India is the best? Not really

Falak is a two-year old baby girl. In her short lifespan, she has already gone through what no one should ever have to go through, let alone a helpless child. She has undergone four brain surgeries at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), is on ventilator support and is fighting infections in her brain. Even if she recovers, she will probably never live a normal life because of the damage to her brain. Exactly a month ago, she was brought to AIIMS, battered, with a broken skull and bite marks all over her body. Just the thought of what she went through, what she must have felt when these horrific injuries were inflicted on her, is enough to get anyone trembling with anger and sadness and the hopelessness of her situation.

I have been following her story ever since I first heard about it. What seemed like a case of severe child abuse at first, has morphed into something much bigger as the story has unravelled. It is a story about human trafficking, poverty and crimes against women. Falak’s mother was sold to get married and have 3 kids at a young age. When her “husband” passed away, she was made to abandon her children and marry someone else. Someone she knew was supposed to take care of the children and send them back to her once she got settled in her new life. Instead, the kids got separated and moved from one place to another to stay with different people.

Falak eventually landed with a 15-year-old girl who was the victim of abuse herself and was not mentally stable. This is the girl who allegedly beat Falak up and then brought her to the hospital claiming she was her daughter and had fallen from the bed. Ever since then, Falak has the attention of the media, NGOs and government authorities. She is getting the best treatment at government’s expense. Thousands of people are probably praying for her and thousands would be ready to adopt her to give her the life she deserves. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for her.

One cannot help but wonder how such huge gaps can exist in the same society. On one hand there is the India that is growing by leaps and bounds and finding its niche in the world. There are women who are educated, confident and empowered enough to live life the way they want to. India currently has a woman president and countless women in high power positions. We even had a much-loved (and equally hated by some) woman Prime Minister almost 50 years ago, who I believe was one of the most powerful  women of the world in 20th century. On the other hand, there are heinous crimes like female infanticide, honor killings and human trafficking. On one hand, there are the Kiran Bedis and the Barkha Dutts, and on the other, there are the Falaks of India.

The day when the Kiran Bedis will outnumber the Falaks will be the day I will proudly say that India is the best.. and mean it too.

Note: To find out more about baby Falak and the case, go here.

PS (2/28/2012): Just wanted to clarify the title of this post because I didn’t do a good job at that the first time. The Falak incident occurred shortly before India’s Republic Day when everyone starts posting patriotic stuff (rightfully so) on their social networking sites, especially if they live outside of India. We claim that India is the best (and in a way, it is, for us). We prefer to shut our eyes to the dark side of India pretending it doesn’t exist, let alone trying to do anything to change it. It was the irony of that simple statement that many of us have used many times – “India is the best” that struck me, and hence the title of this post.

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