When I wrote my novel, #iAm16iCan I never thought of sending it to the literary agents in the USA for consideration. I was talking part in #IndiaAgainstRape movement and as a storyteller, the method most suited to me was to write a novel about it.
The novel was not even just a novel back then, it had elaborate non-fiction sections:
(a) Psychology of Rapist
(b) Rape Culture in India
(c) Juvenile—Delinquency and Punishment, where we are going wrong
(d) Psychoanalysis of Rape
I wrote articles, gave talks, sent my books to prominent TV and film personalities in India, who endorsed it. I did everything in my limited capacity to raise awareness. I really was working for a cause. A true believer. Anjum Rajabali Sir is one of the most prominent screenplay writer of socio-political cinema in India. He has written Dhrohkaal, Raajneeti, Aarakshan, and Satyagraha to name a few.
Then in September 2015, I moved to the USA. And one of my friends who is a Roma Writer, an activist, and born and raised in the USA asked me, “I don’t understand why your book should stay limited to India? Rape culture is a growing world wide epidemic. Your book is as relevant in the USA as it is in India.”
Why I didn't think of this earlier?
I come from a place that suffers from the collective cultural inferiority complex. It’s an irony because Indian culture is gaining popularity as one of the richest cultures of the world. But people, who are born and raised in India, suffer from a feeling of race inferiority. 800+ years of slavery has done to this to their minds. Unless and until their western counterparts approve something, Indians don’t value to their own arts and sciences.
E.g. Yoga is retaught in India after the USA embraced it. Sad part, it’s no longer called Yog—(The Union) but Yoga (in Sanskrit Yoga means street food!)
After moving to the USA, I worked and reworked and reworked to revise my book to adjust it’s quality to match the USA standard.
Some changes were good; better pace, removing the non-fiction part.
Some where—well! I had to remove some pan Indian parts, which was painful. But work is work.
Nevertheless, in this one-year grueling process, I lost something else. And that bothers me.
Yesterday this same friend, who had inspired me to make my book more widely available spoke to me how she has suffered a gang rape, how cruelly she is treated in her community. When she spoke about her culture (Roma Culture) I could not stop seeing the similarity it has with Indian culture. Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny. How almost an entire culture has turned against HALF of it’s population.
But what bothered me the most was—she is a person I consider a friend. A champion of my book. She has stood by me in my darkest hour. And here I am, totally ignorant to her plies and plights of life. When she was talking to me, my mind kept repeating, “Kirtida, you are an as*hole. Full of sh*t.”
I agree I am.
If in the zeal and hustle of taking up big roles, I can’t take care of the values of my life—love, friendship, and kindness—does it even make sense what I am doing at the larger front?
My old school, culturally inferior, emotional, Indian mindset says, “No. It doesn’t matter. If you lose your value, you might win some battles, but you lose the war.”
I can’t throw the baby away with bathwater. In my enthusiasm of embracing the new and novel, I can’t let go of what I culturally stand for.
Art of Giving.
Art of Loving.
Art of Listening.
Kirtida Gautam is a clinical psychologist, screenplay writer, and author of the unpublished psychological thriller I am 16 I can. The novel questions Juvenile Justice System of India and raises opinion AGAINST rape culture. Follow her on Twitter @KirtidaGautam