‘Am I pretty enough to be raped?’ are the unfortunate words a friend uttered one cold evening in that dark alley. Time swallowed her sentence, with dragon like swiftness. I remained quiet. Topic change – how is your new project coming along, love?

Years later, her words daunt me as I place these hands on letters. Yet no amount of well formulated words can be more compelling than the silence of that winter night.

The same alley witnessed a naked running man few years earlier, she complained laughing. While you had gone to meet your friend in his house and I was waiting for you, that nasty guy, with an open woollen coat started running behind me, she said.

‘He ran after me, I ran towards you. Two entire blocks…!’

A large bucket of anxiety, one room of anger and a teaspoon of giggles, her story of a harassing naked man explained. And again, I wonder what she meant when she said, ‘Am I pretty enough to be raped?’ Is she blind to her beauty?

Once I caught the despicable words out of her mouth, I couldn’t help judging her at least for a few hours.

She said, ‘I wonder how ugly people live? Wouldn’t it be difficult? I would kill myself if I looked like that girl!’ looking at a Facebook post.

Like most girls, one day she feels most beautiful. Another day, she calls herself fat, and ugly.

I don’t think she realises that being fat and being ugly are two separate states. Fatness is an index of the body weight. The machine measures it. Ugliness on the other hand is a mind’s dragon. We can claim it as ours or project it onto others in morose hours.

She dances, laughs, feels cute yet calls herself fat and ugly too. Those words, that cold night, they spoke of a pain so great that they identified topics which we would much rather not explain.

In that silence, I told her, dear friend, rape is not about beauty – it is about dominance. The beauty theory leads to loathsome questions like ‘what was s/he wearing?’

They are wrong. As wrong as wrong can be. These questions need to stop because rape is not a joke. Rape is not a phone. Not like when the phone vibrates, your instant reaction is to pick up the call to end the loathsome vibrations. No. It’s more than what appears skin deep, more than what you hear. And I cannot explain in words, for I have many fears. But I know that rape is not about the beauty. I am sure.

If you give consent, that’s a different story for you must know that rape happens even in marriages. And marriage is not consent, just to make it clear.

And if desirability is what you ask for, then dear friend, you are much more. Much more than the skin deep- flesh, finger nails, dress, bra strap, breasts, thighs, slender back and legs.

Woman, you are more than the magazine cover page and more than that beverage. You are more than the advert on the road and more than a machine with a baby’s load. More than a ticking time bomb, of age that dreaded compound.

Ears, you listen. Eyes, you see. Hands, you touch. Legs, you walk. Yet that’s not all. You are much more than this question and forgive me for I cannot dignify it with a response. Forgive me for I have dignified it because you want.

There is no such thing as being pretty enough, forget those brands. Those women, with perfectly chiseled features, are only to fool. Your scars are your wands. Those stretch marks scream that you have stretched your body to far more than it can be; can’t you see you are already much more?

You can ride the world in pride with parts you consider as your imperfections. May those be badges of honours as scars always have stories to tell, they say.

It would be fine too, if you feel like you are not good enough, it’s okay. We all have those days. But, when you get back to that road on another winter night, remember.  Next time you cross that alley, remember, you and solely you are the one that lights up that dark alley. Your light illuminates.