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.
The bus that day, was swarming with people like honey bees huddled in a hive. My brother was accompanying me and we had to reach home on time. Else maybe we could have waited for the next bus to ferry us to our destination. He took the ticket while I was managing to breathe through the reeking sweat stinking humans all around me. Ok this was how we traveled in Delhi around five years ago. Things have gone for a transformation with the air-conditioned metro coaches and buses.
I somehow had to place myself in the front of the bus and was choking with the clutching and clamping. In the Delhi buses, men do not behave most of the times and the mannered ones are those who enter from the rear door and occupy the back seats.
There was needless pushing and pulling, and I felt that had the people behaved in a more disciplined way the ceaseless congestion could have been avoided. Now why I remember this journey is because of a pot-bellied man who was standing behind me, and all throughout the cruise, I could have only remembered him groping my body. He was foundling the lower half of me while trying to squeeze the upper half with his hands. It was an unnecessary act of gluttony I had been subjected to and had I not gathered all my force to push him back and shout at the top of my voice, he would have raped me surely. This being one of the first incidents that taught me the importance of retaliation. It also made me a fan of cabs and rickshaws, and until the metro wasn’t introduced in Delhi, public transport was a no-no, come what may.
While on my way to church on another day, a man halted his car next to me and offered a lift. As if I had sent him an SOS message to come and save me from the frustration of waiting for a bus. I kept walking away from him but it was important for the male entitlement he enjoyed to pester me. Finally I retorted to the idea of dialing the PCR’s number. Then there are many tens of instances that have made me feel like a cloistered clamped human trapped inside the body of a woman.
Like the one I remember on a cold winter evening in December, when I was getting out of gate no. 4 of the AIIMS metro station. I was coming back from Noida, the other end of the city, and lazily decided to take the elevator, when I saw a man in his middle age standing near the end of the gate, facing the boundary wall of the metro station. Initially I thought that he was urinating, considering the carte blanche rights men in India have when it comes to pissing. Later I sensed that something was amiss. He was masturbating in full public view and when he saw me, he started grinning and walking towards me. I ran as soon as I de-boarded the elevator in the other direction yelling at the top of my voice and hired the first auto in sight. A few days later, I saw a post by a woman on the Safe Delhi blog. She saw the same man, in the same place, doing the same thing and decided to complain about it. I was aghast to read the account of apathy shown by the Delhi police women’s help line authorities. They never filed her complaint in the first place, as she had made the mistake of reaching the safety of her house before making a call to them. She was armed with a video which could have easily helped the police recognize the offender and grab him. Even then with careless impunity the police decided to let him go away, not even filing a complaint for the starters. Sometimes I wonder who is to be blamed? The perpetrator or the authorities.
For the Indian man (again there are tens and thousands of exceptions) a woman’s body is nothing but a build of mass and bones that deserves to be peered, prodded and poked. A mannequin that should quietly entice his five senses, as a wife at home and in public places as a victim of vile.
We need to unite as women to speak out loudly and clearly against eve-teasing and the eventuality that leads to a rape. It is always necessary to keep your family informed about your whereabouts while you’re out on work or recreation. You may assign speed dialing options for the members of your family to use them to your advantage in case of an urgency and even keep a few of your male friend’s numbers to your notice (again of those who you think will be helpful with quick unquestioning confidence.)
One can keep a pepper spray in hand and learn a few tactics of self-defense with Krav Maga or kick boxing. Planning to join one of these classes soon, since many of these come handy in situations when escape is the last resort. The realistic expectation we must have from self-defence classes is escape and that’s all.
It is also important to keep the anti-stalking help line and anti-obscene help line number handy in case of any emergency. Women can call the help line by dialling 1096. They may also call the number 27894455 in Delhi or send their complaint through a fax on 27292523 or send SMS to 9911135446. They may also send an email about their complaint to “email@example.com”. All this will only work if we are willing to make it work and not sit back doubting the efficiency of the authorities.
Most of all it is important to raise a voice against each of these evils, eve-teasing, stalking and misbehavior in modes of public transport by defending yourself in vigilance. We have to learn to vent our anger as ruthless roars. The police are ineffectual because most of the times we are scared to discuss our issues with them, and even if we do they wash their hands off their responsibility by blaming our lifestyle and westernized values, a Pontius Pilate act to easily sum it up. We have to get them to doing their job and making them realize that their duty is to be answerable to citizens like us and they are public servants, not servants of laziness and irresponsibility. We must also let the exaggerating media know that our anger cannot go waste all the time and we aren’t merely suspects of sensationalism. It is imperative to scribble about our annoyance on placards, light candles and shout slogans through blaring loudspeakers in marches that are held for women like us, show them our support, for all those who are tirelessly organizing protest marches in our city for our voice to be heard. These solidarity marches may someday wake the authorities from slumber.
Let us understand what is transforming eve-teasing into rapes? OUR SILENCE!