She stood in the bus, jostling for space. It was a little too crowded. She was already late for college and could not risk waiting for another bus to come along.
Suddenly,she felt a man pressed to her back. Practically stuck on her. She was at once repulsed and disgusted. She tried to move a little away,but the crowded bus did not permit her the space. She turned a little to the side so that her elbow could jab him , if required. The man shifted himself too. He once again stood behind her and pressed himself to her. She let go of the handle bar and tried to swing at him, lost her balance and almost stamped the feet of another passenger standing close by.
“Watch out”, yelled the other man.
She apologised, all the while aware of the smirk on his face.
She looked about. A seated woman was looking at her, but as soon as she turned towards her, the woman immediately found something more captivating outside the window. A couple of school boys gave her a blank look. The conductor was at the other far end of the bus.
She could only pray that her stop come soon so that she can take the next bus back home. All she could think of was washing off the feel of that thing throbbing at her back.
She was 18 years old.
The car was at the door. Everyone was seated inside when she remembered that she had forgotten her purse. She jumped out and ran to the house. Her father’s attendant,a newly employed guy, opened the door. She rushed in to fetch her purse. He followed her. She came back solemn, tight lipped. Others were too much in a party mood to notice the change in her manner. She wasn’t much of a talker anyway.
She was quiet the whole day. Not enjoying the party games or the boat rides. Silent to the conversation going on around her.
Throughout the day, she didn’t utter a single word.
She was 16 years old.
It was one of her rare chances to see the beach. She was as excited as the other kids in the family. Her mom had bought her a new dress and she was keen to show it off to her cousins.
They all left together. All the children accompanied by a myriad of aunts, uncles, parents, siblings.
The beach was crowded. One of the entrances was two-way, allowing people to enter the beach as well as to leave it. Everyone was holding hands so as not to get lost in the crowd.
Suddenly, she felt a hand grab at her chest and squeeze hard. She looked around. There were so many people, it was difficult to make out whose hand had come forward to hurt her. It was over in a flash. Not so the pain. It lasted more than a week. The bruise took much longer to heal.
She was perplexed at the act. What was the person trying to do? She didn’t even have breasts.
She was only 11 years old.
It was a daily evening ritual, to go for a short walk with her room mates after dinner. Sometimes , their land-lady accompanied them. But not tonight.
They walked along familiar paths, nodding their heads at other families/couples out for a stroll.
Two boys came on a motorcycle and stopped right besides her. They threw her a lewd comment and pointed to her chest. She was too stunned to speak. One of her room mates, took action and picked as tone to throw at the boys. They fled as rapidly as they’d come, cackling loudly.
She looked around. All the other people were looking at her , accusation writ large on their faces. As if blaming her for bringing bad repute to their locality.
She bowed her head in shame and walked back towards home.
She was 22 years old.
She stood at the bus stop, waiting for her bus to come. Earlier that day, her dupatta had got stuck in the classroom door jamb and had torn at the corner. She was wondering if her tailor could undo the damage. If not, she would have to buy a new one.
A middle-aged man came to the bus stop and beckoned to her. She looked about, assuming he was calling someone else. He shook his head and beckoned to her again. She went up to him.
“Chalegi kya“, he asked her.
“Ji? ??”, she asked, not sure if she had heard right.
“Kitna legi“, he persisted.
She was too shocked to reply as the realization hit her.
Before she could come up with a reply, he was off again.
She stood there for a long time, wondering what it was about her that gave the man the impression that she was a prostitute.
She was 20 years old.
She settled down in the bus, opened the purse and pulled out her novel. Her’s was the last stop and as she was at the window seat, she didn’t bother who sat next to her.
Even though she was engrossed in the book, she couldn’t help but feel something tickling her waist. As if something was trying to climb her skin. She looked at the person sitting next to her. He was an old man. He looked kind, grand-fatherly. She was sure she had mistaken the touch. She adjusted her dupatta around her and went back to her book. It was another five minutes before she felt the touch again. There was no mistaking it this time. It was the old man after all. Just as she turned towards him, he gets up and walks towards the front of the bus. He had reached his destination.
The bus moves on. She looks out of the window at the old man. He stares at her then gives a lascivious wink.
She shudders in disbelief.
She was 25 years old.
All the above are instances are gathered from experiences of friends and family. One of those instances is mine. Am sure, many of you would be able to relate to any one of these instances. There were many more gruesome ones, but I did not post them here. We all know that sexual abuse is rampant in our country. We have all been a victim one time or the other. And most of us have kept quiet about it.
I was inspired to do this post after I read this article by Shail.
What exactly do eve-teasers achieve?? Is the momentary pleasure (if you call it that) worth the effort they put into it?
Is it worth the trauma to the victim?
Many people claim that the how a woman dresses, is responsible for how she is treated. But in all the above instances, the women/girls were dressed as modestly as possible. Mostly in a shalwar-kameez with the dupatta in the right place.
Then what made them the targets of abuse?
I have been a victim. Not just once, but many times. But I never had the courage to stand up for myself. To look at the guy and slap him hard across the face. Make him think twice before he lets his body parts stray where they don’t belong.
But I stayed mute. And in turn encouraged them to try out their tactics on other women.
Aren’t I as responsible for the increase in the eve-teasing as these guys, if not more?
Recently, I took a stand. Marriage had made me stronger. I no longer let a guy mess with me and walk away. Once in a while if I do take the bus and encounter such people, I make sure to make sufficient loud noises to attract attention. Its a different matter that people focus on me rather than the guy, who is the actual culprit. But I don’t mind. As long as he keeps his hands off women, I’m fine.
But I don’t travel in buses much.And I feel I missed out on many chances to correct wayward men.
If a young man tries to molest a girl the first time, is caught and punished, would he have the same confidence while trying it out a second time? I guess not. But we don’t realize this fact. We encourage molesters by keeping quiet. By staying mum. Not letting anyone know what happened to us. In most cases, the girls are just worried about what their family/friends/relatives would think about them. After all, didn’t we think that promiscuous girls most vulnerable to eve-teasing??
If you are a woman reading this, then don’t hesitate to raise an alarm if you find a guy molesting you or someone else. Its time we remembered that WE are the victims, and not them.
Its time we remember that if they dont have any regard for our modesty, we shouldn’t be regardful of their families/wives/children.
Its time to realize, that making the society safe for women lies in our own hands. The more we cower, the more we subdue our voices, the more we give in to their dominance.
I have a daughter. And I dread to think of her ever having to face such perverts.
I can’t guarantee that she won’t.
But I can at least try to make sure that she is able to handle them as best as she can.
I don’t want my daughter to have after-thoughts on what she could have done. I want to be proud of what she did end up doing.
So here’s a request to all the strong women reading this.
Lets join hands to fight eve-teasing/molestation/rapes.
This request also goes out to guys. I cannot generalize and say that all men are perverts. So those who aren’t, should make sure that the ones who are, are punished for their actions!!
Let us not be silent any more. Let us have the confidence to speak up for ourselves.
Because if we don’t, no one else will!!
To read more on sexual harassment /abuse you can go here.