A Story of Rape and Retribution
Rating: 4.5 stars on 5
There are a few books that don’t just tell stories, they become journeys and move with you wherever you go. Kirtida Gautam’s #IAm16ICanRape easily falls into that category. This story is a grand exposition of rape from all possible points of view, and it is something that can change one’s perspective of this crime forever.
The basic story is of Aarush Kashyap, a very handsome and intelligent 16-year-old boy, who lives with his grandparents in Bangalore. He is spoiled silly by his coaching class owner of a grandfather, Rudransh Kashyap, who is referred to as RK-Ji, and his grandmother Gayatri. Growing up in luxury, he does not know right from wrong. The celebrations for his sixteenth birthday are planned at a very opulent scale, and just then, the sky collapses. He is accused of raping a 25-year-old woman, Subhangi Tyagi.
The story begins from that point, and is written in a very experimental style. It uses the points of view of almost all the characters associated with the incident to tell the story of the rape and its aftermath. Some of the characters that speak about the incident are Aarush himself, Subhangi, Rudransh, Gayatri, Aarush’s parents, Subhangi’s friends, the lawyers, the counselors, and even a waiter who is an accomplice in the crime.
Slowly, like opening an onion layer-by-layer, Kirtida Gautam eviscerates the brutal story of rape. The readers come to know how this crime affects the survivor, the rapist, the media, the law, and everyone who is associated with it. We often see rape, or any crime, with only one perspective—ours. But this story makes us put ourselves in several boots and see what it really is.
The book is peppered with several quotes that could fill up a small booklet. I won’t mention the quotes here because most of them are in context. However, most of these quotable quotes are going to stay with you for a long time.
Among the characters, two of them really stand out. Aarush Kashyap, the young boy who goes terribly wrong, and Rudransh Kashyap, his grandfather who thinks he is responsible for the mess. The devolvement of Aarush from a headstrong boy who calls his grandfather Bob and grandmother Budhiya (old woman) to a person who cries for forgiveness but doesn’t get it is shown beautifully. At the same time, the devolvement of Rudransh from the blindly doting grandfather (almost like Dhritarashtra) to one who crusades against injustice even at the cost of losing his kin (almost like Bheeshma) is an epic transformation.
Unlike most other rape stories, #IAm16ICanRape does not end at the court’s judgment. It goes beyond, and tells how almost everybody involved in the rape directly and indirectly are punished in their own way. Even Rudransh decides to carry a bag weighing 20 kilos on his shoulders for the rest of his life to indicate that he could not correct his grandson when there was time.
There are a few grouses though, but they are actually disguised strengths of this book. One of them is the considerable use of psychology which could befuddle a layperson. But someone who understands psychology will lap up these parts. The second issue is the length, which I understand is needed when you are writing a story from so many POVs, but it might deter a few readers.
Mostly, do not think this is a book written to titillate. The rape is depicted in the most gruesome of ways, the way it should, and its aftermath is sensitively handled. It is clear that Kirtida Gautam has put a lot of effort into writing this book, and it clearly shows.
A definite read. This book could be a game-changer in days to come.
Get the eBook here.