Personal Essays 15 Years Of Anger And Silence: I Speak Today Against Street Harassment

15 Years Of Anger And Silence: I Speak Today Against Street Harassment

The fury behind the slap I gave nearly 2 years back is intact. How I wish that the mind behind that slap was free of fear and harassment as well.

Editor’s Note: This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.

Scene 1:

Location: Near Ramjas School, R.K. Puram, New Delhi

Time: 4.30 p.m.

A 16-year old girl wearing a white suit with a blue dupatta neatly folded into a V near her waist, the uniform atypical of Govt. And Govt. Aided schools in New Delhi is walking back home with her friends. Their route passes through a not-so-deserted sector market. As the group draws closer to the market, she sees a man pull out from the cycle stand. What is it about him that makes her notice the movement, she doesn’t know. But she knows something is not right, and she should move. Before she is able to step deeper into the sidewalk, the man cycles past her, gropes her breast and cycles away. People standing around her avert their eyes as if they didn’t notice. Her three friends stare at her, initially shocked, then resume their conversation, albeit at a higher volumes, as if their increased pitches will drown out what is going on in the girl’s head.

Scene 2:

Location: A crowded DTC bus plying on the Karol Bagh-Sarojini Nagar route, New Delhi

Time: 5.30 p.m.

A 17-year old girl in a kurta and jeans stands at the door of the bus waiting to alight at the next stop. As the bus draws closer to the bus stop, a man pushes roughly past her, pinching her nipples while doing so, and gets off the bus as it slows down. Smirking at her, he walks off.

Scene 3:

Location: NIIT, Munirka

Time: 10.00 a.m.

An 18-year old girl in trousers and formal shirt walks into the building. This is the first time she has ventured wearing an upper garment that does not reach her knee. After all, she’s now no longer a school kid and this is her first day attending a class for a professional course. She is entitled to feel grown up. Soon she is to realize that she’s one among the 2 girls in a batch of 20 will be the least of her surprises.

The instructor walks in. Classes begin. 1 hour of theory followed by 2 hours of practical. She sits at the console… #include… Her first ever program. A smile plays on her lips and she continues. The teacher walks to her seat, and sits down next to her, leans across to correct her code. Does he have to lean that far? Why can’t he just pick up the keyboard? His arms and elbows press into her bust and stomach. She slides away from him.

The next day, the kurta and jeans are back, this time with a stole. The scene from yesterday replays today. She looks towards the guy sitting at the console next to her; has he noticed? He is staring determinedly into his screen. She looks towards the only other female in class. The girl is watching her from across the room, and as she catches her eye, gives her a knowing look and shrugs. She gets up and stands till the instructor completes correcting her piece of work.

The third day she is ready. As the instructor sits down next to her and reaches out his arms, she gives him a very visible push, and says, “Thanks, but I will work out the solution on my own.”

Scene 4:

Location: A very crowded DTC bus plying between Nehru Place and South Campus, Delhi University

Time: 9 a.m.

A 19-year old girl, in a salwar kameez with a dupatta that is draped covering her from shoulder to stomach, sits on an aisle seat, engrossed in a book. The bus brakes and a man nearly falls over her. She looks up. Middle aged man apologizes. She smiles, says it’s ok, and gets back to her book. Suddenly she feels something hard pressing against her shoulder. “Didn’t I warn you not to be courteous to anyone!” chides an inner voice. She gets up from her seat and takes a place near the front, where she stands for the rest of her 30 minute journey.

Scene 5: 12 years later

Location: A crowded South Delhi market

Time: 4 p.m.

A 31-year old woman, in a jeans and t-shirt is standing on a crowded footpath, waiting for her husband to bring round the car. A man in his 40s is standing next to her, presumably waiting for an auto-rickshaw. She notices him when he moves over to her other side, brushing his hand against her butt. She ignores; once might be a mistake, after all it’s close to Diwali, the sidewalk’s over-crowded and there is barely space to stand. He moves to her other shoulder again. This time there is no doubt. The brush is not accidental. 15 years of bottled up fury explodes. She turns around and slaps him in the face. People turn around to look. But there is a fear that creeps into her. No one has made a move to support what she did. She sees her husband turn around the corner, and hurriedly walks towards the car, thanking her stars that she lives so far away from this place.

Scene 6:

Location: My desk

Time: 11 a.m.

The fury behind the slap I gave nearly 2 years back is intact. How I wish that the mind behind that slap was free of fear as well, so I could have walked away with my head held high. How I wish my audience had not looked at me each time, but had looked at man whose hands (or in some cases dick) had caused the havoc.
As I revisit each of these scenes etched so vividly in my mind, I wonder – Do the perpetrators remember the crimes they committed as vividly as I remember them? If no, why? Answers, anyone?

Featured Image Credit: HelloGiggles

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