And shall I take a thing so blind, Embrace her as my natural good; Or crush her, like a vice of blood, Upon the threshold of the mind?

The gang rape of a young woman in Delhi last month continues to consume public and private discussions.  Some of you may have read details of the rape in the NYT or WSJ.  Six men attacked the woman on a bus, raped and assaulted her with an iron bar and threw her naked onto a road, along with her male companion who was beaten unconscious.  Her injuries were severe and shocking, the damage was fatal and she died two weeks after the rape.  Doctors say it was a small miracle that she held on for so long.

One poignant detail is that the victim was on her way home from a movie theater where she watched the survival story, Life of Pi.  The film is about a boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.  It is also a tale contrived to mask an unthinkable truth.

The unthinkable truth of the victim’s attack mirrors the fears of many woman in Delhi.  Women are not safe here for a slew of reasons, some easier to fix than others:  poor and insensitive policing, unenforced rape laws, traditional values clashing with modernization, misogyny… to name a few sweeping problems.

And people are angry.  Large numbers of protestors met for weeks demanding action.  The government was spooked enough to deploy riot police and paramilitary troops.   They closed streets and public transport to block access to government buildings and popular protest sites.

One of the more controversial public demands is the death penalty for rape.  India already has capital punishment for murder in the “rarest of rare” cases.  This means that a crime must be exceptional and heinous to warrant a death ruling.  In December, India hanged  one of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks after years of appeals.

The protests have ceased but the dialogue hasn’t.  The rape still tops the news and people are discussing it from classrooms to dinner parties.  An old friend, Mark Magnier of the LA Times, called me naïve this weekend when I told him that I couldn’t understand why the attack was so savage…so inhuman.

Our conversation tried to make sense of factors that may have led to the crime.  The accused lived on the margins of Delhi’s booming economy in poor urban villages.  Some cocktail of poverty, anger, ignorance, drink and according to Mark, the anonymity the city offers, (and other factors) fed the beasts who raped and killed this woman.

Still, I don’t get it.  Maybe I need an alternative tale or some other narrative to help me comprehend this unthinkable truth.


I have no graceful way to seque into Kenya other than to say that we are blessed to have shared this holiday adventure with our dear friends and former Beijing and India neighbors, Kristi and Nathan Belete.  Thank you for introducing us to your childhood home and new posting.

Kenya!  I was bowled-over by the landscape and the diversity of flora and fauna.  The red earth around Nairobi and the black earth of the Rift Valley oozes richness and fertility.

We celebrated two weeks in Nairobi, Maasai Mara game reserve, and Mombasa.  I let the photos say the rest:

6 thoughts on “And shall I take a thing so blind, Embrace her as my natural good; Or crush her, like a vice of blood, Upon the threshold of the mind?”

  1. Oh, Theo, these photos are magnificent! Lucky you all to have seen all that! Please give my best to Nathan and Kristi the next time you are in contact.

    re your opening – the rape and death have been big news here, too. I remember reading in your many home-delivered papers in Delhi about the many rapes and other forms of violence against women that made daily news there but receive little or no mention here. The constellation of cultural and religious traditions that contribute to the diminished role of women are, of course, partly to blame. You had mentioned once before about male sexual repression creating the potential for explosive scenarios, and that, too, must play a part. I’m reading Beyond all the Beautiful Forevers now and Katherine Boo catalogues many an unthinkable truth in her writing about a slum in Mumbai. Does India seem to have more than its share of UTs? It often seems that way.

    btw -are they really elephants on the beach??? Could not enlarge the photos and would love to do so to see you all in more detail. Still waiting for the video of Lala!
    Love to all,

  2. barbara: i took the photos out of gallery setting so that you can enlarge – not sure why that didn’t work in the mosaic, but i’ll go to my technical experts at work and fiddle with that.

    boo’s book really bugged me, though i thought it was excellent. i hated not liking a single character… and it left me feeling hopeless – that india will never change.

    the elephants on the beach were in Thailand. see the photo caption….

    as for the rape, yes, men are undersexed here – Big problem!

  3. Always enjoy your writing. I have nothing to contribute regarding the rape as I am still stunned and left with no words. My heart does ache for her family and for the loss of her, and their, dreams of a fulfilling and successful life. Love the photos. What a great adventure. XO

  4. Love the photos of Kenya…we were there before Kristi moved back. We visited many of the same places and the photos bring back great memories. It must be one of the most beautiful places on earth. I’m glad you were able to experience it with good friends, it must have made the experience even more wonderful, if that is possible.

    The rape was horrible, and really brought this terrible situation,or attitude to light. There was significant coverage by the German press, as well as the English speaking news sites here.

    Always enjoy your blogs, thanks for writing them.

  5. love and happiness, beautiful friend. the mosaic of pictures is a perfect compilation of our time together…might have to make another little memory book for another amazing holiday.

    come back to africa soon, soon.

    we miss you guys!

  6. The researchers may state various reasons from drugs, alcohol, violent projection on the silver screen to an addiction to porn or difficult childhood but ultimately the it’s the victim that suffers more. Unfortunately our society is such that apart from undergoing from the unthinkable ordeal of the crime itself, the victim also has to face the social stigma and ostracism. Instead of compassion, she’s treated with contempt, the main reason why more than 50% o0f the rapes go unreported. From the time she goes to file a report when she is bombarded with uncomfortable questions, we often see even her face is covered along with the accused, as if she is also guilty of something. There is also a pompous school of thought that firmly believes that “ she must have asked for it.” Sicker still is the mentality of those people who think getting her married to the rapist is the solution. It never is and it never can be a solution. The only solution is punishment. Proper severe punishment that should be given as soon as possible.

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