Mission Delhi – Madhusudan Srivastava, Vasundhara
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
An amateur musician, he is sitting silently on the stairs. The Delhi Walla meets Madhusudan Srivastava in an apartment complex in suburban Vasundhra. “My friend and I have composed a song; you may hear it on Youtube,” he says. “It’s dedicated to Nirbhaya.”
In his 20s, Mr Srivasatva, a software engineer in a multinational company, is referring to the symbolic name of a 24-year-old woman described in newspapers as ‘the Delhi gang rape victim’. In December 2012, she was returning home with her friend after watching Ang Lee’s Life of Pi at a multiplex in south Delhi’s Select Citywalk mall when she was raped and violently assaulted by four men in a moving bus. She died within a fortnight in a hospital in Singapore but not before horrifying millions of Indians. (I wrote the poem The Girl in the Bus here).
Mr Srivastava, too, was affected.
“I was traumatized on hearing about the incident, more so after knowing the brutality of the attack,” he says. “I would read about the case on every website and blog. I would watch every TV bulletin on it. Like most of my friends, I too was cursing the rapists and the government. We would often talk about it in our office, too. However, a few months later, our everyday conversations were returning to usual things. I started feeling frustrated.”
Looking towards the wall, an emotional Mr Srivastava stays silent for a moment. “You know I love writing song lyrics,” he says. “One night I was trying to write a new song. I had a tune in mind but was struggling with the theme, and then I came across a video on Facebook about the beautiful relationship between a father and a daughter. I decided to write a song on this lovely bond. I realized this was my chance as an artist to deal with my helplessness concerning Nirbhaya’s tragedy.
“It took me two weeks to finish this song. There were moments when I cried. I even went to the place where Nirbhaya boarded that chartered bus. Sometimes I think… if only she had delayed reaching that stand by a minute, then she would have missed that bus…”
After dressing up his lyrics with a sentimental melody, Mr Srivastava shared his composition with his musician friend Swapnil. He loved it. The principal phrase of the song, written in Hindi, was: ‘Tasvir banke hi sahi, ab tujhe sukun toh hai (You are now just a photo, but at least you must be at peace)’.
“Swapnil and I decided to add English lines, too,” says Mr Srivastva. “We performed the song at a music competition in our office. Some of my colleagues were crying.”
Indeed, the way people have responded to this woman’s rape and subsequent murder is unprecedented. The Indian army soldiers have raped women and men in secessionist Kashmir and Manipur for years – that has shaken the conscience of very few in Delhi. The horrific incident in the bus, however, was not sanctified with any nationalistic cause; it was also not the traditional Indian gang rape of a Dalit woman by high-caste men. The attack in the bus was simply a mad act of brute violence targeted against no one in particular – that young woman just happened to be there. She became a victim – and then labeled our hero – by accident. Any of us could have been in her place.
“I remember somebody asking me why write a song about that rape when such crimes take place in our villages all the time,” says Mr Srivastava. “It got me thinking. I dived deep into my soul and there I got the answer – I feel so strongly about this particular tragedy because I relate to it. It occurred at a place where I could have been the one boarding the bus with that girl on 16 December 2012. That girl could have been my sister or friend. And it happened in Delhi, my own city.”
[You may hear the song here.]
[This is the 80th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
An artist in our violent world