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RainbowMan: Aye Item, Suzette! The Woman Who Was Always Judged

Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged

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Women
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I wouldn’t glorify her and put her on a pedestal, for that is not something Suzette Jordan appreciated. She felt suffocated sometimes, and sometimes alienated because of our ways of worshipping her courage. I am referring to her courage to not just speak up against a ghastly crime, but to also give the unseen victim a face and a character. Well, and speaking of character, that’s what was judged always. Beyond courtrooms in coffee tables, in discotheques, in malls or when she was just having a ball – she was judged by her clothes, her brazen attitude and also the glass in her hand. Always judged!

She was thrown out of Ginger Restaurant, because she was a rape victim. She told me she changed houses because people were just being nasty. Anyway, she is so vibrant that it is difficult to confine her to one desk. But in addition to that, she kept losing jobs because of the judgmental attitude of people, or because people would want to get into her pants, but couldn’t bear the fact that in the relationship, she is someone who would wear the pants too, if not always.
Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged
Suzette Jordan (Photo courtesy: Facebook/SuzetteKatrinaJordan)

I remember one such day, over the telephone, she told me “Aye item! Harish, you know what happened, some idiot thought that I was chaalu because I was experienced. He counted my rape as experience. And he had the balls to tell me”

When Suzette told me this I was super pissed. I retorted “Was he someone you knew? Was it a date? So what did you do?”

She said “Not a date. Some random guy who came up to me and was praising me, though not for nothing.”

Suzette was just going to complete, I stopped her. I was irate. “What! Random people come and speak such stuff to you, what did you say?”

Cheer filled the phone line as she said, “I speak nicely, they think they can have me. I just laughed at him and told him… yes, but you seem too small to satisfy me

“And you left from the place right?” I asked.

“Of course, I don’t want to have a repeat telecast with such creeps,” she concluded.

Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged
Suzette Jordan

Such was she. Wary but worldly, cautious, yet unbound. She had creeps around her always, and also many friends. Some of the people she counted as her friends continue to be in touch with her family even now. Like, Jasmeen Patheja from Blank Noise, like, Anuradha Kapoor from Swayam. She had friends, yet she felt lonely at times. She used to tell me, “All these that these ‘’activisty’ people (barring those who she called friends) speak very technical. I just have a story. I will tell my story and try and help anyone I can with it”.

Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged
Suzette Jordan with Aamir Khan (Photo courtesy: Facebook/SuzetteKatrinaJordan)
She knew her story gave people courage. She knew her strengths. She didn’t see herself speaking complex words like misogyny and liberalization of women. Guess that’s why we both bonded. We both believed that personal narratives could change the present narrative. We both knew it was important to speak. She would tell me “Don’t you get tired of speaking”. I would reply “Well, look who’s talking!”

I remember when we sat for some sessions at the THiNK conference, where difficult words were being used, we would look at each other and say “Yaar! Kitna padhaai kiyaaa hai isne” and laugh. I will refrain from spilling more beans on who the speaker was, because I may get into trouble, and she will not have appreciated me shaming someone publicly, if she was alive. That said, we were very politically incorrect. We greeted each other like street-Romeos would chase their Juliets:

“Ayyyyyeee item!!!”

Suzette had her principles. She never wished for money. She could manage with a small sum. At times, when she remembered her days when people thought that her rape was a deal between her and her customer that went wrong, indirectly hinting that she was a commercial sex worker, she would tell me, “I would have been so rich if I did that really… I respect prostitutes, but I don’t need money like that.”

She never wished death on her perpetrators. She said, god will take care of it. She had very few clothes in her wardrobe. She would not make a show of her poverty. She would dress up as hip as she can, even with the little she had. Her only regret regarding money and the attention she got was that she didn’t want her daughters to be denied of anything they wish for.
Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged
Harish Iyer and Suzette Jordan with Robert De Niro at the THiNK Fest (Photo courtesy: Facebook/HarishIyer)

A couple of my friends, Deep and Jeet flew down from Bombay to Goa for the THiNK Fest, as the team offered an event pass (which costed around INR 30,000), when she heard that, she said “I wish I had known, but baba… I can’t afford the flight or even train tickets even if I get the passes”. So when Svati Chakravaty , the joint director of Satyamev Jayate offered to fly down her daughters to be with her during her shoot in Yash Raj studios, Bombay, she was elated. Everything in Satyamev Jayate is a hush hush, but not this one. She called me and said, “My daughters will see your city”. She had heard me speaking about my city with absolute pride. She told me many times that Svati was an angel. Little gestures of love, gave her a lot of solace. She would beam with joy every time someone said a kind word to her or about her. She would attribute it to god.

We had our fair shares of debates too. And man, she was so ziddi. May be that’s why she could bear so much before she could bear no more.

Harish Iyer remembers Suzette Jordan, his ‘item’ who was always judged
My physical meeting with Suzette is confined to the 2 days in the Tehelka THiNK Conference. I have written extensively about how we mocked each other by words “rape victim” used in the most insensitive manner. Not many except my very close friends could see the humour in that. Some cried and thought that we were actually trying to hide our sorrow. Actually, there are unhappy instances in our life. We, but cannot go about crying all our life about it. I want to marry. I want to have boyfriends. I want to have sex.

Though she was upbeat about life most often, she was not unafraid. She knew what was happening around her. She had WhatsApped my lawyer friend saying she had an ominous feeling always though, “But guess, I will die before forty,” she said. She said with utmost conviction “Someone will shoot me, or I will get raped again”. I once told her “Shut up, b!@tch”. She said, “I am the only witness of my crime, Harish... if they killed me, the case will be forgotten.”

Truly speaking, that’s what I thought too. When I saw no coverage close to her verdict date, I sent an angry message to all my media pals. I thought lack of media attention, will let the case slip off against her.

But it didn’t. I don’t have to use the word accused anymore. Her rapists are guilty of her rape. Her rapists are guilty of her rape. Finally. Finally. Finally.

(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals. ‘Rainbow Man’ is Harish’s regular blog for The Quint)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Rape   Women   Suzette Jordan 

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