March 19, 2015
As appeared on The Newsminute.
My only real memory of her- as innocuous as it is – is of her gulping down gol gappas at a roadside stall in Irla market, Andheri. We settled on the name gol gappas, as a middle ground in the quintessential pani puri vs puchka debate. “Na tera, na mera,” she said. The language of bargaining stays universal, I chuckled in my mind. Now, almost a year later, when Suzette Jordan is no more, I realize that she didn’t fight to be the solitary winner. She bargained for a collective victory. Rarely do you meet people, who, within a day, leave you affected for life. Even though I had heard of Suzette, I met her, for the first time only a day before her shoot for the show, Satyamev Jayate, in January 2014. Since our co-director, Svati Bhatkal, who Suzette had come to trust immensely, was slated to be elsewhere, I stepped in to shoot a short video with her on the streets of Mumbai. But Suzette chose the people she wanted herself exposed to. In those few moments when Svati introduced us, I felt she chose to let me in, briefly as it may be. We spontaneously form opinions about people from behind the video wall. And Suzette made judging her absolutely effortless. But, she also made sovereignty look effortless. Her five-inch stilettos, body hugging jeans, deep crimson lips and her wild nappy mane screamed liberation. She didn’t fit our ‘ideal’ rape victim/survivor image. None of it was because she wasn’t aware of the stories being woven around her, but it was despite all of that. At least that’s the opinion I had formed about her, from behind the video wall. But there is so much more to a visual that gets faded in a broadcast. Throughout that day, it felt like Suzette clung on to me for support. She would casually slip her elbow into mine and walk like little girls in a crowded market. I, on the other hand – a consequence of childhood sexual abuse – am involuntarily protective about my personal space, even with heterosexual women. I wondered why does a woman, so liberated, need constant comfort? It escaped me how she forged a bond, so easily, that allowed me into her space? Was she really the pillar of strength that I had envisioned her to be, or was she just as afraid as the rest of us? Finding strength in someone else is more convenient than carrying the torch of the brave and fearless. Seeing Suzette break down, several times through that day, and expose her vulnerabilities was unsettling. The more I scratch the surface of my discomfort, the clearer I see how we choose everyday conveniences over a good fight. Somewhere down the line we’ve come to believe that struggling against injustices needs a strength that mustn’t bow down to pain. But pain births struggle. Suzette harnessed her pain and gave meaning to her hardihood. In announcing her name to the world, Suzette perhaps, knew that decision would come to haunt her again and again. Nevertheless, she ordained herself with person-hood. Not as the country’s daughter, sister, mother, friend, fearless, or any other prefix. Suzette was a bona fide individual and in being so, she had bargained for that collective victory of all individuals of the country. Her death, amidst all her struggles and sufferings, inflicted upon her by institutions that were meant to stand by her fight for justice, hits like a drone. It shatters the assumption that there will always be people carrying that torch forward, until you see each one of them, falling, one by one, and suddenly the burden of responsibility becomes inescapable. Suzette Katrina Jordan has left us with very heavy shoulders. #SuzetteJordan #Survivor #Justice #India #Struggle #SatyamevJayate