"Every Rape is Personal" - Author Bidisha Ghosal

Updated: Jun 7


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Bidisha Ghosal is the recipient of journalism awards such as the International Press Institute Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting. She moved on from journalism to writing her first novel. While working on that, she also became one of the key players in bringing to life the personal journey of the late Dr. Prasanta Banerji, her grandfather, and homeopath extraordinaire, in a lucid book titled The Diaries of a Stubborn Homeopath. Her first novel is immense labour of love, combining her buoyant love for thrillers with an exhausting sense of self-righteousness.


INTERVIEW:


Q. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

There was no significant turning point about being a writer. I used to write stories even as a child, and becoming an author was nothing I had to really think about. But yes, there was a moment when I took the decision to actually start writing. That came to me in 2011. I simply decided, Now.


Q. Tell us something about your book - THE RAPE TRIAL.


It’s a feminist crime drama. Rhea, Amruta and Hitaishi realise that they know a rapist, and is furious that he’s about to get away with it even after being exposed. They decide to pull a Larsson on him, kidnapping and torturing him, then leaving him alive to live with it. They like doing it so much that they zero in on more rapists who’d gotten away scot-free. Before they know it, copycat gangs rear their heads in other parts of the country. Some of these gangs get arrested, but it is only after the girls’ last hit that the police start circling them. The police zero in on them, nip at their heels a little bit, about to catch them even… then suddenly someone else is arrested instead. Is this person part of another gang, or did they act out of self-defence? Will the three girls step forward? Are the authorities really interested in justice or in finding a scapegoat?


Q. How do you develop your plot and characters?


I can only speak about this novel because this is the only one I’ve written.

There’s a lot of advice out there about how characters must come before plot, that the best way to create believable fiction is to drive it with believable people.

Personally, I began with emotion. The emotion brought certain incidents to mind, some passages and scenes and dialogues that came to me and stuck around. And then I started working out a chain of events connecting these scenes and passages, creating nooks and crannies for the dialogues to sit in.

A lot of what I’d independently started out with had to be removed in order to maintain the integrity of the bigger picture.

The characters emerged from the question – what kind of people would do such a thing? My characters have served the plot, not driven it. Possibly because the story itself is so extreme, so fantastical, and so beyond the circle of my own life that I couldn’t imagine the people first.

But yes, true to the advice given on the regular, that did make the story slightly hollow. So I started distilling the personalities of each character to get to their core, to really understand them. It was rather like socialising with someone for a few days and then moving in with them, really getting to know them. Instead of picking and placing characteristics on them, I dug around a bit. I believe I reached a place of authenticity where their mannerisms, their speech patterns, etc, are concerned.


Q. What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

The biggest challenge was finding my authentic voice. I found that a lot of the things I wanted to say were painful, disturbing, and it was immensely difficult to be able to express them accurately. So much is said by pretty much everybody that the world feels like a giant collective game of Chinese Whispers. Clarity was the number one thing I was aiming for.

The other was sitting down to write every single day. I’m not the most disciplined person anyone will meet. Writing fiction does require a routine, a steadiness, that feels unnatural to me. This reluctance, I felt in my bones.


Q. What’s the best way to market your books?

According to me, I feel reaching out to people to read the book is a great way to start. A conversation starts up organically and word-of-mouth publicity begins. I’m grateful that people have had wonderful things to say about my work.


Q. Why do you think rape is common in India? And, how can we stop it?

It’s common everywhere actually, and it’s because the world is a patriarchal place. Men are rewarded for a variety of things in a variety of ways much, much more than women are.

Rape is used primarily in two ways – one is to punish women for going out and living our lives, having agency, working, earning, partying, walking, wearing what we want to, expressing our sexuality, or wrapping it up. The other is to instil fear in us so that we think twice before doing these things in the first place. Each and every rape is personal because none of us actually have to be raped before we’re taught that our first and foremost goal in life is to make sure we never do.

We don’t even have to know an actual rape survivor in order to be taught that. We are taught that because someone we’ve never met got raped in a place we’ve never been by someone we don’t know. Yet our brothers and sons are taught the opposite – that they can do what they like – with little acknowledgement that we can’t always control what someone might like to do. These two sets of upbringings, coming together in an atmosphere of ‘boys will be boys’ are the foundation of rape culture.

This is how rape is said to be the girl’s fault because we accept and even encourage that there is and/or might be a rapist lurking in every man. We live with this bizarre mind-bending dichotomy where boys are not-really-all-bad (in recent times this has become the louder, more strident cry of NotAllMen), but they might slip and rape us, and so we must chop off parts of our lives and personalities because they might rape us, but because boys are not-really-all-bad we must always say it’s our fault if we get raped. It’s an exercise in mental gymnastics where a boy raping a girl is fine but the girl getting raped is oh-my-God. The same applies to consensual sex if you think about it.

I’ve heard, one time too many, people remarking with concern – what was she doing out there at *insert time of day* wear *whatever she was wearing*, but they never ever question what the man/men was/were doing at that place at that time of day. We do not question rapists because to question rapists would be to question men, and we hold men’s freedoms to be sacrosanct in our society.

How do we stop this? Very simple. Recognise the humanity and the personhood of women. Stop getting hostile about us going about our lives earning money and watching movies and partying when we want to. These are not valid reasons to assault us. There are, in fact, no valid reason to assault us.

It sounds simple enough when you read it, but once you start applying it, it becomes less simple. Once we start applying this, too much about our lives start changing, because every single thing we live on is patriarchal. Marriage, the family set-up, our recreational activities, the ideas of manliness, the ideas of womanliness. This is what scares a lot of good people, even women. Humans instinctively turn towards comfort and familiarity. Bringing down the patriarchy tears down too much of what is familiar to us, and so some of us turn around to attack feminism even while wanting a society free from gender roles.


Q. 94% of Rapists are known to rape victims in India. What should we do to avoid this? Is there any solution?

It’s the same thing, what I said above. But where this stat, in particular, is concerned, what it first needs is the bare minimum – acknowledgement. We have to remember that even as we say ‘Oh every rape survivor is somebody’s Mother, Sister, Wife,’ etc, we have to also say that every rapist is somebody’s Father, Brother, Husband, etc.

So first, let’s acknowledge that the men we like and love aren’t necessarily good human beings. Then maybe, we can examine our standards for labelling someone good or bad. Perhaps the only reason we call someone good is because they made us feel good for some time, or that we find that person useful to us in some way.

The next step, far more difficult, would be to remember that even a rapist is capable of being kind and generous to some people, maybe even to most people in his life, but then can go out and assault someone else. This is far more difficult because it requires the ability to hold opposing thoughts in one’s mind and then zeroing in on one’s own moral compass.

But those are later steps. Right now we don’t even acknowledge this stat. It’s easier to dismiss rapists as distant monsters, not-like-us people.

And yes, let’s flip our language from passive to direct. It’s not – rapists are known to their victims. It’s – 94% of rapists rape people they know.


Q. Every 15 minutes, someone is raped in India. Do you think our government is doing something about it?

No, I don’t. The last step they took was to legalise capital punishment for paedophiles, but the cut-off age was 13 as far as I remember, which is so insulting and victim-blaming, I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that the minute a girl goes through puberty and develops secondary sexual characteristics like mammary glands and is able to have children by starting her menstrual cycle, the rapist is automatically not to be blamed as much, is ugly. It’s quite ugly, a hideous formalisation of victim-blaming, and smacks of misogyny. And I never thought anyone would have to point out that 14-year-olds are children? Fifteen-year-olds are also children?

Also, adult women, whether young, middle-aged, or aged, whether cis or trans, straight or gay, are not to be blamed for our own rapes, just like we are not to be blamed for having a brick fall on our heads.

And while I personally feel rapists shouldn’t be allowed to exist, I don’t find capital punishment to be a solution of any kind. I can imagine spending my life in prison but I cannot imagine my death. It is no deterrent at all. In fact, as a criminal, it only encourages me to ensure my target is not alive to testify against me.

Where society is concerned, capital punishment also acts as a Band-Aid. If we know there is a legal way to make someone not exist, then it becomes easier to ignore the root causes, causes we ignore in any case.

We feel less urgent about needing to change the way we raise our children, the way we react to others’ daughters’ sex lives, the way we just let slip, ‘oh, boys will be boys’. When we change those things, that’s when a solution will come about.



Q. What according to you should be done to the rapist and in how many days?

Thorough chemical castration is a must, according to me, because rapists don’t rape just once. For this to come through by law and by social approval is to not place as much importance as we do to male virility. Rapists should also go to prison for no less than their lifetime. A few years won’t cut it, not even a decade.

Personally, I would want all rapists sentenced to death, but the other repercussions of capital punishment – the ignoring of real issues, the encouragement to rapists to kill their targets – outweigh my personal preference.


Q. Rape is still happening during LOCKDOWN. Do you think RAPE is more dangerous than CORONA VIRUS?

Actually, a lot of things are more dangerous than the Virus. The recovery rate is very, very high, the fatality rate is very, very low. I feel the real point of this pandemic is to expose the areas of our health infrastructure that need reinforcing.

And of course, rape still happening because men are home more and the women can’t go anywhere. We have yet to acknowledge and criminalise marital rape, so rape has always been far more common than we would like to believe anyway, with or without the lockdown.


Q. Future of SALISMANIA.com through your eyes.

I think this is a great platform for authors and readers to come together. I can only say this – keep doing what you do!


ABOUT THE BOOK:


What do you do when the rapist is someone you know? What do you do when he has been found innocent in the eyes of the law? Rhea, Hitaishi, and Amruta’s friendship have been cemented over a lifetime, but now they find themselves struggling to answer these questions together.

Nearly a decade has passed since Rahul Satyabhagi, heir to the mega Satyabhagi business empire, had raped Avni Rambha, bested her in court, and gone on to become a men’s rights activist, and the whos-who of Badrid Bay had breathed a sigh of relief that the sordid mess was over. But now a sting operation proves what many, the three friends included, had suspected all along – he’d been lying. Furious that he has been exposed, Rahul plans to sue the media as well as his long-suffering victim. Now, Rhea, Hitaishi, and Amruta find themselves at a crossroad - can they carry on doing nothing?

DC Virendra Dixit was among those who’d believed that the Rambha rape case had been a ‘false allegation’, but now the sting tape brings him to a case that promises to be a turning point in his career. Just as he thinks he is nearing a resolution, he finds himself at a crossroad of his own.


Rhea, Hitaishi, and Amruta have carved out a path that has already affected DC Dixit’s, but do their paths cross? Who is the hunter, and who is the hunted? Can a story of hard questions and difficult choices have an easy resolution?


PUBLISHER: Notion Press


GENRE: Crime, Thriller & Mystery #rape #sexualassault #rapeculture #metoo #rapevictim #feminism #consent #sexualviolence #sexualabuse #rapesurvivor #women #feminist #love #equality #survivor #womenempowerment #domesticviolence #childabuse #india #nomeansno #rapist #justice #sexualharassment #believesurvivors #supportsurvivors #crime #trauma #abuse #women #violence