The change icon
Maybe, instead of thinking of her as 'she' the everywoman, we could think of her as 'she' the moment. She made us pause, take stock
Our anthology of heroism is rich with stories of inspiration. It is bursting with rousing examples of individuals, powerful as well as not, who have asserted their agency by giving their lives to bringing about the change they'd liked to see, as Christopher Hitchens reminded readers after a Tunisian street vendor set himself aflame and heralded the Arab Spring. But this 23-year-old, in whose memory we light candles and observe silence at this dismal year's end, did not choose to nominate herself for an act of heroism or sacrifice. As she sought a ride home one wintry Delhi night this month, she could not have known that she was about to be caught up in unspeakable events that would throw countless strangers into a 13-day vigil. Nobody could. When she passed away in the early hours of December 29, we had scarcely learnt more about her than we did upon first hearing about the rape on a moving bus. But by then we felt we knew her extremely well indeed, and we held her in high regard — because by then she had tapped into our individual reservoirs of sorrow about how the world as it happens to be is at a remove from how it could be.
Or that is how I imagine so many of us will come to terms with the intimate connect we claim with her, she whose name we do not know. It is an intimate yet somehow transient connect. As if, if we stop profiling her with adjectives and the story of her will to live, to communicate and pull through, we will lose that mirror her death has flipped out for each one of us to gaze into in order to search for the crevices where patriarchy and apathy reside. The patriarchy and apathy that render women so vulnerable to sexual assault in times of war, during communal riots, and through apparent normalcy.