As a child, I went to school and wrote essays about the peaceful co-existence of religion and the celebration of festivals across 'India'. It painted a vibrant picture in my mind. It was vibrant. Back then. Today, that vibrancy is dead, with a shroud lying upon it.
Today, there is no peaceful co-existence; there's just communal tension over the kidnapping, gang-rape and brutal murder of an 8-year-old girl. 8 YEARS OLD. Let that sink in.
What were you doing when you were 8 years old?
Riding your bicycle, studying, making friends and attending school as you dreamed about growing up some day? And you did.
But, that poor girl didn't. She was gagged, kidnapped, drugged, raped, tortured and murdered. All this, under a temple - a place of God, a place of holiness, a place of worship. A place where people come to wash away their sins is where men sinned.
If there is an all-forgiving God, today, I hope that God DOES NOT FORGIVE. I hope that God makes this one exception for the sake of a young innocent child whose only fault was that she was innocent!
I used to boast about India being a social, sovereign country. I used to rattle the Preamble of the Indian Constitution with a sense of pride. Today, I'm speechless, hurt and heartbroken.
Every time that I read a newspaper, scroll through my social media feed is every time that her face haunts me, asking me if there will be justice. And every time I see her face, I feel a gut-wrenching sense of helplessness that I cannot do anything about.
The fact that in 'a social sovereign country', we have an angry mob on two sides of a line - one demanding punishment for all the accused, and the other, siding with the accused parties, justifying the religious sentiment that made for the pretext of the rape.
We - not they - are justifying the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl because of religious undercurrents! WE ARE JUSTIFYING NOT JUST RAPE; BUT, GANG-RAPE. AND ALSO, MURDER.
I say 'We' because when the history books are written and when the world talks about the incident - and they will - they won't say 'they' sided with the wrong. They will say: INDIA sided with the wrong! We do not get to excuse ourselves from this!
It's not just the question of a social media post, in the hope that the country's honourable Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will have a change of heart and speak up against the horrendous crime and the accused. It's about the fact that we've elected a government we had faith in, with the hope that good days will come - 'Acche din aayenge', as they said.
But, is this the price we pay for the good days? For the growing economy, for the great FDI, for the job opportunities and better living standards?
As I write this, my hands are trembling, my heart is pounding and my eyes are tearing up. I am angry and I am hurt. What hurts me is the incident that I wish had NOT happened and yet, it did. What angers me is my own helplessness.
Who do you turn to when one of the accused was a special police officer who requested to keep her alive so he could rape her one last time?
Who do you worship when the caretaker of a temple conspired the kidnapping, torture and the murder?
What kindness do we seek when one of the accused was invited from Meerut just so he could 'satisfy his lust' by raping an 8-year-old girl?
What do we do when one half of a nation actually justifies the rape in the name of some version of a God they've created?
No amount of words I utter will be enough to explain how I feel - how every woman and child should feel - right now. Today, I cannot write about the land of cultural diversity. Today, I can only lament about the land of communal monstrosity.
Today, I grieve, not just for the victim. I grieve for a humanity that no longer exists. I grieve for the unborn children that every woman promises not to have because there is no safety for their innocence. And for the children who will never be able to enjoy their innocence in the sun. And for parents who wish they never had children.
Today, I grieve for her - no, she isn't a Muslim, or a girl child, or belonging to a lower caste. Today, she is India.
And so, I grieve for an India that is dead.
May we never rest in peace.