What I learned from Suzette Jordan, India’s most famous rape survivor—and my mother

Image: Reuters/Wong Campion
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Suzette Jordan, 40, was a woman’s rights activist and a rape survivor. She died of meningoencephalitis in a hospital in Kolkata on March 13. In February 2012, Jordan was gang-raped in a moving car in Kolkata’s Park Street area. In 2013, she boldly revealed her identity on news channels. “I am tired of hiding my real identity… I am tired of feeling scared because I have been raped. Enough is enough,” she told the BBC. She is survived by two daughters. Below is an essay written by one of her daughters. 

Inspiration comes from people who work hard enough to win Nobel prizes, people who raise money for charity for different causes, people like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi, and the too many soldiers who gave up their lives to fight for this country.

Inspiration also comes from people who do good in the world and magically combust, and people who walk on the moon and climb Mount Everest. I wish I could be inspired by such great people, but all they do is make me feel content that I live in such a world where everything is possible—even flying for instance. Everyone aspires to be one of these people, but my reality is different. The only person I dreamed to be like is my mother.

She had her bad days, never completed her education, she’d drink, she’d smoke, she’d sometimes get into my clothes too, she had 21 tattoos and a whole lot of scars from mutilation, she was a rebel, she never had a permanent job.

But my mother was one of a kind. She taught me to believe in myself: “Never is it important to fit in, it’s okay to stand out, and enjoy the view,” she’d say. There have been days where we never had any money, not a rupee at home to eat. “It’s okay,” she’d smile reassuringly, “at least we have each other.”

Suzette Jordan-Kolkata-Gang-rape
Suzette Jordan was bold and courageous.
Image: Youtube/Satyamev Jayate

Suzette Katrina Jordan was my mama’s name. She had her own perspective, her own logic as to how life should be lived. She was incontestably stubborn and unbelievably broad-minded. She believed in being real, like the beauty of waking up at noon and looking ugly from the smeared makeup, she believed in the twinkle of someone’s eyes and the glow on their faces, when they spoke of something they loved, the truth, like a visitor at our place and their reaction to an untidy house and an unmade bed, or a sudden skip of a heartbeat when the favourite character in a movie died.

My mama taught my sister and I to live for the small moments, moments like our first kiss, the adrenaline rush during a thrilling moment. She taught us to work hard just to be able enough to fight this world. She taught us that no work makes you big or small, and no job defines you. Mama taught me to stay humble, “No matter how much money, pride or ego we have, all our coffins are made the same size.”

Words fall short and pages less to describe the woman I was brought up by. She was the only person I know who has from the beginning till the very end been true to herself, and learned from her mistakes, even though she made one too many of them.

She showed me that no one is perfect, and that we shouldn’t judge anyone. Sure my mother taught me things the hard way, but at least now I know that even when I’m all alone and have nothing, I will always have myself, the one that I’m true to and at peace with, the part of me that won’t make me feel so at a distance from myself. When I grow up I want to be like my mother, be real. Would you dare to? What do you have to lose?

This post first appeared on The Ladies Finger. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.