal that no woman should experience.
Were you terrified? Absolutely, she says. “You know I am having a hard time with this courage thing, ‘you are so brave’, I was just terrified, and was fighting for my survival without thinking, I just knew I had to get away”, she says. And get away she did, without giving up, without wailing, having the presence of mind to call the police, and to repeatedly avoid the two men chasing her through the Union Territory in their car.
She agrees that her response had a lot to do with her family, the encouragement that she has always got, where “we (her younger sister and her) were persons, and not girls”. She has gone through martial arts training. And where, as her mother adds, “we discussed her security and safety as she often has to come back late, and where we actually talked that in such a scenario what kick she would give, what punch she would throw.”
Interesting, as the conversations at the dinner table were not about her not pursuing the career she has chosen but of equipping herself to deal with would be assaulters like the Haryana BJP president’s son Vikas Barala and his friend who are now finally in custody in Chandigarh with the right cases slapped against them.
Varnika is a DJ, the only woman DJ in Chandigarh. She freelances, she loves music, she is composes music as well. Her parents are proud of her, have faith in her, and a father who took his girls trekking when they were tiny, certainly has never come in the way of them pursuing their dreams.
Varnika has had some rough days though. She was barely sleeping or eating. And it is only now “that I have got my appetite back.” And slept long hours with her mother waking her only in the afternoon.
When she reached home after the chase, the family did not have to take a decision to pursue the case. “We never took a decision, it was just so natural. We knew we had to see this through, it was never a decision but the only thing for us to do,” Varnika says. She admits that there was some apprehension, but the support has been “overwhelming.” So much that this dynamic, bright, intelligent young woman says, “it is such a cliche but I almost feel as if I was chosen, and now understand what I need to do.”
And what she needs to and wants to do is to start an organisation to help such girls less fortunate than her, with counselling perhaps, help. She is just thinking it through but is clear that this is the path that she will pursue, following the realisation that she was saved because of her father being an Additional Chief Secretary, and another girl might not have survived the ordeal. And admits with the candour that defines her, that if her family had not come out in her support to fight the case, “I might not have, I might have not agreed, I might not have liked it, but I would probably not have fought it either.”
Her father Varinder Singh Kundu, confronted with the possibility of losing his daughter says, “Once my daughter came home safe nothing was difficult or too tough then, and I decided to go for justice and action against the men no matter who they were.” Varnika says that it is only now she has understood why people said it is going to a long and hard journey when the family decided to pursue the case, but it is a fight from which she is not prepared to back off.
The determination to fight has come from within the family where there is no differentiation between genders. Where women have full respect, equality and rights and where they are all encouraged, and indeed encourage each other, to live their lives. As Varnika says, “I always ranted against these people who spoke out against women, you deserve what you get because of what you wear, where you work, have drinks, go out late at night. This has to change.” Her face brightens up as she speaks of the support she is getting now. “Even the Kundu Khap has come out in support, I am so happy about this,” she says.
Chandigarh women have decided to reclaim the streets from 10pm till midnight on Friday, in her support and against the men who tried to attack her. And for their own safety, security, rights and justice.
There is fear of course. Apprehension, unvoiced perhaps, about the future. What impact it will have on the bureaucrats career for instance. Their own ssafety and security. But the family is not even going there, with a ‘we have to do what we have to do’ approach. They are getting courage from the overwhelming support---”we never thought it would be like this, it is so amazing...and are determined to forge ahead. As part of what has been a struggle now for decades for as Varnika so aptly puts it, to “put the criminals and not the victims in jail.”