Words || Masumi Parmar
CW: gendered violence, death
Every woman I know walks home in fear. Keys between her knuckles. Anxiety fuelling her fast pace. The second she locks her front door, the relief that floods her is like no other. Even those that aren’t religious mumble something to the universe, asking for safety, pleading for it. I know I have.
Sometimes it doesn’t work. And for those unfortunate souls, we mourn. We mourn for them all. For the little girls and for the working woman. For the ones that went out fighting and for those who didn’t have a chance to. For them all.
Preethi Reddy is one of them. Her death was a result of a horrific rage of jealousy. Dr Reddy was a dentist and a “beautiful big sister” according to her younger sister Nithiya Reddy. She was at a dentistry conference in St Leonards before the fatal incident. She was there along with her ex-boyfriend. The pair had been in a long term, off again and on again relationship. Those at the conference confirmed that she was peacefully speaking to her ex-boyfriend Harshdavan Narde. There was no sign of anything that was to unfold later.
The pair spent the night at a Swissotel in Sydney CBD. Before they made their way there though, over dinner Dr Reddy asked her ex-partner to move on as she had with her new partner, who she planned to move to Melbourne with. She felt as though she had a responsibility to tell him and to guide him through this tough time. After this conversation, the pair went to the hotel to continue the conversation as Narde desperately wanted to convince her to stay with him. Both family and friends have been able to confirm this.
She was last seen at the McDonald’s near Pitt Street mall in the early hours of Sunday morning. She was last heard at by her parents. She told them she was planning on having a late breakfast and coming home straight after. She called her partner after that, saying the same thing. It never happened.
Her family was broken in ways that they thought they could ever heal from according to Nithiya, upon hearing the news of their Preethi. Dr Reddy was found in a suitcase, bloodied and butchered, in her own car. Narde is believed to have killed her in a jealous fury, stuffed her in a suitcase and left her in the foyer of the hotel as he went to get her car. An oblivious porter helped him load the bag into the back seat, after which he drove away. As soon as he parked the car he fled back to Tamworth where he worked and lived.
Preethi’s family reported her missing on that evening. By Monday morning Dr Reddy’s friends and family started getting more and more worried. One even messaged Narde, hoping he’d have some answers but he claimed to have seen her last on Saturday night. He said that she must have gone home. Police suspect that he had already killed her by then. Narde was interviewed later that morning by the police. Later that evening Narde died in a deliberate car crash. Police on the case have confirmed that their reports do show that the car crash seems to be premeditated. The driver of the truck that Narde’s car crashed with survived. The following day, Friday night, Preethi’s body was found in the boot of her car.
Candlelight vigils have been held all over the country for people to pay their respects. Bouquets have been left. Prayers have been held. Condolences have been passed. Yet, people, continue to disrespect Preethi and her heartbreaking story by dramatising it.
By turning the Reddy family’s tragedy into a “riveting” new Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle novel. The lack of respect shown to the deceased and her family with the language used in multiple news pieces and news shows is appalling. The pieces that should be written in with an informative tone instead have adopted a more exciting tone. The writers often using terms such as “in a shocking twist” and “unbelievingly, the story unfolded”. Turning a tragedy into a “dramatic scandal.”
Preethi’s story is not a new exciting tale for you to occupy your time with but a devastating story that needs to be told. There is also the question of whether her story would have been framed differently, had she been a white woman. Her story would be treated with more respect, written with more empathy and tinged with sadness and guilt.
Because Preethi was a brown woman, writers feel like they were allowed to mistreat her and her story through their writing. Allowed to create dramatic fiction from harrowing crime.
Our community needs to learn. Preethi Reddy was a South Asian woman. She was the light of her family. She was a brilliant dentist. She deserves more. Every woman who has died as a result of a hate crime deserved more.
We can do better. To acknowledge the truth of her death. To respect the woman who now doesn’t have a voice. To respect her story. To tell her story as it happened and to hold men accountable for their actions.
Our community needs to change. Our community, the South East Asian community, needs to stop raising our girls and boys differently. We can’t tell our boys that it is okay to “take what they want”, that “girls who are out late at night are bound to be sluts”. That “they don’t need to learn to cook”, that “their wives, sisters, and mothers have to take care of them.” We can’t tell our girls that “they aren’t enough”, that “they need to dress, act and live a certain way otherwise they’ll never get married”, that “they need to be considerate to the boys, they mature slower after all”.
How many injustices have to happen to our girls before we do better?
We have all seen what this does. It teaches our girls that they should comply, to their detriment. It enables our boys. “Men will be men” will only stop when we stop perpetuating it. Our boys need to be taken off a pedestal and we need to remind our girls that they are worthy. Teach our boys to respect women, not because they are their mothers, sisters, aunts or cousins but because they are women and they deserve respect.
She deserved better.
They all did.