What could have been? In memory of Aruna Shanbaug

She died today. My timeline is full of stories, R.I.P. messages about her. I could not bring myself to read any of them. I don’t know the details of what happened except for what the headlines say. These headlines only told me that the culprit served punishment not for rape but for robbery and attempt to murder. I also know that Aruna battled with death for 42 years and finally died.

She died. She was a nurse, a beautiful woman in her 20’s dreaming of a beautiful life, her future but one incident changed everything for her. All I have thought about is what could have been?

She was going to get married. She had a future ahead of her. She could have worked some more, she could have become successful, could have become an inspiration. She could have had a family, children and memories. She could have bid goodbye to her family and entered a new home. She could have held her husband’s hand in her own walking down a romantic lane in the evening dreaming of the times to come.

She could have cried at her daughter’s ‘bidaai’, she could have welcomed her daughter-in-law in her home. She could have helped change diapers of her grand-children. She could have gone on a holiday with all her family. She could have been happy, she could have been alive.

But all that is just an unfulfilled dream, dream of a woman whose life became a daily struggle of survival.

I wonder what would have happened had she survived. It’s another horrific reality. In our society it is always the rape victim who is ostracized while the culprits are free to live a normal life after some punishment (in some cases even the punishment is minimal) and sadly the society accepts them as one of their own. While the victim is forced to watch from the periphery, another struggle in line to establish a normal life.

Had she survived, a lifetime of compromises awaited her, a life where many would have deemed her the culprit, the seducer. She died today, but she had died the day when her culprit walked free. She had died the day the society let the culprit walk free among them as their own.


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