An unbeatable zest for life: A rape survivor’s quest for normal

‘Too much attention is given to the rapist; not to the survivor. Focus should be on the survivor so that the survivor can come back to society—integrate into the mainstream without judgment’

An unbeatable zest for life: A rape survivor’s quest for normal
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Neelam Kumar

Neelam Kumar, author of 10 books and herself a cancer survivor, has chronicled the life and struggles of 13 indomitable people including gang rape survivor Sapna Bhavnani, double amputee and Mt Everest climber Mark Inglis, athlete and bone cancer survivor Shweta Chaware. In I Am Invincible, she brings us closer to their trials and tribulations. Excerpts from her conversation with designer Sapna Bhavnani sum up the tone and the tenor.

A very personal question. What about the man in your life?
I do not believe in forever. Of course, I do believe in love—just not in attachments. I have had lots of men in my life. And I will have a lot more! I’ve been married three times, maybe will do so a hundred times more. (Laughs). Nothing is forever. I think everything comes with an expiry date. I don’t think of anything as permanent. Everything comes and goes. You just have to allow yourself to go through the journey. But you must release it when the time comes.

How has that event changed you as a person? Are you a different person now?
I think it can make you act in a certain way temporarily, but at the end of the day, you are going to find yourself back to the person you are.

So, do you forgive those guys?
Of course! This is why I know I have healed. There is no anger. That is why I said on TV when the judgment was passed on Nirbhaya’s rapists that I do not believe in the death penalty. I don’t think that if you hang someone, it is going to stop rapes. I don’t think it is a deterrent. Everyone knows smoking causes cancer, but does that stop them from smoking?

The thing is that when one is bent on committing such a heinous crime, they are not thinking of punishment in that moment. Something manic comes over them and the consequences are not important. So, I really don’t believe in the death penalty. There is forgiveness in me. I would much rather you rot in your guilt. Actually, you will!

So, you do believe in divine justice?
I believe at the end of the day we are all humans. Everyone makes mistakes and they should be given the opportunity to correct their mistakes.

Talking of rape, what would you like to tell society?
Too much attention is given to the rapist; not to the survivor. Focus should be on the survivor so that the survivor can come back to society—integrate into the mainstream without judgment.

What do you have to say to a survivor?
It is difficult for one person to tell another what to do. Only that survivor knows what she is going through. Nothing has changed for me. I still wear short dresses. I still go out drinking in the night. But that is my personal thing. It doesn’t mean that if I am doing it, others also should. Sister, please believe there is no shame in it. I feel at some level you must understand it is not your fault.

Will society ever make the survivor feel not guilty or ‘dirty’?
I think it is human nature to be judgmental. We judge everything—it is either good or bad. We are constantly classifying. I don’t think we are that evolved as a race to be kind or accepting. Of course, we talk about it. We quote Buddha. We are constantly quoting holy men. But maybe that’s why there has been only one Buddha—no one after him.

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