My friendship with Suzette began via Facebook, a few days after the incident.
The media had done a terrible job of concealing her identity, as a result of which a friend identified her as being the sister of a classmate. Suzette replied to my message and we began communicating about her situation, how she was feeling, and about the way forward.
She was upset with the intrusive manner in which some people had approached her, in the hope of acquiring “details”, and spoke angrily about the lectures she was receiving about her lifestyle and life choices. From the online backlash to the comments passed by various officials, it appeared as if the survivor of the crime was responsible for the commission of it rather than the perpetrators.
One of the first words I taught her was “boktobbo”, which she attempted to pronounce a few times, only to burst into peals of laughter upon not quite managing to master it. We bonded over a common dislike for opinionators and certain people in power, and our first conversation concluded with the promise that she would keep fighting. Formality walked out the door and friendship walked in, building the base for a unique kind of sisterhood between two complete strangers.
Suzette, the Fighter
To me, Suzette was someone who could be relied on in times of extreme need. I would become frustrated with the manner in which some people were dealing with the case, and she would pipe up with a politically incorrect joke or an anecdote from her life. The only thing we could do after that would involve further jokes and much laughter.
She was a fighter through and through, and was one even before the infamous incident. Much has been written about her past, and even more has been speculated over. Indeed, she led a life filled with fun, laughter, family, friends, and the various ups and downs which one would expect to experience and endure over the course of ones natural life.
What is different about her is the fact that she made no bones about her life and her choices. Her philosophy was simple; you only live once, therefore make the most of your time. She admitted to having made some poor choices, and did not shy away from or attempt to paint a rosy picture of her life and it’s reality.
She never allowed her trauma to faze her, or dim her spirit and undying zest for life. The Suzette Jordan before the incident and the Suzette Jordan post-incident were the same, the only difference being that she was perhaps stronger and a little wiser.
I always found it astonishing that she still trusted people, and will venture to state that this trusting nature of hers scared me a little. She did not clam up or cut off from people, and continued to welcome new friends and associates into her life without for once worrying about their intentions. I voiced my concerns about this but she brushed them off in true Suzette style, and said “they may be good or evil but I will always be me”. One could not possibly argue with that, and she was very very headstrong about matters pertaining to friends and family.
Suzette, the Spirit
She was never the kind to put on a show for the cameras; her WYSIWYG personality was unwavering throughout. She was fearless, unapologetic, and perhaps an unwitting but effective feminist. She was not trained or coached to say certain things or offer certain perspectives, which is what made her mature, honest responses all the more endearing.
Anyone else would have lost their cool if their trauma was trivialised and ridiculed in the manner that hers was, but she stood her ground and responded with dignity. Despite the many rumours and inaccuracies which went around, what remains as a fact, is that Suzette had a lot more to her than she was given credit for.
Indeed, there was more to Suzette that she herself did not give herself due credit for either. I do not think that she ever realised just how impactful a force she had become. The incident could have broken her spirit, instead she became a one-woman army, an example of how faith in ones self can enable healing from trauma.
For me, she was a constant reminder as to how to take time out and enjoy life, instead of working all the time. She would joke and say “we will never meet, darling, we are in a long distance relationship in the same city, Behala is Bombay and Salt Lake is Singapore”. It is most unfortunate that her words rang true; we planned an actual meeting eight times, and the meeting never happened.
Technology however, came to the rescue and our sisterhood developed quickly as time progressed. She had good days and bad days, and then there were the days when she questioned her decision to speak out publicly. The questioning had nothing to do with her, but had everything to do with her concerns regarding the safety and future of her family. She expressed concerns regarding them, and we would talk about whom to call in the event of an emergency; “who is the least harmful protector” was one of our most common topics of discussion.
Suzette, the Inspiration
Her death came as a bolt from the blue; I do not think that anyone expected her to pass away so soon. I recall being in Delhi and receiving a text message from a journalist who said, quite simply, “your friend passed away, please comment about it”. I never did revert; there was little to say as reality refused to sink in.
She will be dancing somewhere, I know, with those trademark curls bouncing around to the tune of her favourite song. She will be as she has always been, and will always be remembered as being. Fierce, Fearless, Inspirational, and an unintentional, extremely effective activist who never did understand the true extent of the Impact she had on the world, and on this author.
She will be remembered as I feel she would like to be remembered, as someone who lived each day like it was meant to be lived, with joy, excitement, and love.
Suzette, the Life
On a lighter note, however, she was a lot of fun to communicate with; her love for life, and for dancing, never wavered after the incident. She was initially hesitant about going out to nightclubs, but quickly reasoned with herself and reverted to her trademark philosophy; one life, live it to the fullest.
We planned a number of girls nights out and even had a bucket list of things we wanted to do as a team. She wanted to write and blog about her life, and was just about getting the hang of things. We shared a passion for writing, and she frequently shared her poems with me; approved pieces were shared on her Facebook page.
She wanted to collaborate and come up with various projects on and around the issue of abuse and it’s aftermath; “I don’t want my case to go in vain. I want people to stand up for rape survivors and not against them”, was her reason for wanting to get involved in the non profit field.
Suzette was as effective at speaking as she was at listening to people. She was an exceptional Counsellor and extended empathy when it was needed. Not one to sugarcoat things, she made it a point to be honest without being disrespectful, and had a knack for striking up new friendships quite frequently.
At the same time however, she could be fierce and would put people in their places when required. Her fiery attitude must have shaken certain people enough for there was a van filled with Special force officers outside the Ginger restaurant during our protest.
She was not able to attend as her mother was ailing, however I shot a video of some very scared looking officers and we had a laugh about the contrast between the system’s (lack of) response then as compared with the present day scenario. Her cheekiness was one of her most endearing qualities.