Women’s Day and A Frightening Secret
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A well respected senior, a social celebrity, walked in with his daughter. Cultured, proud people. Probably highly educated and rich. While he was richly dressed in a traditional Indian attire, she wore a saree. Many phone calls had told me since a day prior that he was very important, and that I must make sure he doesn’t have to wait. They sat down cautiously, the daughter in her late twenties looking at the floor.
“Doctor, my daughter is behaving strangely, she is not speaking normally with any of us, and seems lost since last two months. She has a lot of giddiness and has not slept for many days now. We have seen many doctors, done all the tests advised, but no one has been able to tell us what’s wrong. You see her and tell me if you can help.” Somehow the father was intimidating. I asked the patient her name. The father replied. I asked her about her complaints. He replied again. It is often very difficult to make a woman speak in the Indian scenario. I politely asked the father: “Could you please let her reply?”.
She replied in single words, mostly yes or no. She appeared to have given up. It is indeed tough to deal with such ‘mentally closed’ patients. I obtained her permission for a clinical examination and found nothing abnormal.
“Are you stressed ?” I asked what was inevitable now. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The father repied promptly: “There’s nothing to stress about, doctor. She works as a lecturer at a prestigious institute, we are quite well off, and although we want her to marry soon, she refuses to meet anyone. We are okay with that too, we are in no hurry. I dont think there’s any stress here. She just needs to be mentally strong. She has lost her will power”.
At this point the daughter looked up at her father, begging him to stop.”I have done whatever you asked. I came to every doctor you took me to. I am not weak. Please stop all this now, I will recover in few days”. I sensed something wrong here. I asked her if she wanted to speak in privacy and confidence, offering a nurse to attend instead of her father. Her father was visibly annoyed at the suggestion, and terribly surprised when she said yes. With a firm face, she said “Can I speak with the doctor alone for a few minutes, Baba?”. Her father walked out. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Doc, I don’t know what to do. I am in a terrible situation. As you see, everyone is scared of my father, so no one tried to speak to me in privacy prior. To be able to trust you, I need your word that you will never tell my father about this discussion. If you cannot keep that word, it is best that I don’t speak with you about my problem”. This was a common request. A doctor’s first loyalty is to his / her patient. I reassured her that whatever she speaks won’t go beyond me, and also told her that she should be completely honest and open, that I was not here to judge her but to help her.
She paused, embarassed. The stress and shame of what she was going to say reddened her face. She sipped some water and took a deep breath.
“Okay doc. Five years ago, I was in love with a classmate of mine. He is from a well known politician’s family, and we were very close. We were planning to marry after a few years. He had alcohol frequently, but had promised me he would stop after marriage.”
She paused again, now tears in her eyes. “Please don’t misunderstand doc, but like all other lovers of our age we exchanged naked pictures and video clips. We also recorded some of our own, making love. As my father often checked my phone, I deleted everything immediately. I told him too to delete them, but apparently he stored them. After a few months I found out that his alcohol addiction had become worse, and he was going around with another girl, so I stopped seeing him immediately. He never cared, and he married someone his parents had chosen”.
“However, three months ago, out of the blue he called me and asked me to meet at his home as his wife had left him. I refused. Now he is threatening that if I do not meet him he will upload my nude pics and videos on the internet. Their’s is a very strong and rich political family, I know he can do anything and get away with it. You just met my father, you can imagine his reaction to this. My family is proud of me, but they will never accept or forgive me for what I have done. I feel ashamed, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I am loved where I work, my students look up to me as a teacher. All is on the verge of being lost for me now. I feel like I should permanently disappear. I don’t know what to do” and she let out all the sobs she had held for months.
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This wasn’t new to me. While virtual exchange of ‘love’ in form of nudity and self recorded sex between couples is a reality of current times, it strongly contrasts with the social preparedness for it. Our society is not only orthodox, but shamefully, violently critical of anything that offends their cultural tastes that vary from family to family. An exchange of such nudity between couples in love is their personal choice and preference, no one should feel offended by it. However the dilemma of its correctness arises when situations of such blackmail as mentioned above create catastrophic consequences.
Many women (and I am sure even men) face threats of their privately exchanged nudity being exposed. This rampant blackmail that extorts anything from money, sexual favours etc. to various other compulsions are a nightmare turning into a reality now. Although the cyber-crime cells admirably track down the culprits, the victims still go through a lot of humiliation till then. Many victims do not know where to get help, and women’s organisations, NGOs need to reassuringly come forth with plans that ensure complete privacy and confidentiality of the sufferer. What offends most is the callous allegations of cheapness, wrongdoing , shame and derision with which our society criticises the victim. Some people and many in media actually take a perverted interest in exploring private nudity and sex, as if looking for certificates of their own piousness in someone else’s ‘moral adventures’. ©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I told my patient that we could help her, and handed over the case to a female counsellor who is well versed with such cases. Although she has proper connections in the cyber crime department, usually this is not required, as the threatening cowards usually come to their knees oncethey know that the victim has someone’s support. The last I heard, the matter is resolved.
Stronger laws to respect privacy, stronger punishments for those who use such threats to their ex-lovers and a social revolution to accept the realities of today and reassure the victims rather than shaming them are essential. A complete ban on reporting of such cases as “Spicy News”in media is awaited.
On this Women’s day, I humbly bow to the higher gender, the mother and the sister, the wife and the best friend called woman. Only what a man learns from a woman makes him the man that he is, and in that, she is the teacher: of patience, of modesty, of hard work and sacrifise, and the soul of true love.
©️Dr. Rajas Deshpande
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I truly respect a woman’s freedom, and her ability and right to defend it. My views above are to express that respect. I am not a socio-cultural legal expert and certainly not a moral judge. Never mean to offend anyone.