Oh, Where Have All the Leaders Gone!
—Bulbul Bahuguna, M.D.
In the last few weeks India’s most prestigious medical school, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and my alma-mater I might parenthetically add, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Last Friday, a six-year old girl was brought to the Institute with her throat slit after allegedly being gang-raped and left to die in a public toilet in Delhi. While the girl is still in coma, the early medical reports suggest that the little girl had made gallant attempts to resist her perpetrators.
Only a couple of weeks ago, AIIMS’ trauma unit admitted a four-year old girl who was locked up in captivity by her neighbors and gang-raped while she bled and subsequently slipped into a coma. She was playing outside her slum dwelling where she lived with her parents—both migrant laborers. While her parents were toiling to make a living, two male neighbors—also migrant workers—were allegedly getting drunk and aroused watching porn on their mobile phones. They eventually lured the four-year into a house and raped her repeatedly over multiple days. Thanks to the promptness shown by Delhi Police in this instance, the girl was located within 48 hours of filing the missing-child report and the culprits were apprehended soon after. Thankfully, the girl’s vital signs are making excellent progress at The Institute.
Sadly, the vital signs of India are not doing as well. The country is witnessing an endemic of girl-child rapes. The recent spate of rapes has been both repulsive and blood curdling. And the Indian masses are not indifferent to this scourge. They, too, are frustrated by how little is being achieved through their own ongoing and relentless protests. Who will change the recalcitrant mindset that allows for such heinous acts to continue unabated? Where is that imaginative leader who can jolt their collective moral compass in the right direction so they can all march forward?
More than at any other time since independence, India now needs a leader with the requisite selflessness and moral persuasion. Our political leaders look at the masses as ‘voters’ and the business leaders as ‘consumers.’ India needs a practical yet imaginative leader: a cunning yet noble trailblazer. India needs a Mahatma Gandhi—no less. A leader who will impel the Indian masses to start a new ‘Salt March’ to eliminate the hackneyed and unjust laws that currently protect the perpetrators for extended periods under the garb of ‘due process.’ She, or he, will galvanize the masses to vote political leaders in—solely based on their contribution and dedication toward the eradication of girl sex-abuse. The leader will implore the masses to buy products based on a company’s track record on this issue. Yes, you got it right. The next few election cycles will have to be based on this single issue. He, or she, will make it totally cost-prohibitive to ignore the issue of girl sex-abuse for both political and business elites. People will step in to become ‘mentor-adopters’ to other four, six and eight-year olds in slums across the nation. So that these girl-children feel like they belong. So that those potential perpetrators do not eye these innocent victims as unowned readily-available commodities.
I do not see a leader in this mold today. With a wish and a prayer, in my heart I hope that I am wrong.
Excerpt from the novel by Bulbul Bahuguna, The Ghosts That Come Between Us:
“My back always felt itchy and Daddy would give me backrubs. Daddy always gave the best backrubs. I would put my head on his shoulders. His chest felt warm and comfortable. His armpits had this nice Daddy smell. It felt so good to circle my arm around his broad shoulders and feel his love. Later, he started to loop his leg around me as well, and I would return the favor. Soon it became a leisurely pastime — he would roll me over himself to one side and then roll me back. He would then roll me back again. It was our own private game. Then he would circle my body with his strong legs and hold me there for a while.
It felt special to be held like that. So close. So safe. Nothing could bother me here. Nobody could hurt me now. I was alone. Alone with Daddy. It was our special time together. It was meant only for me.
It was around this time, I think, when I first started to bite my nails. It was also around this time, I now know, that innocence ended for me. Forever.
I had just turned nine.”
The Ghosts That Come Between Us can be ordered at www.amazon.com. The e-book format is available for Kindle as well as Nook.
Bulbul Bahuguna, M.D. is the author of the novel, The Ghosts That Come Between Us. She is a psychiatrist with over 20 years of experience treating victims of abuse. Dr. Bahuguna is on staff at NorthShore University Health Systems, which is affiliated with The University of Chicago and Mayo Clinic. She is a National Trustee of American India Foundation — a leading charity involved in accelerating social change in India.