'Shalini, don’t shout'
A Personal Nightmare of Assault in India
By SHALINI KANTAYYA, NYT
In a hotel in southern India, in the midst of a dreamless sleep, I awoke inside a nightmare. I heard someone screaming. I’m not sure how much time passed before I realized that it was my scream.
I had traveled to India on behalf of a U.S.-based organization to film a documentary about political street theatre and how art is used as a tool for social change. It was the continuation of field research that I had begun as a William J. Fulbright Scholar. As a second-generation American born to parents who emigrated from India, I felt a sense of pride that I could use my role as a filmmaker to serve as a cultural ambassador between the two largest democracies in the world.
But I found myself awake in this nightmare, with a man violently gripping my mouth shut, attempting to rape me. I was biting and kicking, using every ounce of my energy to fight for my life. My mouth was badly bleeding and in the struggle we fell to the floor. He continued to violently grab my face, and said, “Shalini, don’t shout.” He knew my name. I recognized him as the hotel waiter who served my dinner that night.