The right to respect

I know I am late for The Blank Noise blogathon, but better late than never, right? This blogathon is to raise awareness and help prevent Eve-teasing, Street harassment and Abuse.

I bumped into this Blogathon by chance and was quite surprised by the subject, considering that its pretty taboo and not that very well discussed, even though we are a ‘progressive’ urban society. But after reading through quite a few blogs, surprisingly some written by men too, I was shocked and jolted by the experiences. Shocked not because I could not believe of what these women went through, rather surprised by the fact that these women went through the exact same things that I have been going through, since my rite of passage! It was a revelation, considering that inspite of being from differences cities, towns, educational backgrounds, class, status, none of us escaped being physically and mentally abused. Be it cat calls, being stalked, groped, flashed, jeered, rubbed into, pushed, pulled, threatened, abused, beaten, jolted, ridiculed; the trend was frighteningly similar.

For many, eve teasing seems like a very harmless sport. C’mon every one of us has flirted or joked around with the opposite sex sometime. But where do we draw the line? When does it turn into abuse from harmless flirting?

I guess that’s where we all need to be taught, enlightened and disciplined. When people take effort to teach us the way to eat, write, walk, learn, think and even talk right, then why can’t we teach how to identify abuse and face it?

The world is a scary place, but each one of you feels safe in this cocoon hoping that as long as it doesn’t happen to us, we don’t need to be bothered. I guess this false hope of safety is what has led women to be this brutally abused EVERYDAY. If my parents, relatives or teachers had warned me about these perverts and their evil tricks I would have been prepared the first time I was groped, instead of feeling dirty, demeaned, ashamed, angry, and cheap about my body, doubting what had I done wrong? I wouldn’t have been scared shit when a freak followed me back from school if someone on the street had seen my plight and come to my rescue. I wouldn’t have been embarrassed and disgusted if my college management and police had done something to stop the flashers and eve teasers out side my college! If only I was safe, I wouldn’t have been this broken, shit scared woman who grows apprehensive when the sun goes down, who would rather spend a bomb on autos than take a bus home, who wouldn’t go to late night movies, restaurants, parties and even mid-night masses without a male escort, who would have to pick me up and drop me back home.

But then inspite of all the fear, anger, helplessness, shame, ignorance, self-doubt, disgust, agony and anger, I have made an effort to stand up to these perverts.
If someone touched me now without my permission, I would beat the living day lights out of that bastard, like I did on my trip back to Bangalore from Mangalore, a year back. I had to resort to beating him because; inspite of repeatedly complaining to my aunt about this guy who was feeling me up from the ‘front seat’ in a bus full of sleeping people, my aunt asked me to ignore him and I did. But there’s only that much a girl can stand. When that bastard didn’t stop inspite of my angry retorts, I pulled out my water bottle, stood up and beat the hell out of that guy. The bus was stopped, the conductor came running, I narrated what happened, people woke up from their slumber and grumbled, my aunt seemed embarrassed (can you believe that?), I looked at that creep trembling with fear and he seemed to be just a ‘college kid’!!!

And even after everything that had happened, the conductor asked me not to make a fuss and ‘disturb’ my fellow passengers!

I was fuming with rage. People didn’t support me, my own aunt did not come to my rescue, the conductor asked me to hush and sit tight, but none of this mattered, because when I reached Bangalore, I was a new woman, a stronger, braver, redeemed woman. That one moment of retaliation wiped away all the pain, anger, shame, anguish and disgust of the earlier abuse. It was a start and I have never been sorry about it. But even today I can’t forgive my aunt for not backing me up!

From then on I haven’t been afraid to walk with my head held high rather then fold my hands across my chest, scare these pricks away with a glare when earlier I wouldn’t even look up, now I resort to screaming and self-defence rather than walking away and sometimes even helping out other women.

A faint ray of hope is that when I tell my mom about this, she is proud of me and backs me up. Thanks Mom for understanding and encouraging me to face the world, one less grope at a time.

But this doesn’t mean that I am still a free bird. I follow every rule in the book.
Don’t go out alone after dark.

Avoid lonely streets.

Don’t talk to strangers.

Don’t wear revealing clothes and accessories, which draw attention.

Don’t pick up fights unnecessarily.

Always know your limits and dangers.

Always be alert and on guard.

Save emergency numbers on the phone.

Grow longer nails.

And never ever forget to pack your courage and presence of mind, while stepping out of home.

Anyways now back to the point of this Blogathon- Awareness.
Keeping this is mind, I forwarded a few of these blogs to my friends and colleagues, and I was quite taken back by the response. While most women recognized with the experiences in the blogs, most men seemed genuinely surprised that women actually go through this kind of abuse everyday and everywhere. This either shows that men just turn a blind eye and justify these atrocities or they were truly never aware of mistreatment of women. But I have intentionally skipped the third category, they being perverted themselves!

I don’t know if I can change the minds of those who justify eve teasing or they themselves part take in it, but through my experiences and hundreds of other women’s blogs, I can at least enlighten the ignorant of the atrocities meted out to their mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends, nieces, girl friends, aunts, babies and even grand mothers on a daily basis.
That’s the reason I am writing this blog. And for those of you who are rolling their eyes thinking ‘oh c’mon not one more of those Women’s day feminists’, let me make this clear that I am not here for male bashing or asking for any kind of reservation for women. I am here to plead for a life without constant fear. I am asking for the most basic of rights, the right to self respect and dignity.

I am not going to discuss what provokes these perverts, how they are mis-guided by the media, society and peers or why men think the way they think . Darn I don’t even want to know how many meters of clothing a woman should wear to avoid being eve teased?

All I want is a little awareness and acknowledgement of the fact that these atrocities happen, right under the noses of the family, friends, police, public and government. Not many women complain because they are scared, ashamed, embarrassed, discouraged, lose hope and give up and those who complain are harassed by the bureaucracy and red tape . I can guarantee you that every single woman in India has been molested atleast ONCE! Most of us, millions who travel venture out of our homes daily to ply by public transport, pass through streets, shopping malls, colleges, schools, temples, churches, markets, layouts and in every damn god forsaken public place, we are abused day in and day out. I cant even begin to imagine what happens among poor, illiterate women in villages and cities!

Men should be privileged that you do not encounter perverted pricks out to harass you sexually, daily. They are not waiting for you on lonely streets, in bus stands, grouped under a tree, behind the tinted glass of the passing car, riding on bikes and cycles, in the bus’, trains, autos, taxis and not every shadow or foot steps evoke fear and terror in you all the time.

You men are lucky to have privileges like taking a long peaceful walk on a moonlit night, watching late night movies, eating out in a restaurant post 9, traveling alone at 2 am, getting a breathe of fresh air in your own compound or terrace, all these are just mere routine for men, but an impossible dream for Indian women!

I know that things won’t change overnight and India will not turn into heaven immediately, but we can make a start somewhere. That’s why I request all you men and women to try and follow a few basic rules:

Women, there is no point in a few of us screaming for justice and dignity, if you yourselves do not take any initiative. I have seen so many of my friends, family and strangers bear the abuse silently and do not even muster enough courage to glare at the offender or even ask for help! Most of the abuse is spoken about, only after the guys walk away and its too late!
I know that every one of these women, has never been able to forget the snigger of those perverts, the lust in their eyes or have never stopped fearing the approaching hand. I am sure that their bodies and minds still feel dirty and no amount of shudders and baths can take away that feeling of disgust . They still vent their anger at their helplessness and ignorance. But there is no point in belated fury, while you let that bastard walk away?

So wake up, take control of your bodies and be on guard.

Scream, fight, scratch, slap, cry, castrate or just plain abuse them. Use any weapon that you can; be it safety pins, chilly powder, nails, teeth, pepper spray, water bottles, bags, umbrellas or karate, do not hesitate. People may or may not help you, police may save or harass you, your companion may turn away or your own family may hush you, but don’t let them stop you. Believe me even though that man did abuse you, you will have the satisfaction of fighting back against that ass hole and made sure that the he will think atleast million times before he abuses another girl.

I know how scary it is to face these perverts; I know how humiliating it is to tell people that someone just grabbed your breasts or tell your dad that a stranger just brushed against you. But girl you have to do it, to save yourself and others from being raped every day, piece by piece, part by part, inch by inch, before there is nothing left of your dignity, self respect, courage, education, talent or emotions. You will just be a empty shell of a woman, believing that you are just another set of boobs, ass and vagina!
So girls do something, do anything.

Next comes Family, you have the biggest responsibility. Why is it that when parents and elders can warn their kids against taking food from strangers or scare kids about being kidnapped, cant explain what kind of abuse men are capable of?
What stops you- shame? How does your embarrassment to explain these things, help your kid who has just been groped and doesn’t understand why she feels so dirty and disgusted? How does your denial to educate your kid save him or her from self doubt and low self esteem?

You have no right to have kids if you can’t provide, protect and educate them.
And a kind request to all those friendly, out going and easy to mingle aunts and uncles, do not let your kids sit or play with strangers and acquaintances. Don’t just trust people blindly. Always ask your sons and daughters about anything strange that they have encountered and always be on guard. It’s your duty to protect your kids, lest something unforgivable happens.

Of course last but not at all the least, support and trust your sons and daughters, rather than doubting them. They are your flesh and blood, your hopes and dreams, the object of your love and affection, the least you can do is take their side and, heed and lead.

Public support can help curb a lot of evils be it robbery, assault or abuse. Support the victim and not the perpetrator. Most timid public, like the ones in Bangalore would rather be silent by-standers than active supporters. All it takes is a little initiative, a little intervention; all it takes is one helping hand or a raised voice.

So please spread the word and make it clear to people that things like this do happen whether its in Forum Mall or City Market. Only awareness can lead to prevention and hopefully even eradication. At least this won’t give the snobbish, blind, self righteous pricks a chance to hush these things up and pretend nothing happened or claim that women brought this up on themselves!

I don’t exactly feel proud to ask men for help but fathers, brothers, uncles, grandpa’s, friends and boy friends, it is your duty to take care of us girls, protect us, educate us, support us, help us and prevent these perversions. And of course teach your sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews and friends to respect women and please do not encourage abuse.

When I narrated these horrors to one of my closest friends, he was shocked, hurt and apologetic. I know how most of you men must feel when we started revealing our painful ordeals. Remember that we are not generalizing and we are definitely not blaming you all. We know that there are a few good men, rare but they are there. And it is because of these few good men, women still trust men and muster courage to brave that crowded bus, markets, streets, malls, fests, schools and colleges,knowing that inspite of these evil creeps, there are a few good men who will come to their rescue.

Lastly I salute the undying spirit and strength of women, who rise like a Phoenix no matter how many times her will and dignity are trampled on.

I was always proud to be a woman, today I am prouder because of you few brave women . Thanks to the Blank noise for initiating this drive and spreading awareness.

Please remember, support the victim, not the abuser!

Action Hero L*J

Short Shorts: Three: Pretty Flower

She was ten. Brushing her bobbing pigtails one extra time, she patted them down. White, with pink and purple flowers. This was her favorite frock.

Everyone said he was very smart. One day, maybe, you will also go to IIT, they used to tell to her. She couldn’t wait to grow up and be like him. Ravi was her favorite cousin. Always brought her chocolates. Cadbury Eclairs. And took her on piggy-back rides and made her giggle. And when mum wasn’t around, he would sneak her off to get ice cream. Butterscotch.

She sat next to him on the edge of the bed, feet dangling and swinging, and showed him her new painting. I won the second prize for it, she said, her face beaming with pride. That’s very nice. You know, those flowers on your dress are very nice too, he said, as he started to trace their outlines. His fingers slowly ran up her thigh.

She did not want to grow up and be like him. She did not want to grow up.


Written as part of the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon 2006. Although, since this isn’t about street harassment, which is the topic of the blog-a-thon, I am not entirely sure if it qualifies.

Sexual harassment and abuse of children younger than twelve years old constitutes a good percentage of the total reported cases. And yet, the available statistics hardly reflect reality. A large number of children don’t even know how to identify abuse, forget report it. Even more so, when the abuser is a family member.

As adults, we have some ways to oppose harassment. Whether we do or not, is a different matter. But we can yell, scream, try to fight back physically and attempt to raise awareness about it. But what does a child do? Their inherent trust in adults, their fear to question their motives and actions, and their own inability to distinguish between right and wrong often leaves them powerless.

Update : Some contact numbers (Thanks Rajesh and Peter, for the info!)

If you know or suspect that a child is being abused, talk to you local authorities or call

  • In the US — Stop It Now! at 1-888-PREVENT or The Sexual Abuse Helpline at 1-800-4A-CHILD.

  • In India — Childline at 1098.

Other countries — Check the Child Helpline International website.

Action Hero Megha

Letter to an old acquaintance

Hello mister pervert,

Remember me? I often bump into you on the street. In fact, we met twice today; once in the morning when I made my way to work and you complimented me on my dark goggles and fair complexion by singing a line of a Hindi film song, and then in the evening when you invited me to a bagiya.

Okay, now that you recollect who I am, let me take this opportunity to thank you for umpteen gifts you have bestowed on me. Let me beign with the gift of early revelation. I remember meeting you for the first time when I was around 12. It was a hot summer afternoon and I was walking back from a video store when you gave me the first ever glimpse of a wee-wee. Thanks ever so much for helping me grow up before time.

Mister ageless man, thanks for always being around. Friends may come and go, but you have always been there. Giving me that look as I walked back from school, making me run past the dark alley after a late tution class, whistling when I rushed for an early morning lecture with hair still wet, twitching my breast as I walked with my mother, trying to rub against me in a crowded have never let me feel unwanted.

Thanks for scaring my family. You also get the credit for ridding me of three girlfriends whose marriage I could not attend as my family feared you would make an appearance as I got back home. Yeah, and that rafting trip I could never take, thanks to you, old pal.

Mister man-from-no-particular-social-strata, you are also the one to be thanked for putting me off boys in my teens. You made sure I never went for moon-lit walks, I never ate ice cream on the green-dewy lawns of India Gate at midnight, I stayed home on the eve of millennium, and I never wasted time on a lot of other such meaningless experiences.
After all it is my fault that I am a girl. A girl who needs to be safe. A girl who needs to think three times before visiting a friend late in the evening. A girl who has learned to inwardly smile at lewd invitations for a quickie behind the wall. A girl who is looked at as an object. And, you are the man of suppressed desires and overflowing frustration. You need an outlet. I understand. However, I do not want you to meet my future daughter. Do you understand? I do not want you to scare my little girl out of her wits while she is on a trip to Vaishno Devi with her friends. I do not want you to soil my daughter's fond memories of the first kiss. I will not let you. Today, I promise myself that I'll take the first small but meaningful step to ensure my future child's safety. I will call 1091 the next time I see you.

Action Hero Mystic Chick


I see a kid shine in her eyes. She beats me at who-has-most-scars-on-the-body. She has them all, broken bones, stitches, bruises, even dog bites and scratches. “Of course” she says with a grin, “I can’t show you how many scars I gave those dogs.”

The dogs who violated the woman in her, she couldn’t hurt them back. How she wishes.

How I wish.

Action Hero Namit Chaturvedi

Smash, drip and evaporate...learn to be a woman.

After reading through the various posts at this brilliant blog and sifting through my own experiences and bloody extractions,I have written this piece...

and it's still in process...

Smash smash smash.The satisfying sound of the glass crashing down .The time standing still for those few seconds .The liberation.The sexy crunch of the glass…


But that feeling is too much to ask of this world. So I smash my mind instead .And heart doesn’t soar … Like it should at the sound of breaking rules. The smashed bloody mind just takes it silently… No fun there, I tell you!

I should be ‘losing control’ the way men on the bikes did in ‘Rang De Basanti’ .While the pretty girls cheered them on .Didn’t they make your body pulsate with what all that you want to do? Not mine though! I was too busy giving in to control.
Screams free you! They did that too Naseeruddin Shah in Hero Heeralal But what happens to the screams of the heroines?

Heroines…the babes who get raped and after some eve teasing fall in love and promptly touch the feet of the savior husband after the interval.
I am telling you there can be nothing as awe inspiring as the justice of the Hindi films. Nothing as spiritually elevating.

see it's like this-You sexually molest me and I fall in love with you instantly…okay?
And then I marry you and I look up to you all my life…okay? So what I have done is that I have begged you to save me from yourself…understood?

Also add to it some economics .Isn’t it more cost effective to rape me every night? After that genius stroke of ‘mangalsutra’ .Than to rape me just once in while. Also now you can focus on so many more freelance rapes…

Marriage is all about common sense, my love.

And believe me I am going to slap the next, educated person who complains about the aimless youth…especially men. Seriously, get a life dude!

Aimless? Unemployed? Look at all the hard work that they put in.
First they decide what a beautiful woman should look like
Small waist. Toned thighs Cute ass? The poor men …they have to constantly decide whether bigger is better…or maybe it should be small and firm… then...Smooth skin…no pimples…not dark

Not too big, not too small, not too sagging, not too perked up- breasts.
And if you feminist… loser… loner whatever shit they call you these days
Don’t come up to the standards they have to fail you and you can curl up in your bed alone and let your heart shrivel up. And this is just in short what all they have to keep an eye on.

Then the other group swings in action . See.they are men and therefore practical so they divide the work amongst them …fine?

So the other groups sit in various, inconvenient, uncomfortable places like buses and roads nd offices and homes .And then they have to pinch, grope, maul, twist, slap
and do all that physically excruciating work … because the bloody women always look enticing…

And they have to do that

You think it’s fun for them.

You think they enjoy this.

They ask irritably and wearily.

And I feel sorry for the poor darlings

Can they help it…that unfortunate hard-on and all that

When they see anything that resembles a woman

And they must despite themselves

do all of the above.

Please understand na,

They are men…

What can they do?

Yesterday i was watching Madagascar and the most fantastic part of the film according to me is where Alex the lion is frantic with worry and he cages himself and asks himself and later his Zebra friend if he is really a monster...with all the hunger that is killing him and all the temptations around he is petrified of himself....and I wondered if any of the molestors have had that dillemma ...are they actually monsters from inside?

Alex the lion won the battle with his monster self by the way...

Action Hero Silbil

Why Words?

i have to say it in words

while all he does is look-touch-feel;

making him un-ignorable

is my task

words are my refuge

from the battles of the street

battles fought on my body

with eyes, with fingers, with minds

words are my weapon

a weapon he cannot use

till someone hands them to him

in what he dares call a song

words are the vents

of anger, loathing, even pity;

they are the only tools i have

to gather us against him

Action Hero Erimentha

Harassment can kill. Hasn't it killed some part of you?

As a woman, it's killed a part of me that loved to dance in the first shower of summer - since the 'concerned' cousin offered to help my mum by rubbing me down so I didn't catch cold. It's killed a part of me that enjoyed singing loudly- when I first realised the sounds were words, had meanings, meanings aimed at me. It's killed a part of me that loved to make friends - when I realised that looking into people's eyes was an invitation. It's killed a part of me that loved a wind that could sweep me off the floor - when I was told that the shape of me was a provocation.

I'm sure it's killed a part of every man too. The boy who needs to die if the man is to come alive. The connection which needs to be stifled if authority is to be gained. The sensitivity that needs to be choked off before it makes you effeminate. The conscience that needs to be excised if you are to sleep at night.

Harassment kills.

Action Hero Erimentha

from the depths of silence

old and musty

sanctified by the words

of mother, aunts, grandmothers

a babel of voices

no longer whispering

without fear of blasphemy

rises to create a blank noise

Action Hero Erimentha

Where are the men?

I've been reading the blog-a-thon posts, and it makes me wonder - where are the men? Please speak - in support or in dissent.

Did I hear 'why?' Or 'how?'

When we teach criminal law, one of the basic theories of criminalisation, we say, is that a crime causes not just a specific harm to a particular person, but a more general harm to society. Harassment is a crime in just that sense of the word. It hurts us, as women - we are the victims (how I hate that word!) But it also hurts us as people. It turns us from people into pieces of flesh, into things to be possessed, into sexual objects. It silences half our population, it censors half of all thought. It creates an atmosphere of fear, of dependence, of distrust. And speaking about it helps - even if it is just to create a feeling of solidarity. That's the answer to your 'why'.
Say something. Why you are silent when her eye catches yours, pleading for rescue from the touchy-feely next to her. How appreciation is not lechery. The time when you did something. The time when you didn't. Anything at all. That's how.

Action Hero Erimentha

Last post of the day

Well, the fifth post of the day - the end of my blog-a-thon (Yeah, I know one post was all that was expected, but what to do, I always talk too much). And I thought I'd post about some things I saw - comments, even posts. But one keeps coming back to me. Harassing me, if you will. It's at

He thinks the point of Blank Noise is that even looking at girls is an offence. Well, as far as I know, the point of Blank Noise is to create awareness about street harassment. But semantic quibbling aside, I think his problem of 'What's the difference between just looking appreciatively and harassment' is something a lot of people share. So here's my attempt to clear the confusion.

What's the difference between chaudvin ka chand ho, ya aftaab ho, jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam, lajawab ho and tu cheez badi hai mast mast?

Between a woman in a bra in an undergarment ad and a woman in a bikini in an alcohol ad?

Between a classical dancer portraying sringara and Baby Doll gyrating to the latest remix?

The difference is that there is no cruelty (I use the word as opposed to violence, because we are so conditioned to thinking of violence as physical) in the first, but cruelty is all there is in the second. It is the cruelty that says, "you are a thing; you are worth nothing; I can use you, possess you, and you can do nothing" (with apologies to Andrea Dworkin).

And that is the difference between a look of appreciation and a letch. Appreciation is when you glance at me, look into my eyes, pay me the compliment, and move on. Letching is when you look me up and down, and if I catch your eye, either look away furtively or stare a challenge at me; where it is not about beauty, or even sex, but about the power to define who I am, how I react.

Action Hero Erimentha


Well, having read through a lot of the blank noise posts, I wanted to respond to two themes that seemed to keep cropping up.

The first one is one I talked about yesterday too - referencing GreatBong's post. And the theme of "you can't blame a man for looking" seemed to recur in many of the posts I read. At the same time, so many posts talked about how a look can make you feel violated and dirty. So I just wanted to add one thing to what I said yesterday: make the effort to get your point across. When we talk, we do that. We even do it when we don't talk - when I look questioningly at the person sitting beside an empty seat, when I stop a chit passing through class with a glance, I do it. And I'm sure men do it too. So when the meaning of a look is appreciation and not possession, get that point across. You have to adjust the style of communication to the recipient - something you do as a matter of course in all communication. Why is it so dificult when it's to a woman? Or is it difficult because the message is sexual? 'Appreciation' can be, will be, about sexual attraction. That does not make it 'bad'. When what you mean by sexual attraction is cruelty, a denial of my personhood, that hurts.
Which brings me to my second point. So may of the posts/comments talked about how this was in some way connected to the harasser's repressed sexuality. Sending the feminist in me wincing, of course. Because no part of street harassment - not the groping, not the letching, not the flashing or the masturbation - is about sex or desire. It's about a sexual response to a power high. And that's sick.

Action Hero Erimentha

The Outrage Factor

The Blank Noise saw heavy participation, and chronicled some rather shocking incidents of harrassment which we didn't know happen around us. As Gawker commented somewhere, it was eye-opening, because growing up as a carefree boy in India, one has no idea about the hell that girls go through.

Some have questioned the purpose of the Blogathon itself. Some think that parts of it encourage shrill feminism which paint all men with the same brush. Some find the exercise rather pointless.

The purpose of the blogathon in my eyes, is an attempt to spread awareness about what is happening, and also the "outrage" or "shame". Is it going to stop eve teasing altogether? Obviously not. So what is the point?

I think the purpose was achieved when the first guy who read it felt a combination of shame and outrage. Not because the guy himself used to fondle women, and will stop doing so because of this. But because with an increase in the shame and outrage there is a small increase in society's overall outrage factor. And with a lot of guys feeling the same way, there will be a decent amount of increase in the "outrage factor".

What is the practical need for the outrage factor? Firstly, what is an outrage factor? Loosely, it can be defined as the consensus reached in society that a certain act is wrong/bad/damaging/immoral/unethical enough to cause outrage to most of its component. As a result of this consensus the society can put in place a punishment which will act as a deterrent to someone involved in that act.

In a society where personal freedom is well-defined and protected under the legal system, the outrage factor is not useful at all. The question of what you can and can not do is defined on the basis of these well-defined freedoms, and the outrage factors, as John Cleese would say, "don't intrude with it". An excellent example of the futility of the outrage factor in case of such well-defined freedoms would be the one Ravikiran cited of the United States where you can't pass laws to ban burning the American flag. The outrage factor would certainly be high. But it still doesn't overshadow freedom.

Now sadly, we in India do not live in a society which has clearly defined freedoms. In fact the definition of freedom in India is as fuzzy as it can get with a million footnotes and caveats, making you wonder whether freedom is a right or a privilege.

In such a society, punishments or deterrents imposed are framed as well as executed, not on the basis of the sacrosanct definition of freedom, but on the basis of the outrage factor. So practically speaking, the only way to get society to impose costs is to take that outrage factor to a critical mass.

It is my contention that in India, there is a cost/deterrent for robbing a house not because the robbers have violated some rights of the house owner, but because "stealing is wrong". This overwhelming consensus on the wrongness of stealing ensures the presence of such a law and that the law is imposed with a reasonable amount of sincerity.

But eve teasing or street harrassment is not seen by society as that big a deal. It is still not considered wrong/bad/damaging/immoral/unethical enough to cause outrage. Hence the Indian society imposes no effective cost on it. Even the few laws which are in place are not implemented properly. The simple reason is that the people around the victim, say the police, or her acquaintances just do not feel or share the outrage. And sadly, people sharing your outrage is a major factor, if not the only factor, that is useful in getting justice, or imposing a deterrent.

This is not how it should be, of course. Laws and deterrents should not be put in place based on the outrage factor, or sometimes it leads to some laws which end up trampling freedoms. The banning of dance bars is one example, and the law which makes homosexuality ounishable is another. These two laws are in place not to impose a cost on infringing someone's rights, but to impose a cost on "doing something unethical" and outraging the society.

If you recognize this role played by the outrage factor, you will realise that eve teasing is rampant in India because the lack of the intensity of its outrage factor which precludes putting in place an effective deterrent.

Towards this end, the Blank Noise is making a difference. How much of a difference is hard to say. But as I said, even if one person feels more strongly about eve teasing, it is useful because it adds to the component of outrage factor. One day I hope it reaches a critical mass.

The reason why BNP is important currently is that the ignorance or indifference about it is very high. I was shocked to read many incidents where women were harrassed as girls, but since they were confused and unsure about what happened, they did not tell their parents or create a ruckus. Yet imagine the same girls, in the event of something being stolen from them(let's say candy). Would they have stayed silent? Obviously not. A girl, whether she was aged 6,8 or 10, would immediately tell her parents that someone stole her candy. Because stealing is wrong.

Similarly if parents start mentioning explicitly to their children that a man fondling you or groping you is wrong, it will give the kid enough awareness to yell at the first instance of it happening. That a lot of girls were confused after their first instance of harrassment shows that parents are not doing enough to make their kids aware.

Parents not doing enough to proactively tell their children about this is one side of the coin. The other side being the sheer apathy of the "people in charge" i.e cops or office bearers. An autowallah in Delhi tried to rape a friend of mine. She managed to kick, scream, fight back and make him run away. When she was planning to file a police complaint, the Principal of her college (a supposedly 'modern' and 'forward' college) tried to dissuade her saying it would bring unnecessary bad publicity to the college. I will give the same analogy... would the Princi say this to a student whose bike would have been stolen on the streets?

It is correct to say that things have deteriorated so much in India due to lack of a cost. But remember, we have a 'splendid' society and legal system where costs are imposed on the basis of ethics and morality rather than an objective definition of freedom and rights.

Gaurav Sabnis

Innocence of the French Girls

This happened a couple of years back. A big crowd of European students descended upon IIM Lucknow as a part of the Student Exchange program in the fifth term. Most of these students were girls, and so we had a big crowd of French "babes" studying with us for an entire term.

One night a few friends and I had gone to the city for dinner. IIML is around 10 km from the city and the institute has an hourly bus service to and from the city. The last bus from the city leaves at 10:30 pm. We had finished our dinner, and taken cycle rickshaws back to the Purnia Chauraha, a place from where we board the bus.

As we approached the place, we noticed something strange. It was a group of French students, four of them female and one of them male, standing at the bus stop, laughing and talking amongst themselves. They were very clearly having a great time. What was strange was that around them, in a radius of about 15 metres, stood at least 25 guys. These guys were the roughneck types, and they were standing in two or three groups, staring at the French girls, talking amongst themselves. Me and my friends were standing a few feet away, buying fruits.

We then noticed that a few guys started creeping closer and closer to the French group. One guy, who was on a bicycle, started riding it in a circle very close to them. A few other guys were very obviously discussing something animatedly, and we weren't sure what the topic of discussion was, but one of us heard the words "apni maruti van kaafi hogi" (our maruti van will be enough).

All this was happening very fast and by the time we bought fruits and moved towards the bus stop (there were 6 of us, all desi guys) the group of shady looking guys were spread uniformly all around the French students. It almost looked as if all these guys were also waiting for a bus back to IIML. Their intentions were very clear.

We walked up to the French students and started talking to them about the evening and other stuff. Within a few seconds I noticed a change in the attitude and demeanour of the guys around us. Suddenly they seemed to have discovered the concept of "space" and "privacy". The cyclist stopped cycling around us, and a few of them left almost immediately. The group started dispersing and within a few minutes, the street was deserted, with just us students waiting for the bus.

I found two things extremely remarkable that night. One was the difference in the attitude of the group of men towards a group of four women and one man, as opposed to four women and seven men. I have no clue what they were planning to do, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, I will assume the men just wanted to examine from close quarters the firang girls. I will assume that there was no "ulterior" motive of harrassment or worse. But earlier they were "examining" them from extremely close quarters, and when 6 desi guys joined the girls, suddenly they backed off.

The second thing is, that the French students had barely noticed what happened. When we spoke to them about the group of men surrounding them, they seemed puzzled. Yes, they had noticed a lot of men around, but they had assumed all of them were waiting for the bus. They seemed a bit amused at the advice that it would be unsafe to stay out so late unless there were at least two or three guys with them.

The French students displayed a kind of "innocence" about this whole issue which made me realise how bad things are for women in India as compared to a place like, say, France. Here we had four girls standing on a street at night in India, with a big group of men staring at them, seemingly advancing towards them, and yet they didn't notice it or feel alarmed. Because incidents of women being harrassed by strange men on the streets in France are very rare.

Contrast this with Indian girls who are always cautious and wary of any strange man they see on the street. This caution and wariness is a result of years of conditioning due to harrassment that they have to face on the streets of India.
This post is my contribution to the Blank Noise

Action Hero Gaurav Sabnis

Blanknoise - Why there are no Superheroes!

Have been reading up a lot on eve-teasing and related sexual crimes recently owing mainly to the Blanknoise to create awareness about the issue. I think a "blogathon" on the issue is a great idea. But I decided to do something different with my spot on this blogathon.

I have read a lotta posts regarding experiences of eve-teasing & quite frankly some have been quite disconcerting. But suggestions like castration and the like aside, I wanted to consider why these offenders can be so brazen with their ways. Without falling into the trap of providing statistics, I refuse to believe that a majority of men are eve-teasers, even though most may think it's ok because "she asked for it".

I think the reason why they are so brazen is... the same reason why all criminals/fundamentalists/etc etc are so brazen - the silent majority will not as much as raise a finger to stop them unless they feel that their safety is not being compromised.

Two seperate incidents to make my point (both of which are NOT fiction by the way)

Incident #1:

This happened 3 years ago, when I was still in class XII. I was waiting on this bus stop (La Marts near Minto Park, Kolkata) for a bus home from school. There was also these two slightly shady looking characters who were singing the usual "ek ladki ko dekha to" songs directed to this young college-going female, not beyond her 1st year Iam sure.

Then perhaps taking courage from the apathy of the other people present (there were about 7-8 men), the comments became more personal. They started openly discussing about her boobs & what they wanted do to them. The girl tried to put a brave front by ignoring them altogether but the comments actually became more crude, to the point that a few people present actually started giggling. It was really bad & I actually felt embarrassed, so I spoke up.

Freaky Chakra: Eita ki oshobhotami korchen apnara? (What is this indecency?)

Eve-teaser#1: Beshi rongbaji dekhabi na... nijer kaaj kor (crudely translated - dont cross your line, & mind your own business)

FC: Rongbaji apnara dekhachen (You guys are crossing lines, not me)

ETs: Ki bolchis (what did u say?)

At this the two gentlemen walked upto me, shorter and frailer than them both & still in my school uniform. One of them shoved me, while the other caught my school tie & slapped me twice. Hard. The first made me see stars, the second left me dizzy. All the while they kept hurling the most dirty swear words ever designed by man, questioning everything from my family lineage to my mother & sister's modesty.

A crowd immediately gathered, like crowds always do. Nobody... said anything when they could've easily overpowered the two. Being a busy street, a cop soon came on the scene. He was one of those traffic constable guys. That I felt relieved to see him, would be a gross understatement. When he enquired what was going on... this is what the ETs told him - (translated into english for convinience)

"This kid here is looking for trouble (baawali korche)"

I protested trying to say that I was only trying to protect the girl being eve-teased pointing to the person questioned. She had been watching the whole scene with anxious concern so far. When the cop asked her... (believe it or not) this is what she said –

"I dont know anything. I was just waiting for the bus". No kidding bitch! Which part did you miss? Them plotting how to treat you worse than a common street whore, or me getting slapped & abused for trying to protest? Waiting for the bus - How convinient!

Amazingly, not one of the poeple in the crowd (there musta been about 20 poeple there) uttered a word, even though they all knew what had happened. The ETs started yelling and asked the cop to arrest me & shit. I was shit scared and started crying. Of course the cop knew what was going on & he wasnt gonna arrest me, but I was just plain hysteric.

Get a load of this... I had to actually APOLOGISE to those two, before being let-off with a "warning"!!!!!!


I was pretty badly shaken up after this, and it was atleast a few months after this that I came to peace with myself. I can sort of understand now why the girl did that, but even so I do not think I forgive her for doing so. And as for the others in the crowd, letting a school kid getting madhandled by a couple of goons... well, that is the reason why nobody ever stops from anyone from feeling up your daughters & sisters! That is the reason why there are no "superheroes"!!

Incident #2:

I felt that the 1st one was kind of depressing & negative, so I wanted to share another experience which ended on a more positive note

This happened fairly recently, after I had joined college. I was returning home in a bus one day. It was very crowded and there was this fairly young female standing near my seat. Just behind her stood a slightly tallish middle-aged man, evidently drunk and evidently falling a little too much her inspite of the crowded bus & its lurching movement. The girl gave him quite a number of intimidating, dirty looks and her share of "pich-pich" sounds, but this man was not fazed and kept on sort of dry humping her back every time the bus swerved a little.

I had had enough. I got up & offered my seat to the thankful female & positioned myself between the drunk & her. Instead of being discouraged he fell over me even more in an attempt to gain access to her. His drunk breath gave me further assurance, that in case of any trouble I could "handle" this person. Iam sure a lot of others felt the same because they too started giving him stares. Outnumbered, he sobered up for the moment.

When the girl got up to leave... he too made for the exit. Even though it was some 5-6 bus stops away from my home, I got down too so I could keep an eye on what happened. As soon as we got down, this guy moved forward and caught the girl by her hand. She raised an alarm. I got involved immediately as did a two others who had got down at the same stop.

Seeing that the ET was a) Drunk, and b) outnumbered... a few more people in the vicinity also joined in and soon there was a big crowd and it was open season for everyone. Blacken his face said someone, take him to the police said someone else.

But the girl in question just quickly dismissed the whole thing and hurriedly disappeared from the spot. Seeing that the victim was not interested in the ET, the crowd to let him off... & I was back where it all started.

What I could not understand why, inspite of having such a huge crowd backing her did that female not take the bastard to the police! Of course good girls from good families dont get involved in such a mess.

Overheard after the entire fracas:

"Basically they are all sluts, they enjoy all this... that is why they never do anything about it".

I couldnt help but wonder, if the guy was not drunk and alone, if I would've had the courage to be as upfront as I was. But what about these two females? They had been personally wronged. Why could they not speak up? Why could they not do something about it?

Why could they not do anything to be labelled as victims and not sluts?

Action Hero Freaky Chakra

My humble 200 word offering to the great Blank Noise

Can you guess who I am?

I dress modestly. I don’t wear flashy make up.

I am not the kind of a lady one would mistake for a call girl or prostitute.

Yet, when I step out of my home, male eyes follow my every move – I often get asked "How much?"

I can feel that no matter what I am wearing, many of these eyes see me as though I was wearing nothing.

As I move about on the streets, the stares turn to whistles, thrusting pelvic moves in a queue, groping hands in a crowded bus.

I am not a caged canary but a human who has to step outside the four walls of her home – for meeting my neighbours, for buying my daily needs, for fresh air.

Yet, it is never easy.

Have you guessed who I am? Have you seen me on the street?

You must have.

I am the mother who bore you. The sister you feel duty-bound to ‘protect’. The girl you fell in love with.

I am the daughter you are one day going to have.

Will you let me be treated this way forever?

Or will you do something about it, today?

Action Hero Farrukh Naeem

100 words for the Blank Noise

Never the elevator.

Elevators scare me. Always have.

It has been fifty-five years since I last stepped into an elevator.

It’s hard to always use the stairs. But it’s harder to think of taking the elevator.

Can you understand how helpless a lonely child can be when confronted by a molester inside an elevator with soundproof, cold walls?

No one to help. No one to see. No one to listen. No one to save an innocent childhood. Till the lift door opens again.
Can you see the elevator taking you back to your childhood, a painful, scarred childhood?
I can.

Action Hero Farrukh Naeem

Boys will be boys

Posted as part of the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon

The point of a blog-a-thon, of course, is not what you say, but that you say it. Just as the point of running in a marathon (for must of us, at least) is not to set a new World Record, but simply to put on a T-shirt for your chosen cause, slip into the sneakers you bought six months ago (as part of a New Year's resolution) and have never worn, and just have a go at it.

So theoretically, I could say pretty much anything in this post. I could quote Shakespeare "I will be angry: what hast thou to do? / Father, be quiet, he shall stay my leisure". I could find some obscurely apt poem and quote that. I could wax eloquent about socio-cultural conditions and the embeddedness of sexual harassment in patriarchal institutions. I could come up with my own two-bit analysis on how the problem could be 'solved', ignoring, with my usual blitheness, my complete lack of factual information.

Thinking about it, though, I can't shake the feeling that anything meaningful I tried to say on the topic would be mere impostor. Never having experienced street harassment first-hand, or having studied it in any way (academics, of course, are not governed by the rule of knowing what they're talking about), it's hard to think of a piece I could write for this blog-a-thon that couldn't be written better by others, and wouldn't therefore, constitute a presumption.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to try to be analytical or insightful. I'm going to fall back on my old safeguard - poetry. I'm going to break (for the third time in some 300+ posts) my self-imposed rule on not posting poems on this blog, and post one written for the blog-a-thon. It's the best I can do.

Boys will be boys

“Boys will be boys”, you shrug and say,

“You should have said no and not allowed it.”

No. I’m sorry. It’s not okay.

“Next time, come to me. I’ll find a way.

I’m strong, I can help you out. It’s

Just boys being boys. That’s all”, you say.

“It’s not like they hurt you anyway.

Now the neighbours will have to hear about it –

You know, you know that’s not okay”.

“It’s your own fault for being on display,

The sway of your hips, your breasts, your pout. It

Makes the boys want to be boys”, you say.

“They didn’t mean you any harm.” Didn’t they?

The anger rises to my mouth. It

Says: No. No. It’s not okay.

If someone gets hurt it isn’t play.

It isn’t fun if someone cries out, it

Isn’t ‘boys being boys’, as you always say.
Oh, I’m sure you’d rather that I stay

At home; that you make the rule and I don’t flout it.

But no, I’m sorry, that’s not okay.

I’ll not be quiet till it goes away

I’m going to scream it, I’m going to shout it.

Let your boys say what they want to say.

I’ll not put this off for some other day

We fix this now – no two ways about it.

No, I’m sorry, it’s not okay.

And it’s not up to you what I may or may

Not do. You’ve got your view and you’re free to spout it.

“Boys will be boys”. I will have my say.

If they’re boys they must be taught to obey;

If they’re men they can learn to do without it.

No, I’m sorry, it’s not okay.

It’s time we made these perverts pay.

It’s time we did something about it.

‘Boys will be boys’ is all you can say.

How about asking if I’m okay.

Action Hero Falstaff

Another Drop in the Ocean

Late as usual, but I will have my say. I've been reading the posts written as part of the Blank Noise blog-a-thon and I am enraged all over again. It all sounds so distressingly familiar - the groping, the leering, the pinching. I've been away from it for nearly a decade now, and you would think that time would have obliterated the details. But no, I remember each incident like it happened this morning. I remember how it happened, when it happened and what I did, or rather didn't do, for in many of the instances, I was too shocked and too confused to react. I'd like to think I would react differently today, that I would kick harder, scream louder, but I don't know for sure.

The night journeys from Bangalore to Mangalore started off as enjoyable trips with friends, talking away the night, softly humming our favorite songs, discussing movies, books, classes, looking forward to the new adventures that the coming semester would bring. Until, that is, on one of those trips, I felt hands groping me through the narrow gap between the seat back and bottom. With the naivete that we are all lamenting now, I dismissed it as an accident. Maybe the guy had rested his foot on my seat and hadn't realized that he was encroaching. Then, it happened again. This time, I stood up and looked back at the men in the seats behind mine. Of course, they were fast asleep. I whispered to my friend who was in the seat next to me, and I knew then that I wasn't imagining things - she had felt it too. I settled back into my own seat, nervous and edgy. I couldn't sleep now, of course, so I waited for what I knew would happen. A few minutes later, I felt lecherous fingers prying again. This time, I yanked. There was a yelp from the seat behind us, a little hustle and then silence. I was not done, though. I walked up to the conductor woke him up and told him what was happening. I hadn't expected him to do much. He certainly wasn't going to throw those animals off the bus. All I asked him to do was move those men to a different seat at the back of the bus, so I wouldn't have to stay up all night, tense and afraid to fall asleep. Not only did the conductor refuse to do anything, he actually tried to make me feel guilty that I had made a big deal of nothing and had woken up a bus full of people with my complaining. After a while, I gave up and went back to my seat ready to raise a real hue and cry if anything was tried again. Nothing happened - I guess the beastly are also cowardly.
Like so many of the women who have written in with their stories, I had not told anyone about this incident, or any of the others. Different places, different times, different perpetrators - the common thread is the emotions they evoked in me then (paranoia, distrust, disgust, anger) - and the reaction it evokes in me now - I want to reach back in time and slap, kick and scream. The worst part, always, was seeing the perp walk away, leering, grinning, knowing that he had gotten away. But, isn't that why we are all here now, to see that he doesn't get away? Not again. The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. And speaking out. Not hiding. Not mincing words. Saying it like it is. Here's to the Blank Noise and all the courageous women out there who are trying to make a difference. We deserve better, and we have to stand up and demand it.

Action Hero Gayathri Raghavendra

Blank Noise

No woman (or man) deserves to be raped or be forced to defend against unwanted sexual advances of any kind, whether it be a "harmless" remark, kiss, or touch. Men that partake in such activities have no honor nor the worth to exist as a human being.

Well, now that we've dispersed with that.

Women should be treated with respect and reverence, as should all creatures that walk upon this earth. But a woman who does not respect herself first and foremost cannot (may not) command it from her fellow beings. I understand the freedom to dress as you choose and select as you please. There is very little law enforcement here in America involved in what a woman cannot wear in public. Rules exist, but hardly enforced.

Here. I'll stereotype.

Walking down the streets of New York City in a skimpy mini skirt, gossamer thin tube top (which makes it apparent that no bra is worn) and three inch stiletto heels topped with fishnet stockings complete the image. The woman sways down the street and elicits a few howls, a few comments, and maybe a few over zealous and bold passerbys. Maybe she has the grave misfortune to walk into the wrong alley, or bump into the wrong person. Maybe something worse happens. Did she deserve her treatment? I honestly say, no, of course she did not. But did she attract the attention upon herself? Yes, I believe she did.

As a woman (girl), I have never understood the desire of another woman to set herself on display in such a fashion. To show her assets. Oh my, look how large her breasts are. How long her legs are. Look how tiny her waist is. Obviously, America is very liberal. Some European countries are liberal-er. In my opinion, this is a way of debasing ourselves and setting such a discouraging manner. Please, lets leave that up to show biz and Hollywood, hmm?

Women are still hurt, of course. They have been hurt for quite some time and, sadly, will continued to be hurt come time and time again. It does not matter whether she wear a sari or a burka. Whether she attracts the attention or not. It still happens, even if she's covered very decently head to toe; dupatta and all. Part of me wonders wether God decides to sleep those awful moments; why such abusers are ever created. Why they're allowed to leave and poison the air we breathe.

I was in India this past summer. I've witnessed the eve teasings, the leers, the double entendres and the eventual gropes that juxtapose such words. Men's eyes follow women, whether be thin or fat, ugly or beautiful. The overcrowded buses allow these indecent men to cop a feel. The men that raid the train's women's compartments at nights (and even at day). This does not just occur there but all over the world, but my experiences are very limited.

Setting personal experiences aside, I would like to say that there are more decent men out there. There are those who choose to be protectors rather than abusers.

So, my few and fellow readers. Participate in the Blank Noise. Visit Holla Back NYC.

Speak up and say no. And do leave a comment or two.
For far more superior reads on this subject, visit Known Turf, Mumbai Girl, or Witchy Angel. There are also a plethora of links posted on the Blank Noise homepage.

Action Hero Gerz

No man is an island, entire of itself

For the Blank Noise blogathon against street harassment

The Blank Noise blogathon has generated a number of eloquent, stomach-churning accounts of street harassment in cities across India. Women and some men, too, have concretised their experiences and raised their voices against a crime which transcends geography, cultures and financial and religious backgrounds. There has been an outpouring of responses to these posts- expressing sympathy and solidarity by women, and shock and support by men.

However, and this is what my post is about, there have also been those (few) comments which have questioned the regularity and pervasiveness of street harassment. Which, though expressing shock at the incidents, have shrugged them as one-off. Responses that are quotidien from many other men as well, who refuse to believe in a truth staring a half of the population in the eye (and other areas too, if you excuse the pun).

My post is for such self-deluding men. It is also for the men who choose silence over action, who profess helplessness while watching a woman being molested, and who take voyeuristic pleasure in crimes enacted before their eyes. You may not yourselves have indulged in harassment- good for you- but uninvolvement does not equal remedy.

For, you see, you are undeniably and inextricably a part of both the problem as well as the solution.

By choosing not to identify it, you magnify the crisis and reduce the scope for its resolution that much more. By not acting or speaking out against it, you render futile the efforts of other men and women who do, and at the same time give a tacit nod of approval to molesters. You tell them, " I was too sissy to grab her ass, but you did great, brother. Way to go!"

There is a problem. Believe this. There is a slimy undercurrent in every public space of every city (and I'm not even entering the private sphere right now). You might not notice it because you lack the requisite optical capacities. Women develop a finely-tuned, state-of-the-art, all-pervasive sensory apparatus which gives them a view of the world much more different, much more dangerous than yours. It is a survival tactic required of every girl who wishes to reach womanhood safely.

I speak from over a decade of personal experience. I'm overqualified, in fact. I have stayed my whole life in a city that has a public transport service called The Blue Line, for crying out loud.

If you still don't believe it, picture this- that you are like the beings in the city outside of the Matrix; and we, the women who suffer from street harassment, its inhabitants - Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, the gang. We move through the self-same city as you do, but know that the vision of calm that it projects is but a false illusion. The only difference is, there isn't going to be any One who will save humanity.

There is a solution. One in which you may be able to have a larger impact than any of our efforts combined. Being a problem which highlights an acute polarization of genders, it seems valid for the solution, too, to be gendered- that men speak out against and punish offending men. Men condemn molestation in every degree and form, telling their fellow sex that their deeds and habits are inexcusable, atrocious, horrible, criminal. Men ostracize members of their clan, even those who wear the badge of 'friends'.

Molesters expect some retaliation from women. But instant and forceful condemnation by men might just act as the high voltage fence preventing them from ever trespassing again.

Which is why I commend the few male bloggers who have spoken out against the menace of street harassment. To all the rest of you, I say- Look around. Open your eyes. Accept the problem. Speak up. Hit out. Because for every woman who suffers this hell, a son/husband/brother experiences its invisible but certain corrosive ripple effects.

You are a part of a delicate societal matrix which, with each blow to its members, gets even more tattered, leaving them with only that much more space to cling safely to. Which is why, if not for anything but selfish reasons, you have the perfect excuse to take a stand now and speak out against sexual harassment.


No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

-John Donne (Meditation XVII of Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions)

Action Hero Girija Duggal

Blank Noise Blogathon

Making a "Nonissue" an Issue

come, write about the times you don't talk about because it seems too mundane, too everyday, to regular to seem like a 'story' enough. Come, talk about the times someone violated your body by a 'mere' touch, a 'mere' look and a 'mere' obscenity. Man, woman, does not matter -- it happens to all of us.

I was 9, perhaps, when a man on a busy market road touched my crotch.

Age 10 - held back from grabbing a football from the trio i was playing with, held back by a man who thought the best way to restrain a girl was to squeeze her chest -so what if she barely had breasts.

Blurry images come to mind, of similar gropings. No clear images. But know there are many.

A few images later, the story changes.

Age 15 - A man rammed into me on a desserted street. for the first time I hit back. A loud thwack on his back and a mumbled 'galti se ho gayaa madam' was what I got.

Age 17 - A man followed me and a friend, from college to elsewhere. All along describing his organ to us and telling us what it does. I made the action of a backhanded slap and then walked on.

Age 18 - A rickshaw wallah drove and masturbated while I sat alone in the rickshaw, clueless at first about why he drove so badly.

Age 19 - Groped while getting out of a General Compartment in a train. A firm attempt to tell me where I should belong?

I still hit them, it has become easier to do it now. It has also become easier to not worry about hitting the wrong guy (so what if I do!) because the eve teaser usually sinks into the crowd before you know it. remember a woman telling me 'don't worry about hitting the wrong guy, 'usne dekhke nahin chheda . tune dekhke nahin maara'. Works for me!

It has not happened for a long time. Don't know if it is a sign of indian lafangas finally growing up, or is it just my holding my hands up like I'm a robot, in an attempt to clarify 'this is my space and you can reach no further'.

edit - the idea of designing this entry as a chronological piece by presenting experiences alongside ages - the idea was not entirely original but inspired by

the writer in me wanted to acknowledge her. thank you, ma'm wherever you are.

Action Hero Gitika

Bibiji Zyara Dheere Maro

In an excursion through the Blogosphere, I came across this place—The Blank Noise. The point it makes is that leching at women is an offense. Not just groping and passing vulgarities (which undeniably are)

Even looking at girls, with unclean thoughts, is a crime.

Let me quote:

Men, ruled by libidos, do things like this. As junk_alpha pointed out, demeaning thoughts may not be an offense under the law. But what about the scars left on a woman when it happens? The feeling that your body is dirty and unworthy, that’s a playground only for lust and not tenderness? Is legality the only space for this? What about humane sensitivity?

My regular readers (yes I know that is a very exclusive group) would know that I find the argument ” Provocatively-dressed ladies ask for it” to be morally repugnant. But at the same time I feel that the above hyper-feminist point of view goes too far.

If a girl wears provocative clothes ( and of course the word ‘provocative’ is a very subjective word….in Afghanistan it’s exposing your cheeks….face cheeks that is) then I am of the belief that men have the right to look. And the right to think.

Just as the feminist’s argument for dressing provocatively is “It’s my body and I am free to flaunt it” ( as articulated in this line from a song in a B-grade Bollywood movie called “Vijeta”–

“Ghunghat mein mukhre ko kyon main chupayoon, Rup diya Ram ne to kyon na dikhanoon”) , I can also say, in the same way, “It’s my eyes and I am free to look. It’s my mind and I am free to think.”

A caveat. “It’s my hands and it’s free to touch what it likes” does not cut it cause the activity of ‘touching’ is a reciprocal one—-a touch involves two parties and any touch is “illegal” as long as both parties do not agree beforehand that it is desired. However looking at someone is not “reciprocal” and certainly not thinking.

And just like feminists resist people labeling them because of their choice of dress, (ie loose women dress provocatively), they should accord men the same dignity by not labeling them
according to what they may be thinking and where their eyes are going.

“Look Mamma I am showing some cleavage —-that’s fine, I got em……not harming anyone but that horrible man is looking at them… mind is permanently burnt up now.”

If you do not want attention, then your dress should represent that choice.

Of course, dressing conservatively still does not mean that men wont look or think “Dhak dhak karne laga” but it does reduce the chance if it really bothers you that much.

I have had this conversation before with my female friends and the overwhelming majority of them say that they don’t mind getting looked at, even enjoy it if the guy is worth looking at too. Noone enjoys getting groped and my argument is not there—-it’s about why feminists have to make even decent men, who may steal a glance or two, feel like a serial rapist who has “defiled their soul” by virtue of their glances. The contention that looks leave scars on a womans mind is , well, overstating the case.

The second point I wish to make is…in all the posts on sexual harassment raging on in the desi blogosphere there is one group of people who everyone has forgotten. Men. Why is it that whenever a girl says that someone is “looking at her” , people go “Chi chi ghar main ma bahen nahin hain?” while when a man says that a girl is looking at him lasciviously, everyone (girls and boys) start laughing.

We had a guy at Stonybrook who was very meterosexual—-spending hours a day grooming and putting face packs every Friday night. He always used to claim, in all seriousness, that he was sick and tired of girls treating him as a sex object and denuding him with their eyes. Everyone laughed at him and girls ,when told about his accusations against them, would say :

“What does he think of himself?”

“Just another pathetic way to get attention.”

“Does he ever look at himself in the mirror—-does he think he is John Abraham?”

Now why did noone, even stark feminists among the Stonybrook junta, ever believe that his soul was actually being scarred by the x-ray visions of females?

Because he was a man.

Because the assumption is that women are different—they do not ogle or mentally strip men. Because the assumption is that even if they might do it to John Abraham, they will never do it to people like the guy I mentioned. And because the assumption is no man, even if he is ogled, would feel genuinely distressed and cry about it—he would feel thankful.

Now arent these assumptions stereotypes along the lines of “Women should stay in the kitchen”?

Which brings me to the crux of my point—–why the reverse discrimination?

Case in point.

Principal secretary (home) and Bhopal superintendent of police on Thursday apparently bore the brunt of the embarrassment CM Babulal Gaur faced a day before when activists of an NGO demonstrated against him in front of the state BJP headquarters, accompanied by two men whose wives they said had been seduced by the CM into an illicit relationship. Members of Mahila Utpiran Virodhi Morcha alleged that the chief minister was breaking the homes of two men whose wives, Shagufta and Shameena, he had seduced into illicit relationships.

Babuji zara dheere chalo. You have “seduced” two innocent women. Which is a crime against the female species because the Mahila mandal (Mahila Utpiran Virodhi Morcha which translates to Movement against Torture of Women) says so.

Read a bit more.

Incidentally, a month ago, Shagufta Kabir, chief of the state’s Panch Ja with a MOS rank, beat up her husband Salim and broke his bones.

Broke his bones? The innocent lady who is being predated upon broke the bones of her husband? A month ago? Where was the “Purush Utpiran Virodhi Morcha” then?

Of course they were not there———because they just don’t exist.

So now the MUVM is taking up the cause of the two husbands—-not because they are being bashed up by their wives, but because someone else is “snatching” their wives away. Again the guilty person is the man doing the seducing and not the women (hence the “utpiran” part).

Concluding…..ok ladies come on now…….looking is not a crime…..imaginative thoughts are also not a crime as long as you do not act on them without mutual consent.

And also please remember the old saying:

” Sticks and stones do hurt our bones.”

Names———–we are used to.

Action Hero Great Bong - highlighting a social evil

link by Sarika

easy to say - "it only happens to other people", and "im not responsible for it".
fact is , eve-teasing will touch your life even if you dont indulge in it , or are victimized by it.

as a upstanding member of the human species , i find it reprehensible that guys would indulge in passing filthy remarks about people who are daughters, wives, mothers.
as much as i'd like to ignore it happens , it does.

The people in the position to halt it OFFICIALLY shrug off responsibility by saying "she's to blame for it!" and "western attire will invite that" .... i happen to believe that is RANK BULLSHIT.

im sure that girls wearing demure shalwar kameezes and saris too have been 'molested verbally'...and their attitude has NOTHING to do with the misdemeanour.

as i started to say before, its all about the ability to decide not to - the fact that there's a pretty girl on the street , does NOT warrant for a guy to go ahead and invite her attentions, by means fair or foul.

Hindi MAINSTREAM cinema, has a bit to contribute, in its wanton celebration of "Hero playing the bad guy, wins the attention of the heroine". maybe the people who indulge in Eve-teasing, do NOT have the necessary reasoning power to respect ANY girl.

a guy trying to stop this will either be beaten up , or come to worse bodily harm. at best, he can be told "teri kya lagti hai ?".

like ragging , as in eve-teasing, the best way to cure this social ill is summed up in a phrase from "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Hermann Melville.

"I Choose Not To "

Action Hero Neel Sen


I’ve only had this blog for about seven months and one of my most powerful entries was about when I was harassed on the street by a man.

I have been trying to wrap my head around the global reach of eve-teasing, or street harassment, for as long as I can remember being aware of it. I grew up in the United States but have been traveling back to see my family in West Bengal every few years or so since I was born. When I was young, my parents allowed me to wear shorts and t-shirts in India as I squirmed under the intense heat. Then, as I morphed into a young adult, I joined the rest of the women who made sure we were suitably dressed when we left the house – breasts submerged under the careful folds of our dupattas or fitted under the layers of sari. My brother continued to wear shorts and tank-tops, much to my irritation. But even as a pre-teen, I saw it. The stares on the street, the way women kept their heads down or their eyes averted. I wasn’t used to it. When I was younger, I thought of it as a game. How many men will I look in the eye and shock today? How many men will I smile at from this passing car? At that point I felt empowered in my ignorance, and perhaps innocence. I felt as though these women were putting their heads down and avoiding these stares because they were conservative. I felt that this was just the root of my own mother’s anxious cautioning about boys that ruined my burgeoning social life back in the States.

I remember once when I was out shopping with my mother and aunt at New Market, or some place that was an early incarnation of the new fancy malls they have in Kolkata now. It must have been summer and I remember dawdling a few feet behind my mother, since I was always worn out by the heat and didn’t have the stamina for shopping that I do now. I remember that the market was dim, barely lit by the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. The floor was dusty and my feet were dragging. Suddenly, as is want to happen, the market went pitch black because of load shedding. It was probably just 30 seconds or so before the generators came on but when I could see again, my mother was right by my side looking panicked. She grabbed my arm harshly and started yelling at me. “Why are you lagging? You have to stay next to me!” I was so surprised by her anger. I remember pulling my arm away and being bratty because I didn’t understand. As she pulled me along, she said that I had to be careful because men in India would do bad things to you. The moment sticks out to me because I saw so much fear in her eyes at that moment. It wasn’t until much later that I understood that my mother, like most women in India, had experienced eve-teasing and was just trying to protect me.

When I was in India last year, I wrote this article about the connections I saw between technology and sexuality. I got a lot of responses from young men in India who commented on what they thought was a contradiction: How I thought of myself as sexually liberated and then complained about men staring on the street. I felt like this idea – that women are asking for it – is the biggest problem that prevents eve-teasing and street harassment from ending. I’ve actually learned a lot about the issue in India by just perusing the Blank Noise site this past few days leading up to the Blog-a-thon. There are some really interesting articles on the legality behind sexual harassment laws in India.
I always find that sexual harassment and safety issues come up with my girlfriends when we are traveling. Last year when I was in India, I kept trying to separate the fear that my family instilled in my head with reality. Were cab drivers really going to abduct me and sell me into slavery? If I walked alone on the street after dusk was I really going to be harassed to the point of danger? This also happened when I was traveling in South and Central America. Every time I found myself buying into the rhetoric that men in India and Mexico were much more egregious street harrassers, I would think about my daily existence in the United States where I am constantly dealing with men making comments to me. Regardless of where I am in the world, I refuse to bow my head to this disempowerment. I am thinking of getting a camera phone just so I can participate in the Holla Back project.

Action Hero Neela Banerjee

Online Activism: Blank Noise Project

I was only 11 when I first realized that as a member of the 'weaker sex' I was vulnerable, and could easily fall prey to sexual abuse. But I had the power of education and a supporting family to teach me and protect me.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I am, and more often than not, sexual abuse - both physical and verbal goes unreported and almost always, unpunished.

It is commendable that now both women and men are waking up to this bitter reality and putting their heads together to curb it.

Blank Noise Project is an online activism forum which is inviting people to come together and express solidarity with words. Their 'Blog-a-thon 2006' is a 'marathon' to make blog posts, and build testimonies against street harassment in the public space.

I understand that it will be a herculean task to put an end to social evils like eve-teasing, molesting and sexual abuse. And as long as the people in power continue to twiddle their thumbs over grave matters such as these, and pointing fingers at a woman's morals; it is the 'common woman' who has to take action. Whether it is a young woman travelling in a crowded bus, or a school girl walking down the alley - we have to worry about our own protection, and we have to raise over voices against harassment.

Action Hero Neeta Shenoy

Its a war we fight every day

From my first time on a local bus till date, it has been a constant battle. I remember the first time a disgusting hand gropped me. I was 15 then. I was so scared, that I didn't want to continue with my tuitions. My parents were understanding, they arranged for alternative means of transportation. A temporary respite. In college it began again. Everyday in the bus it was about surviving without an incident that leaves you feeling flithy and disgusted. Everyday was about self preservation through the public transport system. If you asked me for a profile of the kind of men to stay away from in the buses, I won't be able to. I have seen these men come in all ages, in all forms. From words, to looks , to gestures, to trying to touch you .. they will do anything.

Within a year I learnt how to stop being a victim and start protecting myself. Return the look with the stare that tells them you are not scared, Raise your voice and get the crowd on your side.. in metros men will be ready to beat up almost anyone, as if to release all their frustrations. I learnt to do it all.

But it wasn't enough. Because I wasn't the only one going through this. I protected myself, but then I would see other women, girls going through the same thing. Probably they had learnt to keep quiet rather than raise your voice. My reactions were still the same... The same disgust.

I would see the same looks, gestures, hands targetted at others. I knew I couldn't sit silently so I raised my voice again.

So instead of trying survive the bus myself, my fights became about making sure that others survived it too.

Yes, I learnt to survive. That is not the point. The point is Why did I need to learn it? What is wrong with this society that a girl has to fight her away through a 15 min trip on a public bus. When did we become so depraved?

The question I can't help asking is how much longer do I need to keep fighting? Can someone please answer...

Action Hero Neha Paruthi

Breaking the silence - Blank Noise Project.

This is my contribution to the Blank Noise Project Blog-a-thon 2006. This post is more of a ramble. However, as others break their silences, I can't help but break mine.

When I was twelve, somebody leaned over and said - don't attract attention to yourself. That's what I have been doing all my life. When I leave my home, I clutch my belongings, adjust my clothes and will myself to be invisible. I occupy the tiniest strip of space. I am constantly moving sidewards to let men walk by, because I know they will most definitely "accidentally brush".

From some unknown age, a verbal survival guide becomes your holy book. Don't take an auto when it's dark. Don't take a bus in the rush hour. Get into the crowded "Ladies" compartment even if the "General" compartment is half empty. When you sit in an auto, never sit close to the sides even if you want to feel the wind in your hair. Sit in the centre, so no passing hand can reach inside and grope. Don't smile at the autodriver. Don't smile at the shopkeeper.

By the time you're 18 you have permanent frown lines on your forehead. All your life, you have been biting your teeth and not smiling. In all public spaces.

I have never been able to sleep when on a train journey. Never been able to close my eyes for second when on a bus. Even on the most tiring of days. When I was in college - I used to carry a big bag and a folder. The folder would be clamped onto the chest, and the bag would be balanced on my back. My armour. I took to wearing salwar kameez in college for a while, wondering if it was about the clothes. It wasn't. It doesn't stop. I carried safety pins. A pocket knife. (Confiscated by the airport in Indore.) Another pocket knife.

At least for my generation, it didn't end on the street. Street harassment followed you like a slithering reptile inside your home. They found out your phone numbers and made obscene calls. P used to get a lot of those calls. She used to come home (invisible on the street) and cry. Her parents thought it was her doing. You don't tell anyone about all this. Because telling family members is admitting to your vulnerability. It could mean restrictions. Especially when you are 15.

One of my friends had acid thrown on her face. Because she refused to respond to the catcalls of a few boys. When they went to the Police, they asked her about her clothes, her friends, her behaviour, her habits. Then, they blamed her.

Coming back from college, if the bus was too crowded, I used to try and walk the seven kilometer stretch. Even in the bloody summers. Even when I kept away from the crowded bus, and walked - some asshole would drive by, roll down his window, and ask persistently if I wanted a lift. No. I'll give you a lift. No. Please come. No. Come you bitch. No. Walk. Five minutes later - another car. No. No. No.

In Bombay - the bus is safe as long as there is a critical number of people inside. If the bus felt a bit too empty, I would take an auto. I would have a pretend-conversation on the phone. So the autodriver knew that somebody knew where I was. Sometimes when bus conductors, autodrivers and shopkeepers try to hand back change - they squeeze your hand.

We are surrounded by movies that encourage street harassment. Follow a girl enough times and she will fall in love with you. On the road, it's okay to sing vulgar songs about someone's waist, walk, eyes, bosom. Shame her into burning helplessness.

I don't want to be protected by a man. No man needs to feel responsible for me. I don't want a man to spew venom on my behalf. I don't want to be left alone because I am someone's wife, sister, daughter. I don't want to hide in "Ladies-Only" compartments. I want to look at a city's buildings and take photographs, without dodging a biker's hands. I don't want to be afraid to go into a Police Station. I want to be able to go for a walk without swallowing my fear by the minute.

I refuse to believe that all male bloggers are not involved in street harassment. I don't think most men realize that they have the male privilege. Street harassment takes on different forms - digital, cellular and otherwise. But it is the same in essence. They don't respect personal space in a public domain. The line between admiration and street harassment is not thin. I've been reading a lot of "I never knew this happened" testimonies penned by men, but I am curious about the other lot? Do they read this stuff? Are they going to dismiss this as feminist crap? I get an avalanche of vulgar anonymous comments sometimes - are they the same kind who harass on the streets?

Of course, street harassment is not unique to India. I am sure London has its share. But I would be lying if I didn't say that London welcomes me on her streets. I take photographs, smile at shopkeepers and on some occassions even sing to myself.

What is unique to India is the apathy. The heartbreaking indifference. The SILENCE. Victims should not speak of being the victim. We should suffer in our silence. The "world" meanwhile, feigns ignorance. You process the blank noise in your head, and don't tell anyone. And hope that it will all go away. It doesn't.

Oh! What really gets my goat - is when somebody suggests that you learn Martial Arts to defend yourself. Right. So tomorrow if someone harasses me, and I get harassed, it's again my fault that I couldn't defend myself. Really?

Action Hero Neha Viswanathan

Does Eve Teasing Really Exist?

Hi all how's everone doing?I found this site just yesterday and was trully horrified to hear such real bad experiences of teasing not only in New Delhi but all over India truly i didnt expect that such thing really exists or else it is such a big issue but after reading the posts of fellow bloggers i was moved and would like to know that are these stories by fellow members really true please do not misunderstand me i am just amazed to hear such stories of horror and also please let me know if any one has any sugesstions on how this menace could be controlled though i have taken a grass root level approch to root out this social menace that is by telling all my group of friends not to get involved into eveteasing.Though i am also keeping and eye over them while we are together that they dont do any indescent thing hope you understand the main purpose of doing this is that if some people get civilised then they can go on to civilise many more people so please let me know what all do you think will wait eagerly for your replies though i am new to blogs so do help me in achiving sucess.signing off Nishant Bahal.

Action Hero New Delhi Speaks

We will NOT perish without a fight

This is not about gender equality. It is about people. But about people with breasts and a vagina. Forgive my crudeness. So then, it does become about the whole 'redundant' gender topic now, doesnt it?

" Its not like someone is raping you, is it? Wonder why women make such a hullabaloo about it."

Well let me tell you why. It breeds a feeling of self disgust. "It is the girl's fault, of course." The whole psychology of taking responsibility for everything, being a martyr. So girls, women, ladies- stop blaming yourselves and ask the moral police to find a new job.

I remember this particular incident(out of the very many). I was 11 years old taking swimming lessons during summer. I was quite independent and used to get back home in ~6 in the evening after classes in a rickshaw. Quite a popular mode of transport in Bangalore. So I got into one of those as usual, with a chatty driver. In the first few minutes, I knew something was wrong. Well, no it wasnt because of the infamous woman intuition but just that I had a normal olfactory system. The guy had been drinking.

"So you go swimming eh? All little girls running around in swimsuits", said the rickshaw driver.

No reply.

"Are you in a hurry to go home? We could go somewhere else" and turns the auto in another direction.


I bolted out of a running rickshaw. I did!! I ran to a nearby bus stop and sat there. Thankfully, there were many people. I was trying hard not to cry in public. The driver followed me...trying hard to walk. The rickshaw guy was saying lewd things. There was a man sitting next to me at the bus stop who didnt budge and looked away. We dont see evil like the Gandhian monkey right?A woman spoke up. She yelled at the guy and asked him to leave the place. She consoled me and asked me to take another rickshaw back home. No more rickshaws for me that evening, thank you very much. She said she was going in the same direction and told me that I could take the bus with her. I reached home and burst into tears. Sobbed out the whole story to my mom and didnt dare breathe a word to my dad. Wonder why now.

After that incident, I am always on guard. Paranoid even.

At one of the girl 'pyjama parties', I was shocked to hear so many stories from my friends..being molested by relatives when they were kids! Apparently, it is not that uncommon. People just dont talk about it. And most girls blames themselves.

Women's day doesnt mean anything to me. But if people are going to become more aware of the world they live in because of one day 'dedicated' to women, so be it. That doesnt hurt or annoy. Unlike the lewd comments, stares, arse pinching, verbal absuses...oh the list is endless.

I just hope more women find the strength first.... in order to find their voices.

Action Hero Searchinformrmojorising

I say, NO!

There was something very creepy, something very uncomfortable about these two teenaged boys who used to live on the ground floor of her building, a place somewhere aloof from the Mumbai suburbs. She was just six then, a mind too tender to even understand the rights and the wrongs of the world. Almost everyday, one of them alternatively used to come to her house and gradually befriended the girl’s grand parents. They used to convince her granny for taking her grand daughter out for an ice- pepsi which was popular amongst the kids then, and instead took her upstairs to a flat on an under constructed floor and…….

The girl now doesn’t even remember how they abused her, but she remembers her turmoil and disgust that she suffered even then and later that the process of ‘going out for ice- pepsi’ coming to a screeching halt.

Maybe her grandmother who spent most of her life in the innocent villages and who was more than just a grandmother and a guardian of the little girl when her parents were away at work suspected something fishy and took stern action…. Maybe someone else caught those boys during the act…. Maybe something else.

I just vaguely remember this entire thing happening to me, but I was jolted with surprise when another friend of mine narrated a similar experience that happened with her, at a similar age.

She was sexually harassed by her own uncle.

As I grew, I realized this was every girl’s story.

Guess the old saying ‘charity begins at home’ stands right in such cases.

The disgust still haunts, still hurts and is relived day-by-day, everyday. It happens on the streets, school buses, on your way to office, crowded elevators and staircases, hospitals, police stations, you name it and you have it right there, happening in broad day light.

So who all are these ‘men’ who indulge in shamelessly harassing a girl who is also a living being just like him, just to pacify their raging hormones? Well, there are no categories; just anybody and everybody can qualify with flying colours. It can be your own mamaaji or phoophaji, the aspiring Post Graduates from American Universities living in your own building, the roadside Romeos, the overworked, under paid and overstressed conductors of the buses, any spitting passerby with boneless arms connected to his shoulders that swing so hard that they make sure they touch some girl’s breast on the railway station, a seventy three year old uncleji, someone who is generally least suspected too who would just murmur a lewd comment when you are passing by and act as if he said nothing, the highly qualified, White collared executives who bombard colleagues and juniors alike and known for their aggressiveness and competition working for MNCs, anybody, JUST ANYBODY.

We as townies, or broadly as Indians have been bricked and battered with the ‘Chalta hai’ attitude, which now runs in our blood.

More so in the case of girls

Folks and friends alike advise us that it is a time tested attitude that has avoided unwanted consequences that would pick up from your revolt. So the next time your galli ka dada comments ‘Gorgeous madam’ you tell yourself ‘chalta hai’. An uncle passing by tries to ridiculously sing ‘dhak dhak’ coming very close to your ears, you tell yourself ‘chalta hai.’ A rough hand wary of maneuvering the steering wheel of an overcrowded school bus slides into your skirt and caresses your behind when you are standing ahead of him as you, him and all other kids hurry to alight, you tell yourself ‘chalta hai’. You are late from office and you hurry to catch a rickshaw to go home and the minute you enter and settle in the seat, an unknown hand comes in, gropes your breast and disappears, you again tell yourself ‘chalta hai’.

But somewhere, deep inside, you very well know the repeated ‘chalta hai’ is a lie, an implicated statement on your otherwise infuriated, weepy, outraged mind. Who would want to get rough with these guys after all? What if they are not just mere guys who harass and abuse, what if they are something more than just that, someone dreadful?

The fear puts all the anguish, all the tears on hold, you feel OK to let such things go and life moves on.

Not forever.

So the next time while you are hustling out of a subway and a guy coming towards you falls over you, you push him so hard that he almost falls and then you turn and hit him on his back

You are waiting on the railway station for your 9.27 Churchgate local and the creep standing on the opposite bridge constantly stares at you occasionally making some lewd gestures, you show him your middle finger just about when your train approaches and you are about to lose his sight.

The conductor in an overflowing bus makes the most of the situation by brushing almost every organ of his body against you and you stomp on his foot with all the might of your four inches’ heels clad feet

The smartie who occupies a seat besides you in the bus tries to get too close, you ask him flatly and loudly- what is his problem. And if you both are on the ladies’ seat, you make sure he gets up and gives it to any other lady who is standing.
You hunch, draw both your arms in front so as to cover your chest and hide it from groping hands while you are going up and down crowded bridges.
You frown at everyone so hard so as to let them know they cant mess with you, that your forehead aches

You have an ever ready fist to fling.

Your dreamy, unaware friend while walking with you, is felt up by some passerby taking advantage of her absence of alertness, you give her a BIG piece of mind.
You glare back at your boiling point at a person who is staring at you sitting in front of you in a public place and make sure he looks away.

And the saga goes on. Sometimes you give it back, many a times you dont.

Somehow, the Superwoman image has been so glorified over the recent years that all of us aspire to be one, at some point of time. At least to prove to ourselves, we tell ourselves, yes we can handle these pests too. But it would be our sheer stupidity if we take things for granted.

The best and only way out is to ignore, when you find yourself, unfortunately, with a shady person at some secluded place and he tries to act smart.
Read people’s faces, it teaches you over a period of time who can be harmful and who is not.

Walk very, very carefully in public places

Don’t day- dream; avoid thinking of funny things that would unknowingly bring a smile on your face and send wrong signals.

Be curt, expressionless with guys who try to strike a conversation. Give them an impression you are the world’s biggest bore.

Its always good to have the phone number of your friend’s friend’s dad or brother who is a police or is a local political honcho.

Look away and not down, when a group of boys try to pass comments on you. Let them know you can’t give them the satisfaction of getting embarrassed by their comments.

Overall, there are innumerable dos and don’ts that any girl would have for her and would like to tell you too.

Also, sometimes the comments, the songs, the whistles, the murmurs and the touches might put you to shame, make you feel utterly helpless, enrage you like nothing else and reduce you to tears of anguish and self pity.

You might hate yourself for being a woman.

But then, deny.

Deny succumbing.

Feel proud that you are a woman and thank God you are not one of those jerks. Pity them as they don’t have the strength to put their dirty desires aside and refrain from committing such henious acts…

And nurture that anger, that pain, as that very anger and pain will help you to make a difference, maybe in your own little way.

Or, maybe, in a big way.

Action Hero Say ‘Cheee’

Me 'running' for the Blogathon!

'So why do girls get all worked up with sleazy, or read it 'casual' comments or just- a- few- here- and- there pinches and feel- ups, I mean, can't you take it as a compliment or just simply IGNORE? Why get offended?', said one of my male- friends and a colleague, while I narrated to him how a guy started acting fresh when I was on my way to office in a jam- packed 461 bus. Yeah, right! Try saying this very thing to your sister/ daughter/ mother/ wife and you will know, I thought angrily to myself and didnt even bother to answer back to such insensitivity of a 'well qualified, highly educated' individual. And felt the anguish, the helplessness belongs only to me and nobody else and its just ME and nobody else who can fight for myself.

And lo! I stumbled upon the Blank Noise Project, something very sensible and constructive that's happening off late. This project speaks about street harassment and what all can be done about it, where all of us 'eves' get royally 'teased' by the wannabe Abhisheks and Shahrukhs on the streets and bridges and gallis and koochaas.
This project forced me to start blogging, just to be a participant in the Blogathon thats due on the 7th of this month, to begin with, so that I can just puke out all the experiences, the frustration and anger and free advices I had since I was six??!!
And of course even those few punches and a few kicks here and there on those demented guys didnt turn out to be as satisfying as it will be by participating in the Blogathon.
So people, I guess its high time we crib and rant and bray and squeal about this pestering issue too and come up as a strong force to curb or at least put it under strict control as its rising day by day at an alarming rate.

I will be writing a seperate blog for the Blogathon before the 6th, why not you too be a part of it?

Also, feel free to forward this little piece of info to anyone who you feel would be interested in participating.

Do make a point to visit Blank Noise Project and get inspired, get moving.

Action Hero Say ‘Cheee’

A few incidents chosen at random... for the BLANK NOISE PROJECT

At age 13 I remember waiting at a signal daydreaming away when this guy caught my attention, so busy licking his lips and sending me kisses in the most lecherous way. I was so bewildered. It didn't make any sense to me. I remember my mother telling me to just ignore men like that.

Back home in Chennai to do my intership after a year in Bombay, I'm on the bus to Ambattur. The bus is so crowded, there are all kinds of things poking into me, mostly harmless, some veggies, an umbrella, a penis...I feel sick and I get off the bus right then. Everyone asks me why I didn't scream. He'd have been beaten up for sure they say. I can't even begin to explain how overwhelmed with disgust I was, I wanted to be anywhere but there.

Somewhere in Bombay on another bus a man pinches me and I do yell but no one reacts. HE gets off and smirks at me from the ground. I feel ashamed of my outburst. I'm angry, worst of all helpless.

On the train from Bombay to Cochin, there's a man I think is a cop. He was dropped to the station by a bunch of cops and they all looked like buddies. He seems nice enough but at night when everyone is getting their berths up I can feel him staring at me. The night is hot and I toss and turn and everytime I look up he's still staring.
I get up and go to the loo, when I get out, he standing right there, I move to the side so I can leave so he can use the loo. Instead he pushes me in a bit and asks me if he can come in with me. Before I know it I've run back to my berth. Everyone else is sleeping. I call Ro but I can't get through, so I call a friend of mine. She's like, make a scene, he deserves it but when I tell her I think he's a cop even she says drop it.

I stay on the phone till the man gets back, then I wake up the boy on the berth above me. I consider telling him what happened but in the end nothing did happen and it boils down to his word against mine. The boy wanted to use my phone sometime earlier, so I wake him up and say I have reception now would he like to use my phone. He's so sweet, so in love he doesn't consider the lateness of the hour, he immediately says yes and has a long conversation with his fiance. I'm just happy for the company, my other eye on the man. When the boy is done with the phone I keep him talking until I see the man is asleep or at least faking it.

The next day I didn't, couldn't get up from my seat till he got off at Shorunur.

Later I was rounding up all these incidents and more with friends and one of them a guy, tells me, "The problem with you is that you make eye contact with people, you smile at them, you don't look tough enough."

Action Hero Rivka

The Street

I have been reading the Blank Noise Blogathon posts. They have only reinforced what I’d always known. Street harassment is something that women confront everyday, without fail, every time they walk out of their homes. (For the moment/for this post, I'm going to ignore the harassment of women within the 'home'). All of us have hundeds of stories to share. Teaching in a women’s college has at least given me this knowledge--that I am not alone in the constant humiliation of my Self. The humiliation that I have to face simply because I have breasts and a vagina and I haven’t yet learnt to walk with lowered eyes. My stories are no different from the stories that other women have to tell. The ‘accidental’ brush, the pinching of buttocks, the groping hands in trains, the quick squeeze of the breasts, the rubbing of erect penises against the body—the list is endless. I feel like I need a rant, but I’m too tired today and a poem (or poems) will have to do.


The Street: I

The street knows

I’m a sum total of body-parts

I’m flesh

in the marketplace

ready for the taking

The street grows

lewd hands

and sneering eyes

and slaps me until I shrink to a zero


The Street: II

When my friend

talks about riding

a nightwave on a distant

moon-drenched street

I want to scream.

I will never know

what it means

to seduce

the nightstreets



The Street: III

The street has inscribed

a frown inside me.

I can’t rub it off

And I wear it

emblazoned on my skin.


Action Hero Nitoo Das

Blank Noise Blogathon - Battle of the sexes

I sat in the far end of the café at the end of the world, trying to ignore time and let my thoughts coil and uncoil in the dungeons of my mind. At eight in the evening on a Monday, the world, for all I cared, could march straight to apocalypse now and I would have strewn flowers in its way and smashed a bottle of champagne on its back. There is something manic about Mondays (as the song goes) that calls for a certain morbidity and snap-at-life-ness. However, here, in the sanctum of coffee fumes engulfed, in a snuck corner with nothing but a sheer wall behind me and the rest of the world stretching away from my toes, I felt the self sinking into a comfortable inertia.

On the table next to mine, gelled and calvin klined, sat five men – specimen of what globalised consumption, rich parents and good education can do to people – talking at the top of their voices, showering hi-fives to each other, laughing, roaring, making jokes, having a ball of a time wrapped in their indifference to therestoftheworld. It was the mobile brigade, their phones always on the beep and their hands punching keys even as they talked under the neon hued tree-scape. I smiled at them, over the rising vapours of my cup, with benign amusement – old age comes with tolerance for that which reminds one of one’s own younger days, when one sat on the roads, around an old wizened man strewing cups of tea served in thick glasses, and felt disconnected from the traffic that passed us by; the hours, the days, the years.

Time tiptoed around me, knowing quite well that one false step and I would have killed it with a flat note. And just when I was feeling divinely alone – like god in his heaven, flipping over pages in an old, old book – she walked in. I am not particularly sure how to describe her but if Byron were alive, he would have stirred out of his hashish induced stupor and poked me in my ribs with a familiarity that the Romantics had perfected, and issued a small whistle and said, ‘Now that’s what I meant when I said, ‘Walks in beauty like the night’ ’ before sliding back into his hallucinogenic world.

With quick unhurried steps, she climbed the stairs and made the entire room gasp – a thing of beauty joy forever – and with a smile that would have lit a couple of African nations for a year and a tilt of the head that could have changed seasons, she walked in. Her stride was unconcerned, her hands, covered in many bangles tinkled as they swayed. She punctuated her walk with a comma, perched, as if in mid-air, to sweep the room with her eyes and then traipsed along to the far corner of the triangular room that we were all entombed in. You could see that she was happy. She smiled at strangers – something you generally don’t do in big cities unless you are begging or waiting to be picked up, she irradiated a certain all’s-well-with-the-worldness around her that was infectious. The room felt a better place, now that she was there. In her eyes, one could see traces of a secret joy that she was fostering – nothing in specific, just the joy of somebody who was happy to be alive.

People smiled back at her; momentarily taken aback, but caught in the wave of happiness that she was riding, but eventually giving in. The waiters all watched with their breaths held up, to see which table she descended on. And as she walked certain steps towards where I was sitting, there was a sudden lull in her stride. A chance word or comment from the GAP Group, as I called them in my mind, stopped her in midair as if she was frozen in time. As she stopped, there was a huge roar of laughter and the more courageous man – one shall call him that for lack of a better word – stood up and walked quickly to where she was standing. On the pretext of going nowhere he brushed against her and let his hand hover over her back, closer to the legs than you would have liked to imagine. And then with a look of a hyena that had found its prey, sauntered back to his table, his head held high and his pants tenting in the traces of a power erection.

It happened so fast that the only spectator to this whole thing was me and the bastids who were flocked at the table, their faces split in indecent glee and their eyes covered with a sheen of machismo, now that they had collectively conspired against a single woman in a public place. Her face was registering shock, like somebody had suddenly slapped her with a wet sponge. Her eyes were wide with the unexpected and quivering in anger. Her nostrils were dilating and her body was erect, caught in a rage that had no defining. I looked in horror back at her, wondering what to do next. What does one do next? Does one get up and preach to the bastids – the sons of bachelors, the gutter rats? Does one avenge the woman’s ‘honour’? Does one get up and shrug shoulders and leave it at that because that’s how the world functions? Does one join in, showing camaraderie to the macho men that they are? Does one pretend that it never happened? Does one make a mental note in the mind, only to quickly pile it up with something else? Does one naturalise it because come on, it happens every day to everybody, right?

Questions, at the speed of hemp fumes, rushed in my mind as I half sat and half stood, unable to reach a decision. Our eyes met and silently I offered her any help that she might have needed. But before I could stand up and offer any help of any sort, she turned. Taking slow and calculated steps she reached the roadside romeo who had just violated her, swung her hand in a style that would have made Sania Mirza gasp in envy and gave one tight resounding slap on his cheek. Swearing in styles that would have immediately made the censor board issue an A certificate, calling upon their mothers and sisters to the oldest professions in the world, she emptied a cup of hot coffee on a gelled head and then quietly walked back towards where I was sitting.

The silence in the room was palpable. The entire populace was staring between the two tables, from her to them, as if it was a tennis match. The rug rats had visibly shrunk, their eyes wide in horror. The Slapped sod was on the verge of tears and the others were doing a fine imitation of a rabbit caught in headlights. One slap and an overturned cup was all that was required to deflate their hormone fed masculinity. In two minutes, they had disappeared, their lesson learnt, hopefully thinking twice before ever engaging in casual eve teasing…

It needs people like her to remind at least half of MAN kind that even Adam, when he had walked up to Eve and made a pass, had a red cheek and a kick in his balls for the action. Eve teasing is a crime and to let it pass of as a joke, perhaps even bigger. Sexual harassment is an act of violation and violence and deserves to be punished – sometimes informally and sometimes through the law, depending upon the nature of it. It needs people like her to fight it. And it needs everybody who agrees with it, to support the fight. This is not a battle of the sexes – men versus women; it is the battle between people who care and people who don’t. Whether man or woman, if you see an act of sexual harassment, no matter how miniscule it might be, no matter who it is targeted at, do not ignore it or detach yourself from it. What happened to her could happen to anybody we know – men or women. And sometimes just your presence or solidarity gives the victim enough courage to right things up.
It is women’s day today and as a part of the Blank Noise Blogathon, I endorse the need to fight actively against sexual harassment in public spaces around us.

Action Hero Nishant

A place of my own

In the bus?

the cafetaria?

the auditorium?


friend's house warming party?

the rock show?

cafe coffee day?

the footpath?

my photos?


when I bend down to pick something up?

on stage?

a relative's wedding?

the beach?

while shopping?

in the rear view mirror?

car parking?



Habitat Centre?

railway station?


Give me a place where I don't have to worry about my bra strap...

"Thus have I put down my thoughts- I may have deceived myself- I may be vain- I may be in the wrong. I try to examine myself- and such as I have written appears to me the exact truth."

--- Mary Shelley

*For Blog-a-thon 2006 (Blank Noise Project)

Action Hero Shivangi


Action Hero Taruna

Bank noise project

I was reading A Public Diary and hit upon Blank Noise Project. This really made me started thinking. Street Abuse, otherwise called eve-teasing.

Abuse is rampant, much more in the northern part of the country than in south, or so it seems at least, but yes I have been unable to come around a single friend of mine who has escaped it, be it public transport, be it by lanes, be it relatives, be it strangers.
Why this abuse though? what makes the guys do it ?? Is it their insecurity, do they feel threatened by female sexuality, and hence the need to control, force, enslave ?

Or is it the barometer of our cultural maturity.

I guess it is all, but what makes it all the more sick is the trauma that the victim goes through. those endless nights, where she questions herself, believes that she instigated it, holds herself responsible for it having happened to her, shuts herself off, or goes ahead to tame a break all the guys she can come across. In short the abuse leaves a permanent mark on one's psyche.

I guess the only way to attack this problem is to attack the roots, attack the decadence that has crept into our society, where we no longer value the originality of thought that we exhibited some centuries ago. The moral policing is not going to solve the issue, only thing that can solve this issue is demolish all the taboo's in the society.

Such was the magic all around

such was the bounty abound

such was the diversity and tolerance

such was the land where I belonged

there was a place for everyone

every thought had a pedestal

all were invited to be part of the the glory

and the live the glory to the max

and the land nurtured them all........

Action Hero Zyborg

Take a vow

As I sit down to write for the blank noise blog-athon, I wonder where I could begin. Should I start chronologically from the age of 7, when a man servant felt me up in places I can still not get myself to write down? Or should I go ahead to the age of 14 when a guy rubbed himself into me in a not so crowded bus in Nepal, all this when my parents and sister were in the same bus, but I didn't dare to move, for the sad reason that at that age, I didn't know how have the guts to react in that kind of a situation. Or should I just jump past all those daily experiences of men feeling me up, pushing themselves into me in public transport, or staring at me or winking at me or passing lewd remarks or pinching my butt or singing songs or throwing balloons at me every damned holi or autodrivers offering me "lifts, jahan bhee jaana ho" or cars stopping by when I am walking alone on a main busy road, following me for some time, assuming that I am on sale or "boys" aiming small paper pellets at my butt or men hitting my butt by driving too close to me while I am walking my dog or guys speeding on a bike hitting my chest so hard that I almost fall with the sheer force (apart from the shock)... I am out of breath already and this sentence doesnt even seem to be anywhere near ending. Maybe I should just land up at the incident which happened at some new year party when I was 16 and at that age, like everyone else I had the humble desire a young girl would have - that of being asked for a dance (not even a ballroom dance, just a jam session). Little did I know that the request for a dance was a pretext for masturbation in a public place with the guy trying to make me fondle his dick. By that age, I was thankfully not so ill-equipped in terms of presence of mind (had enormous experience of such incidents by now) and I shoved him away with all my might. But till this date, only one person on this planet knew about it and she actually thought that I had imagined it all, since guys in those social circles are supposed to be "decent". Nothing really "harmful" (this term is so damn subjective) happened then. I tried dealing with that incident in an adult manner (in my mind i.e.) so that my self esteem didnt get hit ("did I really look the cheap variety or did I look the "unable to do anything variety" to attract the wrong guys" kind of doubts).

There are ways and means to tackle that colleague who talks to your breasts or that elderly relative who pretends to be fawning over you but is actually lusting (you can always tell). Of course, one needs to weigh ones options and actions a little bit keeping in mind all odds. One does not go ahead and take pangas with a gang when one is alone. But one can definitely be alert and quick (not just physically but mentally as well).

There has happened a particular incident of ballooning where the guy made the mistake of being visible while throwing the balloon. He happened to work at a local barber shop, which I immediately stormed into and gave him a piece of my mind and some of the choicest abuses I knew. A guy there (a client) egged me on to give him a tight slap as well. I quietly ignored him since I didnt want the situation to get so heated up and that guy seemed to be egging me on just for kicks. I cant say that what I did, would have made the ballooning guy stop it for his life. But it's always best to bring the "situation" into notice. The fear of embarassment is enough for some to at least think twice about it next time. There was another guy who tried brushing past me on a main road while I was waiting to cross it. The whole damn road was empty, but he thought that he would have a piece of my butt before I reached the other side. That guy was unaware that he was going to get the shock of his life. Though I felt like killing him, I merely held his collar with both hands and shook him so badly that he didnt know what hit him. He tried running for his life, but he couldnt. I was surprised with my own grip. Eventually he managed to pull off and ran for his life. It was only when everything was over and done with, that the "crowd" asked me what happened and if he was trying to snatch my purse.

There are umpteen such situations in everyday life and they would perhaps never end. Not only is it difficult to try and give such sick men their due, it is very much a difficult thing when you are left in a doubt about the intention of someone. At times things happen accidentally and unintentionally too. But at most times they are obvious enough to be brought to public notice. Even if the "crowd" does not react (and only watches) one should definitely make sure that one does not ignore it. In public transport one can always request ppl politely to stop pushing or plainly to stand a little away. The way one does it makes sure that even the ones who did it accidentally arent offended by your request and the ones doing it intentionally can not just go scot free. When it happens repeatedly in spite of polite requests, it's time to stomp that high heel onto his foot or to shove ones elbow into his balls.
The best way to actually try and reduce something like this is to spread awareness amongst women that they can actually protest against it. I have grown up watching things happen to me and around me and even though I knew it was wrong I didnt know what to do about it (till some point in my life). One needs to ignore minor happenings but one also needs to make sure that the ones which can be avoided, are. Things can get as ugly as molestation of ones own children or marital rape. There is no dearth of the levels till which harassment can go. Be aware, be prepared, be alert and be proud to be a woman inspite of the shit that happens.

Action Hero Priyanka Sachar

A fable against Street Harassment

A modern Indian Fable that shows how street harrasment is handled and percieved.

In the town of Alpadrishti, there lived a man named Aparajita.This man was neither rich nor poor but somewhere in between.As wealthy as one needs to be, for oneself and for one's loved ones.Once he wanted to attend a wedding in the neighbouring town.So he spent his hard-earned money and acquired a nice silk shirt, a new dhoti, a silk turban, jewelry so that he could look presentable.As he was making his trips to the local merchants, he noticed a few men watching him.He ignored them and continued walking.

These men were a band of thieves united under their leader Chapalachitta.They were watching Aparajita's movements and Chapalachitta was tempted by his newly-acquired luxuries.They plotted and planned to plunder him.One night in the wee hours when no creatures but the nocturnals stirred they slowly entered Aparajita's home.He and his family were fast asleep.Chapalachitta and his gang looted the house.As they were making their exit,Aparajita woke up and screamed and the thieves were caught red-handed.

As was the custom in the town,they were taken to the Panchayat which was headed by Mitamati, the village chieftain.Mitamati asked chapalachitta to explain and he said , "Well I saw Aparajita buying a lot of stuff in the marketplace and it tempted me.It was all his fault.He should not have bought all this at once."

Aparajita, was too shocked to explain his stance and was silent.

Mitamati, thought for a while and looked at Chapalachitta and said,
"Well! Chapalachitta you are right.How dare he tempt you!

He then looked at Aparajita and said,

"Shame on you Aparajita! You are guilty of materialism and acquiring too many things at once.If you had planned your purchases and behaved in moderation you would not have attracted his attention.Perhaps you wanted that, being brought before the panchayat and be the center of attention.You probably even enjoyed being robbed. Aparajita! It is all your fault.The belongings are rightfully Chapalachitta's.

Thus to this day several Aparajita's are wronged and the actions of perpetrators justified.Their silence only works against them. So Support BLANK NOISE PROJECT

Notes: (for the non-sanskritists)

Alpadrishti - shortsightedness .

Aparajita - The unconquered.Represents all women who were subject to various forms of street harassment

Chapalachitta - One whose mind gets tempted.The roadside romeo who thinks he can bullt every passing woman

Mitamati - Narrowminded.

Action Hero Guptavati

Cast away thie veil, this veil of disgrace

I remember the first time it happened - I broke down and cried.

No one, not one person in the entire street raised their voice as I stood mortified, watching them lower their eyes and slip by. But what hurt the most was that I was stunned into silence myself - unable to protest or to react. I couldn't find my own voice.

Shame flooded my body and I ran across the street - my face stained by the time I knocked on my door. I resented myself as I sank on a pillow, for not having said and done enough while he had stared belligerently after trying to grope and violently grab me.

With his eyes he had mocked whilst they hesitantly watched, and I couldn't find my own voice.


A thousand mutinies in the world but the streets are not yet safe for me, you and us.

They insist our skirts are too short, our blouses too tight and our hips sway both the sides - so it's seriously all our fault.

They advise we should have walked faster ahead, we should have ignored the glances, the voices and their touches and later, that we should forget that it ever happened - for this is how society always is.

They believe that it's how things will be and how society shall remain - because we afterall are frail women.

I was a victim once, but I found my voice. And I wonder, as I pause and stare into the vacant space, when will I hear the others speak?

Will you stand in a corner and hide? Will you lower your eyes and step back? Will you cover your mouth and gasp in plain horror?

Or will I hear you speak - for yourself and for others.

Action Hero Kavitha

Eve Teasing..A Three Pronged Attack-Blank Noise Project

This morning the topmost item on the agenda was to write on the topic as promised. Sheer force of habit led me to the papers. The following headlines caught my eye'Eve teaser shoots at lawyer trying to save kin'. This occurrence , that too , today of all days, when a marathon is in progress, a blog a thon against it.

Apparently, the said lawyer 'Meher Bhargava' acted in retaliation to four hooligans who had passed lewd comments against her daughter-in law, Kavita. She objected to their behaviour. One of them took out a country made revolver and shot her on the neck. She is presently battling for her life. Incidentally the incident occurred right outside the house of the SSP. The police stationed there did not budge, despite being witness to the happenings.

While one cannot help feeling inwardly proud of Meher, the plight she finds herself in is shameful. The incident only triggers a host of questions and responses .There seem to be so many layers to the incident, that seem intertwined, the least not being that the assailants had a criminal record , alogside political connections. Manu Sharma has been unceremoniously ostracised in his own town Chandigarh apart from the mess of a retrial and the triumph of the citizen.Don't these kind give up?

To avoid deviating from the topic of the day, however, what needs to be noted is that the average woman today has decided to fight this attack on her space, tooth and nail. In this case, Meher, was protecting her daughter-in-law, which is such refreshing news,also the fact that she must therefore have been a middle aged person if not a senior citizen. But age was not a deterrent. Kudos to her for that.

The question is 'Are we ever going to be rid of this menace?' Even if it may not get totally rooted out, Imo there is a hope that it may dwindle in occurrence in cities and metros. For this to become a reality, we women, the police and the common man have to play an interactive and complementary role.

It is indeed pitiable that we have to implore for public participation , when it should have been the bounden duty of every citizen, regardless of gender to aid a victim. I have personally been a witness to a young girl beng harassed, at a so called elitist theatre. But apart from myself and another woman, no other male chose to involve himself. I leave it to your imaginaion to fathom how that male was shamed and browbeaten at his ludicrous games. I doubt he will ever venture that sphere of activity again. On second thoughts..who knows?

It is not so much about how these men view us. It is more about how they view themselves. Lack of self esteem is the basis of the problem . No self respecting man would stoop to such behaviour. Apart from that it stems from decaying moral structure, lack of social training , emotional delinquency, illiteracy. Of course, here one is not referring to the proverbial male who has not got rid of his wolfish animalistic cloak, even after aeons of rebirths. Some just refuse to evolve.

Here I would like to aver that it would be unfair to categorise all males as suspect. There are a number of men I know who balk at the idea as much as we do and have been vocal about it in circumstances that required them to be . It seems arbitrary to consider this a male compulsion. Suffice to say that it is a menace existing in our society which needs to be dealt with urgently and stringently.

Some self righteous males, often quote the dress code of 'women today' as the sole cause.What rubbish!!Its not as if women in the days of our mother were not molested. The topic itself was so taboo, that it was hushed up in embarassed silences.The idea that a woman who dresses provocatively and therefore inviting rape or molestation, is chauvunistic to the core, and can stem only from sick minds. Freedom , when it comes to women, becomes a matter of endorsement by males, therefore conditional. Can not a woman wear what she feels like wearing?

For the same reason the burkha is the classic example to my mind of male domination. Recently we were told of a case where a woman was found running in the road at 2am ,nude. Obviously it had to be traumatic. God knows what the circumstances were. Would a male, take off his shirt to cover her, or his pant to rape her, thinking that she is asking for it?? This is what society as a whole should answer., and males in particular

The role of law enforcing agents can not be under estimated. "Spare the rod and spoil the child' a maxim if interpreted in this context would be as applicable. The fear of police punishment has proven to be efficacious. It just needs to have more teeth and less red tapism. Much ease in the process, that a victim can walk up to a police station or a cop with complete conviction that her plea will be addressed and redressed. Not in doubt, as often happens now, as to whether the cross questionong is going to shame her further into regretting that she decided to seek redressal.

A three pronged attack is therefore a viable solution, with women believing in the 'shakti" they embody, the Police living up to their primary role of benfactors and the common man essaying the role of concerned and responsible citizen.

If all of this happens as envisaged,then the days of "adam teasing' are nearing. Soon netizen males will be thinking up means to stave off offending female advances.. Just Kidding.

Action Hero Kaveetaa Kaul

Listening, Looking, Ignoring

I’ve been a spectator for a while now.

I watched silently, Krishna in tow, when a bunch of classmates decided to take a peek into the girls dressing room on a trip to Bangalore. And listened to their stories - much exaggerated, much embellished - afterwards, and wondered for a second if Krishna and I had missed out on something. Later, guilt.

I expressed a bit of disbelief and not much more when I heard that some of the guys that I studied with worked. Where working means getting off standing behind a girl in a crowded bus. Really getting off.

I’ve seen a lot. In buses and movie theaters, upscale malls and vegetable markets. From catcalls to breathing down the neck, from elbowing a fellow passenger to things a bit more than elbowing. Everytime, a silent “What the…” and I’ve moved on. Sometimes, not even that.

And for the last week, I’ve watched an incredible lineup of posts for the Blank Noise Blogathon, and stayed silent myself.

Until now, until this post. In the hope that something’ll come out of it all.

Action Hero Karthik

On street harrassment and the like

When I committed myself to participating in Blank Noise’s blogathon, I really wasn’t sure what to say. I avoid overly personal posts on this blog; I don’t feel comfortable sharing that much in a public space. If you want a personal, eloquent post, Annie’s achieved it better than I could ever hope to here.The best I can do at the moment is a few random, unconnected thoughts on the subject.


I’ve always found the maa-behen argument against eve teasing rather insulting to both men and women. It’s effective, yes. But to me all it really indicates is that the only reason a man should not harass me is not that I am a person who deserves to be treated with respect, but because the thought of someone treating my harasser’s sister in the same way grosses him out. It’s all about the harasser and women are reduced to somebody else’s mothers and somebody else’s sisters, rather than real people, worthy of respect in their own right. It depresses me that this is the best we can hope for, this is the only argument that seems to work.


There’s a difference between a stare and a leer. Being stared at is a sort of compliment. Everyone wants to look good, and it’s gratifying to be noticed sometimes. A leer is not a look of admiration. It’s the establishment of a power equation (an equation which is concretised in actual, physical rape.). It does not say “I’m attracted to you”, its aim is to make the subject uncomfortable. It says “I’m going to look at you whether you like it or not, because I can. I know you’re uncomfortable, and you can’t do anything about it.” The problem is, both the stare and the leer come under the heading of “just looking”, which sounds completely harmless. You can’t legislate against just looking, people are free to look at whoever they like, and certainly their thoughts and motives cannot be regulated. But every woman who has experienced both types of looking knows the difference, and knows equally well that there is no way to explain that difference to someone who doesn’t face it every day.(I hate the argument that says “you’ve never been through XYZ so you can’t possibly understand” because it has such potential for misuse, but honestly what else can one say in a debate like this one?) And I hate the arguments that talk about how evil feminists want to be privileged, want to control men’s thoughts, want to be allowed more space than men are allowed, simply because they are women, want to ‘portray’ themselves as the weaker sex. I’m an (evil) feminist, and what I want is to be able to step out of my house without being constantly reminded of that power equation. And since no amount of legislation can do this for me, I’m left helpless.


It’s one of the clichés of Bollywood movie songs. The pretty girl walks down the street or onto the college campus, or any public space really. The hero sees and likes and bursts into song. The pretty girl is visibly embarrassed and tries to escape, but the hero mysteriously pops up everywhere. The viewer is (allowing for differences in character) either feeling sorry for the girl or cheering the hero on. But at the end of the song we learn there’s no need to feel sorry for her – she comes around, she’s flattered and pleased, this is what she wanted all along.

And I wonder how many of the men who burst into song on the roads really expect to get the girl, whether they believe that strange fantasy can actually come true for them. I can laugh off the singing because I can tell myself it’s harmless, or at least well intentioned.


I’m not supposed to travel alone at night. My dad’s paranoid, and so am I, I feel threatened when I travel alone. This means that I can either not go out or ask a male friend to drop me home. Not going out implies an acceptance of the situation (I am a woman and I cannot go out without men, I am to willingly accept that women should stay at home.) But I hate being dependent on my friends. Most of the time I’m with them I’m one of them, we watch sports, listen to music, do various other gender-neutral friend things. When it’s time to go home, we are suddenly reminded that they are boys and can go home alone and that I am a girl and need them. I need *special* treatment.

At the Jazz Utsav in November someone I knew in school (but not very well) had to take a massive detour on his way home just to drop me off safely. A close friend had to waste his time making sure I got home alive. Such things are at best hugely embarrassing, and terribly demoralising. I know my friends will keep me safe. I hate that they have to. Sometimes I'd kill to be one of the guys.

Action Hero Aishwarya





Don’t tell.

Don’t yell.

Take this in your


Take this in your


This should

shut you up

for life.

In hell.

Here's my post for the Blank Noise Project Blogathon. It's not easy to talk about sexual harassment whether it's subtle or overt. There's almost always a sense of shame, guilt and fear that clings on for much much longer. But one has to talk. To scream. To shout. To protest. To not let it happen to someone else.

Action Hero Kaaju katli

Potru Anbu...

"Potru Anbu"... You might remember this dialogue during the encounter scene in the movie Kaakha Kaakha.

Thats exactly what I was thinking when Surya points his gun at the eve teaser and scares the living day lights out of him - "Potru Anbu".

While Tamil and Indian movies exaggerate a lot, the eve teasing scenes are very real or even very mellow when compared to what happens in real life. That is how bad the situation on the streets for our women.

It is so wide spread and common, that things like eve teasing are considered normal or even worse, heroic. This got to change and it got to change real fast. The message should be loud and clear - eve teasing is not acceptable in any shape or form.

Its good that we have started a dialogue with this blanknoise blogathon. We now have to see what steps that need to be taken by the people participating in the dialogue to prevent eve teasing from happening.

My suggestion - Eve teasing is a monster and it should be tackled by something bigger than that. We can't place police every where to prevent this. So what is the solution.

Not long ago there were huge agitations by the so called saviors of Thamizh against everything from naming the movies in English to interfering in the freedom of speech. Those are the people we should be using in our fight against the evil of eve teasing.

The blogathon organisers should seek an appointment with the politicians in their respective states and should insist the importance of getting rid of this menace. With constant prodding the politicans will budge because it will boost their image among women. Then their muscle power should be used against the Romeos that mess with our women. When we get the politicans the media circus will then follow.

I can easily imagine Dr.Ramadoss and his activists going against these people everywhere from bus stops to movie halls. From them, the public will pick it up and soon we can send a sound message to eve teasers that it is not good to disrespect women.

Imagine the valentines day crashing Shiv Sainiks going after the eve teasers, boy that would be a scene to behold. Instead of working against the big and relatively bad politicians we should work with them and use their organized cadre to eradicate the evil. We should get into the system and fight from with in and not stand from outside and stop just making some internet noise.

Action Hero Hellboy

Blank Noise Project

Today on the way to work I was as usual listening to Radio City… There was this interview with a creater of an organization called “Blank Noise Project“. The project seeks to recognize eve teasing as a sexual crime and establish the issue as something that may be normal, but is unacceptable.

Today March 7th 2006 the site is organizing a Blog-o-thon, where people talk about eve teasing in their blogs and let people know what they feel… The event is a huge success and its amazing how common this problem is…

Frankly only today I realized the depth of the snake pit and reading some of the entries I was saddened at the state of affairs and the way we treat women in our country. Read it your self to discover the thoughts in a woman’s mind and when she feels threatened.

Its a sad thing that in a country that can make its own nuclear weapons almost half the population hv to live in the fear of the other half.

As for how to stop the injustice… Making every man to realize the error of his ways seems ideal but lets not get carried away that will not be happening this week… The idea of carrying pepper sprays ect seems like a good idea, the system looks like its working in other continents(America).

I am throughly impressed by the quality of work these people have put up and Kudos to their effort…

Action Hero Chandrahasa Reddy N


The eve-teaser sings on the road, a song dedicated to a fifteen year old. She walks faster, as if chased by an invisible ghost (her dignity), and merges into heap of scooters, cows and cars. She is now invisible to him, to herself, and she wishes to remain so. For the next ten years at least, and then she will bear two children, and no one teases an Aunty.

Action Hero BridalBeer

Street harassment and me.

(For Blank Noise Project Blog-a-thon 2006)

I don’t know to write essays on the topic of Street Harassment. I ll let my own experience speak.

The earliest experience that I can remember very clearly and has been haunting me forever was on a train. I was walking with my dad while my sis and mom were coming behind. We were walking on the train to get to our seats. A man who was walking towards us bumped on me, put his hand inside my top and groped my breasts. I was 13. I was wearing a white salwar with tiny pink flowers printed on them. I was too shocked to react and the man was gone by the time I came to my sense. Welcome to the world of perverts!

The three years I studied in Trichy was hell. I was groped, pinched, slapped behind, touched or the least teased almost everyday. I can write a book about it. I would say Coimbatore is a heaven compared to Trichy or Chennai. In my personal experience that is! To each to their own. I would really want to know why these men behave the way they do. Most definitely they have a mother and perhaps a sister at home. Or at least cousins. I can’t believe they will marry one day, have a family and be a responsible person. And lets not even get to the topic of old perverts. They just make me plain sick.

I went to the RK Hospital in Bangalore 4 years back for a medical check up. A chest x-ray was taken. There was a man in that big lab and while I stood with my chest pressed to the machine, he came behind me and told me he had to adjust a little. When I said ok, he put both his hands on my breasts and adjusted them! Whoa! I was shivering. I was wearing the skimpy hospital gown with nothing underneath. I did nt know what to do. I did nt even note down the assholes name. I am stupid, I know. I came out very angry and spoke to the girl who had her x-ray taken before me. She said she went in with her mom (smart move!) but even she felt a little scared about that guy. I have not felt that violated even when I got my first pap smear in a strange country by a strange man speaking a strange language. There’s always a female nurse with you all the time when a male doctor is examining you there. I can’t tell you how safe it makes you feel.

The worst thing about all this harassment is that it follows you home and screws up your life. I am in a bad mood for days; I pick up a fight on the drop of a hat with people at home. I want them to understand even without me telling them what happened. I am afraid they will call me stupid for not having reacted. I am angry with my parents for not keeping me safe from these animals. I want them to listen to every whim of mine because I think they owe me for making me go through this shit. I hate them for being irresponsible. I hate men. I am always suspicious about men. Now that I have a daughter, I am going to be paranoid all my life. Welcome to the world of perverts, kiddo.

And this is the first time I am talking about the harassment loudly. Telling your mother/sister/friend that you were pinched in your inner thigh today by an asshole on the bus is not easy. Believe me, its not easy. Especially when you are 15 years old. So I welcome projects like Blank Noise. Heres to safer streets!

ps. The two years I lived in the UK and another two years in Switzerland, I did nt have one experience of street harassment.

pps. And all the nice men out there who are really hurt that women are always suspicious about every man, stop being a whiner! Would you rather get hurt by getting pinched in your non-existent breasts? Please! Don't make this "your" issue

Action Hero B O O

Do you think, maybe, you did something to bring this on?

This post was supposed to be part of the Blank Noise Project Blogathon but I am a day late so I decided to just write the post anyway. As a woman whose best friend was sexually molested at the age of six by someone was trusted by her parents, this topic is something that bothers me a whole lot. This post is for my dearest friend and all the women who are not safe from lecherous bastards either at home or in public.

I lived most of my life in Thane a city that was originally a suburb of Bombay but now has grown to be a pretty big city in it's own right. Back when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, it was a very safe city for women. The only real eve teasing I ever experienced was getting whistled at and shouted at by buses filled with blue collar workers who were going home after their shift. It used to be a weird experience of having all these old men, definitely old enough to be my father, some of them even my grandfather, yelling obscenities at me. But travelling by train, even though I travelled by the ladies compartment, exposed me to the world of groping ass%^$&s. The first time I was too bewildered to react but after that every time anyone tried to touch me got beat up. Once I chased a guy down the length of the station intending to hand him over to the cops. And when I stood up for myself, I found support in the crowd. There were usually 2/3 guys willing to help slap the guy around and quite a few women encouraging me.
On a trip to Khandala during the monsoon, with my all-girls school I nearly saw and was part of a gang-rape. That we escaped was due to the fast talking of my teachers and the fact that the would-be rapists were too drunk. We were trekking to the dam in the rain, singing Girl Guiding songs when we realised that there were hundreds of cars, full of drunken guys, ogling us, yelling at us .... You see, this was Independence Day (oh, the irony of it!) and so all the rich louts had driven down from Bombay, Pune, etc. They were sitting in this massive traffic jam and what better way to pass time besides leching at 14-15 year old girls? Since we had come more than half the way from our campsite and half the class were already at the dam, we continued the trek. Albeit in grim silence and with out belts (which had big metal buckles and could hurt when swung hard enough) in our hands. When we got to the dam and met the rest of the class, it was awful. Most of them had been groped and grabbed, they were terrified and crying. We decided to send them back in the van and walk back ourselves. As the van left, we found ourselves (about 60 girls and 2 teachers) surrounded by about 150 "men". They were so drunk that most of them could only leer blearily at us but there was a small but significant minority who were not drunk enough to pass out but just enough to lose their moral compasses and could have incited a mass rape. Getting away, with our teachers begging them - tumhari behene jaisi hain etc etc and that trek back was the scariest 2 hours of my life. But the only thing that I feel proud about is that I gave at least 3/4 guys a sharp knock with my belt buckle when they tried to touch me or the girls around me.

Even in sleepy old Trivandrum, this was in the late 80's, my 8 year old sister was approached by a travelling salesman and shown pornographic books. When she said she didn't want any and tried to go away, he kept trying to ask her to see more until she finally ran home. In Madras, my cousin sister told me she never travelled by public bus or argued with auto-rickshaw drivers and never ever would she report anyone to a cop, because as she put it, the thing they will say would make you want to die.

But of all these experiences, I would rank the 1.5 months I spent at Allahabad as the absolute worst. This is (or at least was in 1997) a city where any woman walking alone was a target. Where you were stripped by men's eyes at every chauraha, where a Professor's wife told me she never travels outside the research institute's colony alone - at the very least she would take her 5 year son along. The fact that she belongs to a man (her mangalsutra & very prominent bindi) and has a son keeps her safe! Where a woman dressed completely from head to toe in a salwar kameez and dupatta can feel unclean and undressed and a man on a motorcycle and bicycle can and will swerve to touch you and no woman will attempt to fightback.

I think to me that is the scariest part - not that men routinely whistle, yell obscenties, lech, grope or grab but that there are several parts of this country where when you fight back, you will not get any support. You will not be allowed to fight back. Where the patriarchy reigns supreme and women are chattel who will mouth lines like "woh toh ladka hai, lekin tum toh samajhdaar ho, tumko salika aana chahiye" (transalated " boys will be boys, but women should be sensible & behave modestly).

I dedicate this post to the hope of a day when women will rountinely fight back and dress as they like and not give in to these creeps. And for the day when the men AND other women around them stand up for the victim. No one will ever ask the question that is the title of this blog.

Action Hero Bombayite

Silent Streets

I realize its not just the street , it’s the workplace, the mode of transport.. I wont ask you about public space. About viewing public space as largely male. I will ask you if I accept that public space is largely male then what part of it is female. If you draw a boundary and I accept it , I still have the right to know what you have enclosed in and what u have excluded.

For once I don’t want to ask you what you think of me , how you have no qualms about objectifying me etc. I want to ask nothing. I want to be silent. Like I always am , when you stare, when you decide what I wear, when you molest. Like when you call all of it eve teasing and laugh it off.

Its not about me taking protest marches, its about all the others being silent about it. Its about accepting what you have decided for me silently.

Action Hero bohemebelle

No, Thank You

My contribution to the Blank Noise Project on street sexual harassment.

“Do you want some entertainment?

Absolute silence. And then a polite

“No, thank you.”

Rolling up of car windows with summoned calmness and then driving away with a passive face.

This happened four months back. It was around 2 in the morning and I was with another friend, a girl, both returning from a nightclub in the suburbs. Somewhere along Powai, my friend noticed this guy on the bike who had been trying to stay as close to us for over a couple of kilometers. He kept looking at us, veering the bike from one side to the other, trying to say something. We tried to ignore and then suddenly he started gesticulating. I didn’t slow down the car for quite a long stretch on the Eastern Express highway, but when we crossed Mulund, he came awfully close to my window and kept pointing at the back door.

Finally, I rolled down the window and he said,

“The back door is open.”

“I don’t think so, but thank you.”

I started rolling up the window and then suddenly he goes,

“Do you want some entertainment?”

“No, thank you.”

Yeah, go ahead and say it. I know it was pretty dumb to stop in the middle of the night and hear him out. I also realized later that he could’ve been armed or could’ve tried something more dangerous than just asking that ludicrous question. I also know that it’s not as safe as we presume Mumbai to be. Yes, it’s far better than most other cities, but that’s about it.

A girl, a woman will always need to be on her guard wherever she is. Watchful and wary of all shadows, human or machine that may crop up in proximity out of the blue.

This brings to my mind another incident that happened to me and the same friend as we were on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, on our way to meet a common friend. At seven on a Saturday morning, when were busy admiring the tranquility and the beautiful drive to Pune, suddenly an Indigo comes right in front of us and slows down. I was rudely hauled out of my reverie to brake abruptly to avert banging into that car. Those of you have been on the expressway know it’s an incredible 3-lane and one can jolly well attach loyalty to one lane and still ride the thrill of a sexy drive.

I tried to switch over to left and then speed up. They followed. Loyally. I slowed down and trailed on the other lane. They switched lanes and were back in front of us, driving at an aberrant speed of less than 40 km/hour on the expressway. After a while, the two on the back seat actually sat facing us and leaned out of their windows to throw offhand remarks to us that were lost, courtesy the rolled up windows and the music. This went on for almost an hour and there appeared no channel to funnel off those guys.

And then I could endure no more. The speedometer dangerously hovered at 120 and I could almost sense my Alto looking at me uncertainly. But it meekly kept shut and went along with me, like one of those girls who cower when they’ve been tossed a vulgar remark while walking next to an angry, helpless father or brother. As if they somehow were instrumental in soliciting an unwelcome crude remark or an atrociously vulgar gesture.

I sped and when they stepped callously on their gas pedal and zipped straight ahead of me, I slowed down and parked on the left for a good 10 minutes. Along with water we gulped down disconcerting thoughts that maybe we were human magnets for undesired attention on the roads. After a while, we both concluded that we weren’t and that in an incomprehensible, eccentric way, it had to be some inherent deformity in most male psyche that derives distorted pleasure in battering women. Mentally or physically, preferably both.


I’m trying hard, really hard not to recall the times when I saw flashes of white rage as somebody just walked past me, “accidentally” touching or brushing against parts of my body. Those “inadvertent” caresses that send yarns of fury, tripping, coiling around my raging blood. Or, when from across the street or right next to me, they leered and leched, shamelessly undressing me without my permission.

I’m making a serious effort to keep my blood pressure under control, even though the mere recall makes me want to choke those mutherfuckers to death.

It’s weird how almost always realizations strike us after the incident has taken place. Women today are far more prudent and I always presumed so was I. But in retrospect, it turns out that it’s very simple and human as well, to keep all caution signs aside and just act on impulse.

BUT, let’s NOT do that. Please. Let’s not throw caution to wind.

For your loved ones and most importantly for yourself, please stay safe!

Remember: A hard dick has no conscience.

*Note: How ironical that even the filthiest of all abuses for men go back and hit the women!

Action Hero Blue Athena

Had been a long time since I wrote on my blog,had almost forgotten that it exists. I'm writing today for a cause,as a part of Blog-a-thon 2006 (Please visit for more details)

Almost everyone of you must've seen this recent hit "Rang De Basanti". I remember a scene where this foreigner lands at Delhi University and the guy at the entrance teases her saying "Madam,which country?" and she gives a witty reply "India,I suppose!" . And the spectators laugh,it's supposed to be a joke.

'Joke'...that's what has become of eve teasing in India today. What the girl faces when she is teased/molested/groped,the mental trauma she undergoes,the feeling of being used that she experiences,the disgust,anger,helplessness... have all become a joke and have been shrouded by things less important like what the girl was wearing,whether she attracted undue attention from the guys,which finally end up diverting and subduing the entire core issue of the girl having been victimised. And in the melee,the guilty escape unpunished.

I recall that when i was in Delhi a year back,one of my friends' friend was drugged by her 'friends' at a late-night party and raped,she was left helpless and bleeding in the city centre from where her highly influential parents picked her up. Back in her house,she was condemned and confined to a room without being attended by any doctor or a nurse,with her influential dad worrying and brooding about what'll happen to his status if the news leaks.She was scolded for not listening to them when they warned her against attending late-night parties,when they told her to wear 'dignified' clothing. Within hours,she was shifted out of Delhi and within a month,she was out of India,perhaps never to return again. A girl gets raped,a highly educated and influential dad fears to complain to the police fearing the 'society'...and the culprits...they escape unharmed,unpunished...maybe to repeat the crime again someday.

If that is what happens to those who're raped in India,imagine what can happen to a girl who's eve-teased. People's attitude is like,"She's afterall eve-teased,no big deal!" Perhaps we have to borrow a leaf out of the same movie "Rang De Basanti", bring about a revolution in the mindset of the people towards women in India. It's not only about changing the mindset of men,but also women who're not only mere spectators but at times directly/indirectly are abettors in such crimes. It's high time that women fight for a decent and dignified standing in this country (I'm at present confining myself to India to begin with).

Women should perhaps start beating up the perpetrators to begin with,if not kill them. It amounts to taking the law into their own hands,but since our police and legal systems have gone to dogs,they have no option but to take up cudgels with their male partners.

And also an overall upliftment in the status of women by prevention of female foeticide,prevention of dowry,better education,reservation in parliament,entry into the top echelons of the government and in private industries will all go a long way in preventing these unpleasant incidents like eve-teasing.Everybody in the society should fight for these causes.

I don't want to mix this issue with 'decent' dressing and 'staring/seeing' issues which are applicable to both men and women,they're quite debatable and will write about it someother time.

Action Hero Blink Dreamz

Blank Noise Blogathon: Part I

It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry "We must do something for the Untouchables". One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying 'Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu'. It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is to be a Mission, it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchability will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole, there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not responsible for the problem of the Untouchables.

That's Ambedkar, in a quote Black Mongoose discovered in a piece by S. Anand in the last issue of Seminar ('Dalit Perspectives'). Anand (in the Seminar article and in the similar Notes on my Brahmin Self), takes on his Brahminhood with self-flagellating excess of the same sort that BM is prone to. A commenter agrees:

From a very early age my family ensured that we were conscious about our brahmin roots and I think this actually helped fashion my own resistance. ... My socialisation however was not just as a brahmin, it had three other very important dimensions: masculinity, heterosexuality and middle class urbanity.

It was much the same for BM, though he supposes the second dimension ought to be heteronormativity [1], but the thesis stands. Raghu agonises over the question in his Blank Noise Blogathon post:

There is a deep-set paradox in trying to be an ally (and by an ally I mean the Swarthmore connotation, someone offering support and solidarity to the members of a group who face a kind of disadvantage that he or she does not), particularly in trying to be a straight male ally to women's fronts against sexism.

Into this socialization-questioning discourse does BM jump with the slightly unique perspective of the not-straight ally.

Here's Hedgehog with his harassment story (edited slightly):

...the bastard slid his hand over onto mine! And actually ran his finger over my thigh! Yuck! Yuck! I could have puked with all the disgust welling up inside me. Man! I think after that I handled the situation rather tactfully though, asked him to stop the car and after hitting him with the book I was holding, not the most manly thing to do I guess. I walked the rest of the way home in a sort of daze. I even looked behind a couple of times just to make sure he wasn't following me home.

Did you know that??!! These things really happen!! Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggghh! Horrible! I am a victim!

It might be worth spending a minute over Hedgehog's account. Hedgehog might be the nicest hedgehog there is, but there you have it. His all-too-male shock at being a 'victim' -- product of a socialization masculine, heteronormative, middle-class -- is instructive. Black Mongoose / Red Raccoon's own story is set in picturesque Cubbon Park, where on a reading expedition, he

suddenly ... turned around to find an old perv, who seemed to have followed him scampering through the grass, making offers of fellatio. RR has heard of such iniquity, but he had not expected it to strike on a sunny forenoon. He ran as far as his short legs could take him with not a glance behind and welcomed the sight of the imposing Vidhan Souda ahead.

Note the easy use of 'old perv', 'bastard', etc. BM sees, in himself at least, a touch of bewilderment that men can get harassed as well. A little voice points out that this relatively harmless thing you're being such a drama queen about is enacted a hundred times every day if you're a woman on public transport.

[To be continued, with apologies to Hedgehog for reducing him to a case study]
[1] A word so useful it ought not to exist. Just so one can complain about its non-existence.

Action Hero Black Mongoose

Project Blank noise

At work today, every free moment I got, I spent reading the blogs participating in the Blank Noise blogathon. By the end of the day, I was physically sick. I had a pounding headache. I was nauseous and all I wanted to do, was to come home and puke my guts out. I could identify with most of what these bloggers had gone through and there’s nothing, I can say that has not been said before. I guess, I am still posting my blog to stand in solidarity with these people who spoke up. I am hoping that any one reading these posts, feels, the angst of those who have spoken up and the helplessness of those that continue to suffer in silence. I also hope that we can take steps towards a better tomorrow and a safer environment.

You can take a gal out of Delhi, but you can never take Delhi out of her. Delhi stays with her, in her mind, in her heart and in her psyche.

She remembers Jan path and the black oxidized jewelry. She remembers Aga Khan Hall and the silver filigree ear studs she had picked up. She remembers Dilli Haat and the momos she consumed there with so much relish, with her friends. How does she forget the lucknavi dupatta she picked up at Dilli haat at bargain price. That dupatta that still surrounds her with the warm memories of a cold night spent at Parthasarthy Rock, waiting for the sun to come up.

She also remembers the hand that grabbed her chest when she was barely 12. She hadn’t realized by then, that, she had breasts and those could be grabbed and pinched and stuff like that happens with an alarming regularity. Quite an eye opener for a young gal. She was suddenly in a strange new world. A world, where, uncles weren’t nice anymore. Where she never knew what would rub against her when and where. Older bhaiyyas couldn’t be trusted anymore. She could no longer walk anywhere and anytime. From passes made by rickshwallahs to weird noises, from groping and fingering to lewd gestures. All part and parcel of daily life in Delhi. Yes, one learns to dress to cover up, to walk without looking like an invitation (what is that supposed to mean anyways). Yet, in spite of how one dresses or how one acts, one cannot escape. The filth is not on a female body; it’s in the mind. If you are a female, you are a maal. And there will be comments. “Dekh, aisa lag raha hai, jaise nangi chali aa rahi hai.” (Look, it seems like she is walking naked) This comment loud enough to be heard, on an outfit that consisted of a salwar suit in peach, with the kurta buttoned to the neck, a sweator in almond color and a peach shawl wrapped on top of all this. In other words, dressed for a women’s convention in Saudi Arabia and yet a piece of naked flesh to those psychos on the road. Did she react? No. Although, if looks could kill, most of the Delhi men would be dead. Did she care? Yes. Because she still remembers after 7-8 yrs as she sits and types this out.

Take this Delhi gal out of Delhi,and, put her in streets of New York City. She still dresses conservatively. The scowl she picked up on Delhi streets is still in place and remains there. She does not know the people yet. She walks alone but does not smile. It takes a tall African American guy walking towards her to lean in and say, “smile for me, will ya?” In spite of herself, she smiles and has been smiling. This gal has walked alone in the night in Manhattan for 22 blocks before her friend could come and pick her up. She was not teased once. Yes, a gentleman offered her his cell phone to use. She did not fear being touched or cat called at that night. Yes, she feared being mugged.

Lets follow this Delhi Gal to Tokyo. You can see her on the roads, with her tiny earplugs. You can see her; She might see you, or she might not. She is lost in her own world, in her music and her thoughts. She is smiling to herself and humming some tune, occasionally breaking out in a song at full volume. So, If you ever hear piya teri bawari se raha jaye na on a Tokyo road, Smile at this Delhi gal. She is happy. She is safe. She no longer frowns and no longer carries sharpened pencils in her pockets. She is not in Delhi anymore. Of course, she still dresses conservatively. You can’t really take Delhi out of her.

I’ve mainly written about Delhi, as that's where I attended undergrad and masters and commuted and therefore suffered the most eve teasing. There have been incidents earlier and that brings one to the issue of sex Ed and protecting kids who are just too young to understand what’s happening to them. The very first incident I can think of happened when we were at Doha and I was around 11-12. This UNCLE who visited often enough did this funny thing every time he could get me alone. Then it felt funny, but still by the second time, it had become clear to me that something was not right and I simply should not be alone with him. Only much later did I realize that he was trying to feel me up.

And then the breast-grabbing incident in Delhi happened. At that time it was a one off thing, as I did not commute much.

Zoom forward to a few years later. We were at Abu Dhabi then. Mom, an aunt and I were in the souk. Mom and aunt were busy looking at something and I was just looking around when I caught site of this tall Arab guy. He had raised his gown and he had his member in his hand. That gave me nightmares for years to come.

And then we were back in Delhi. College came with its paraphernalia of commuting and guys high on hormones and not enough sense. Though, why just blame the hormone guys, it felt like every one was doing it. Every day was a different nightmare on the same theme.

That's why the contrast with New York and Tokyo. These places aren’t without their harrasment problems. But it isn’t as rampant as in Delhi. I am sure, things happen here too. Just that I have not experienced anything unsavory, except for one Japanese gentleman taking me for something else and asking if he could have a good time with me. He ambled away once I replied in the negative. This, despite the Tokyo subway, having the reputation of being the grope capital.

Makes me wonder about the cultural differences between different places and what one can do to make a positive difference.

Action Hero Bilbo

I am sure many remember the case of Pratibha, an employee of HP who was raped and killed by a cab driver in December last year.

Although I do not know her personally, being an employee of HP ties me with her identity. I am given to think that if could happen to her, it could well, happen to any of us who are in her position, as vulnerable and as unsuspecting as she was.

It is definitely not the company’s fault. I know how much care goes into selecting a cab driver. The newly appointed cab drivers are watched for a period of a few months until the company is assured of his credibility. Is it right to blame the victim, right from her choice of shift to clothes? No. No one else is to be blamed other than the perpetrator of crime in such cases. But, enough has been spoken and heard about the cruelty of certain men who indulge in such brutal actions.

Instead of trying to indulge in fault finding, we can create a better world by finding solutions to the problems. The western world is aware of defense products like stun guns, pepper sprays etc., but we are totally incompatible with such ideas. A training in martial arts is not every woman’s cup of tea. So, that leaves us with just one weapon - COURAGE!

Action Hero Casement (2006)

It was a month or two ago. I was returning home, from downtown Los Angeles. Tall, shiny buildings, traffic clogging every junction and people waiting to go home. I stepped into the last Dash F - it runs past 23rd St at Figueroa before going around school. As I sat between two women, all of us gathering every thought we'd tucked away throughout the day, to think about in these few minutes... the man sitting opposite me said hi.

Hello I said and looked away. I remembered him as lascivious from a bus ride before. He had said something about how Asian women are all dark and pretty. Not really, I remember having said to myself about the dark bit. But this time, he proceeded to keep his shirt unbuttoned and kept staring at me as he touched himself now and then. He got off a stop before me after a cheerful "see you again!"

He could have groped me and I would have still felt as violated as I did that night.
Add to that a bus driver who introduces me to everyone as his wife-to-be. He also tells me loudly (whenever I happen to be in his bus) about how my boyfriend should have wild sex with me. "If only you'd be my woman, I'd show you good times," he said once as his eyes tried to reach behind my shirt. Only my boring black bra and a pair of breasts, nothing unusual I wanted to say.

Sometimes I think these stories are worthless to tell. But at others like these, maybe not.

Action Hero, 'Junk Mail Only'

A "Burkhaa" clad "Truth".

It was a very cheerful evening in a long time for me. Being stationed in a town which does not allow me the company I have in my home town or even Mumbai, I was longing for this one. It was a long time since I had been among young people; otherwise most of my days are spent among foul mouthed colleagues (those BC MC types) who are close to the respectable 50 years mark. Only god knows how much respect they do deserve! Anyways, this fine evening, my sister Ash, who is a hotel management student, had called some of her classmates and good friends for a dinner. Chole Bhature and pulao was on the menu, and as they arrived one by one, some arrived later and some kept coming and going, I could sense that they were a happy bunch of kids, and I was happy to be a part of such an evening. One of them was a pretty, medium heighted girl, called Avni. She was quieter than all of them, but whenever she talked, she gathered all the attention. She kept strutting in and out of the guest room, thanks to her constantly beeping cell phone. Between pranks and jokes, one of them asked Avni to recite an Urdu verse, possibly the one which is chanted in the mosque during an “Azaan”. She recited it so well that I liked it, just because it was fairly a long and tongue twisting one. On my asking her that how she managed it, she just smiled, the smile had nothing joyful about it. As all of them left, I just kept visualizing her pretty eyebrows!

This evening I casually discussed about this “blank noise” with my mom and sis. And somewhere in between Avni found a mention. My sis just asked me how do you think she knows that “azaan” so well. I guessed as far as my silly mind could reach. I told because she stays in Panigate(an area mainly inhabited by muslims, which was often razed during the post-godhra riots) she should be hearing it daily and that’s how she memorized it. My sis, too threw a similar smile, which had nothing joyful about it. And thus the story began.

Avni was an engineering student before she joined hotel management. She was forcefully married off by her parents without even checking the background of her “sasuraal”. Within 4 months of the marriage, she decided to part ways with her husband. The reason- after marriage she was sexually harassed several times by her father-in-law, not just her husband. Dowry was not the reason here. Just because she was pretty, she paid the price.

Baroda, my home town is a hot place, and dusty too. Girls while biking here normally do wrap their entire face with a cotton “chunni”, leaving eyes open, to protect them from heat and dust. Avni while driving to college does this so that her husband or any of her relatives do not recognize her. For them she is in Poona, studying. While coming to college she is in the usual uniform, but suppose you want to meet her outside college hours, she will turn up fully clad in a “ burkha”. I was shocked to know this. I feel this may look too simple to read, but imagine the daily trauma she has to go through. I asked my sister, then how did she memorize this verse? Because she wears a “burkha” she is apprehended many a times in the area she stays, and by chanting these verses, she can prove that she is a Muslim. She is just 23, a broken marriage, a society driven by lecherous passions, ever watchful relatives, and thousand such things!

I only pray to the almighty, please accept her every chant of the “azaan”, and let her get some real justice (she has filed for a divorce, but her sick husband is not allowing her that Right even!)

“Why is this world driven by so many extremes? Most of the Women in this country ask for whatever little they could have for themselves, but they are denied even that.”

Action Hero Amit

When I went back to Delhi in the summer of 2005 a fleeting thought passed my mind while packing my clothes – maybe I shouldn’t pack my tank tops and skirts. I had been living alone for 6 years in San Francisco, wearing whatever I felt like, going wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And it was going to really hot in Delhi. I was confident that I could tackle anything that came my way.

In Delhi, I was warned against wearing shorts to the gym so I wore my track pants the first day. I almost passed out from the heat while working out and resolved to wear my shorts the next day onwards. I wasn’t about to let fear of being harassed interfere with something as mundane as a good workout. I came up with a theory that if I appeared confident and unafraid, no one would harass me. I glared at any men who came too close and sure enough nobody harassed me.

This gave me the confidence to venture out alone to Connaught Place. I wore a knee length skirt, hailed an auto rickshaw and made my way to meet my friends in CP. On my way there I noticed a man on a motorcycle driving beside me and staring. I didn’t give it much thought and just looked away. When I got off the man also got off his bike and accosted me. He asked me for my number. I was taken aback but thought he was on of those “I would like to be friends with you” guys. I walked in another direction but he wouldn’t go away. I was zigzagging through cars trying to get away. He shouted at me “What do you think you are? I know exactly what you do!” I was too confused to react. What did that guy mean? What give him any indication of “What I am?” I looked around at people thinking if they would protect me if he tried anything funny. Fortunately I spotted my friend and walked towards her. As I was telling her about the incident the man disappeared. She told me that while she was waiting for me in front of the Wimpy’s an uncle-ji tried to feel her up. She even pointed him out while we walked away.

On my way back I kept watching out for any motorcycle that stayed with us for more than a couple of miles. Nothing had changed since I was a fourteen year old girl afraid to walk home from my bus stop after school. Everyday in the bus, as we neared my bus stop, I would start dreading the walk home. A nearby school ended at the same time and a group of school boys would harass the girls passing by. They would shout obscenities and throw stones at my feet. I used to look forward to examination days when I got home earlier and didn’t have to pass by that group of boys. I was jealous of my cousins who had an elder brother who walked the same route with them. He once chased a boy who teased his sister and beat him up. I was jealous of my twin brother and sister who also walked together. I tried to get my mother to pick me up from my bus stop but didn’t know how to explain the mental turmoil I went through everyday. One day on my way back, after I had passed the group of school boys, I turned a corner, and a man turned towards me and flashed me. That day onwards I started taking a longer route home just so I wouldn’t have to pass that corner again.

When I turned eighteen I was ecstatic to start learning to drive. I could now drive and never have to walk or take auto rickshaws or the most feared – DTC Buses. The joy didn’t last long when my driving instructor surreptitiously started touching my breasts while changing gears or turning the wheel. I wasn’t sure how to tell my parents that I didn’t want to learn driving from that instructor. I asked my dad to teach me driving but got into a small accident. I had to continue my lessons with the driving instructor.

Now when I think of these incidents I can’t imagine why I didn’t take action against this kind of harassment. But as a girl in my early teens I lacked the confidence and maturity to deal with these incidents. I was too embarrassed to discuss any of this with my parents. I just learnt to go to any length to avoid a group of boys loitering on the streets or to make up excuses about why I need my grandmother or cousin to be in the car with me while I learnt to drive.

When male friends from Delhi narrate stories of eating paranthas at 1 am on the roadside or playing holi with friends on the streets, I am amazed. These are luxuries that I could never afford. They are amazed when I tell them that I only traveled in a bus once. They automatically attribute it to me being a rich spoiled brat and I prefer not to tell them the real reason. I would rather repress the thoughts of one of the worst experiences of my lives.

I can only begin to imagine how traumatized my sister could have been during her teen years in Delhi. After having lived in the US for two years when she had an opportunity to visit Delhi, she refused. She desperately wanted to meet our family but was too scared to go back. I convinced her to go but she fretted for days leading up to the trip.

I thought I would be able to deal with such harassment as a mature woman now. I was not a scared teenager anymore. However, in Bangalore on a trip with my parents, when a man started running his hand up and down my leg, I could do nothing. If I told my parents I knew my dad would get in a fight with him. I didn’t want him to get hurt. I just kept scooting closer and closer to my sister till she asked me what the matter was. She switched seats with me since she was wearing jeans and stomped on his hand. After all he couldn’t complain either.

I once started researching Sexual Harassment in India to write a paper for a class called “Women, Minorities and Law.” During that research I found out that “Eve teasing” is a termed coined and used only in India. I never wrote that paper, it was too painful. I sometimes day dream that incidents of street harassment would air on television and men would be forced to face the guilt. They would be made aware of the trauma they cause. I’m not sure when that day would come but Blank Noise is definitely a step in the right direction.

Action Hero Anshu

I just found my way to this blog named BlankNoise. Felt like its a worthwhile effort and so should b a part of it.It focussed on the topic Eve-Teasing, and so let me express my views on it.

So, What is Eve-Teasing?

Literally speaking it is the harassment of, or sexually aggressive behaviour towards, women or girls.It is like some unwarranted efforts to lure the female gender.But I would say, it is a very subjective term. I say this becoz of wht i hear from ppl who talk abt eve-teasing.Agreed, any unsolicited and sexually explicit act shud b termed eve-teasing. But if one includes things like staring or glaring in this purview, I wud beg 2 differ.If you would even not allow such things to happen in society, its like not allowing an outlet for feelings. As such stares and glares are unharmed, they shud b taken in tht stride. But yes, the definition of defining such glares is also subjective, n so i wud stop defending them till this point.

Now, wht are the causes of eve-teasing?

There are a no. of causes behind this.

As female gender is considered the fairer and the weaker sex,they are considered more vulnerable.Esp. in places like India, which is having a male-dominated society, it is considered a male’s fundamental right to behave in any manner with females.It is in fact a way of showing male’s superiority over females.

Also,being a suppressed lot, females generally dont always raise their voices against such harassment, which makes the males more bold in their approaches. Due to social stigma for a girl, less and less cases are reported.

Another reason is the old laws existing in India over eve-teasing.First of all, the corruption doesn’t catch the real culprits, with they being let off on mayb a small favour or money.Even if they are caught, Indian laws don’t have stringent punishments for them.There are enof loopholes to go scot-free.There have been very few convictions in such cases.

Also, lack of education is also a contributing factor to such a menace. Illiterate and uneducated people consider this as their birthright and see nothing wrong in it.They are unaware of the trauma of the girl who faces such harassment.But one wonders then what happens in the metro cities, good educational institutions etc. Incidents in such places make ppl wonder whether education contributes to controlling such a problem. But i feel it does. Good and healthy environment at school and home makes a person respect the other sex, and understand the limitations.

What do the statistics say?

Track Record of India in case of eve-teasing is horrendous. In fact, it looks like this word came into public dialogue out of this country. If one does a search on Google, most of the results pertain to India, tht means tht this issue is a growing problem for our country.
It is estimated that every 51 minutes a woman is sexually harassed in India,and every 21 minutes one woman is molested.This statistic in itself is alarming, and something needs to be done on an urgent basis to stop it.Tht is one reason tht this issue has now come into public glare and is getting attention in the form of such initiatives like BlankNoise.

What are the solutions to fight it?

The first and foremost solution to fighting is a change in attitude.The attitude of Indian male has to be changed if this menace has to be eradicated. A general respect for the female gender will go a long way in building a healthy society.

Otherwise, government needs to bring in stringent measures to curb this problem.People shud b given harsh sentences, and such cases shud b brought in public domain for ppl to understand and to fear doing any such thing.

I, for one, wud say, tht one of such people shud b left to public punishment where they are left to be tortured by people in public such case wud go a long way in scaring the wits out of a lot of people.

So, in the end, I wud say, eve-teasing is a menace for society. It should be fought hard and an effort needs to be directed towards this direction for eradicating it from the society and making it a healthy one.

Action Hero Anshul, piece 2

This is my entry to Blog-a-thon at Blank Noise :

“You can write about anything related to the topic: testimonies, opinions on harassment, comments about the Blank Noise, would all be great. It doesn't matter where you're from, where you live, or whether you're a man or a woman - we'd love to have you on board.”

So if you are reading this post and if you have anything to about this topic, do blog about it.
I know it would take much more than your post to stop street harassment, but it might make a difference.

I will also keep myself to street harassment and eve teasing, which is the scope of the Blog-a-thon. I have not made up my mind as to what I want to write, but I will just start anyway.

A Gentlemen, always always (sic) makes one feel comfortable.

A gentleman will not do things that will be uncomfortable to someone else, and even if he does so, he always apologizes and tries to make him/her comfortable. Says a book that I once read at a friend’s, “How to be a gentleman”?

But not all men are gentlemen you see.

And street harassment continues.

Imagine for once that it was your sister or girlfriend in the shoes of the victim.

How would you feel?

Eve-teasing, harassment and feel-ups are things that happen to a lot of women, everyday. Blank noise wants people to speak out. It just might make a difference, for as long as people keep quite about it, the perpetrators of the same will continue doing so thinking that they could get away with it or worse, thinking that it was OK to do so.

Almost Every girl have had come across street harassment. Since I decided to write about the same, I asked some friends if they have had an experience of such, and the answers were 100% affirmative.

Not a good sign.

I still don’t know what could be done so that street harassment stops, and I believe it will some day.

Eve teasing, I don’t think is as prevalent as it used to be a decade or two back. As more and more people are getting jobs, with a good economy, with lesser number of street Romeos, I think in percentage, the instances of eve-teasing must have increased (an assumption). But then, there was good old harmless teasing cum flirting like the Mithundas and Akshay Kumars did a la late early 90’s movies, which according to me, ladies, is fine. Even I did, and I always got smiles or flirted back. (It is a little off the track but do read on…) But I know that girls can make out the difference. Of pure flirt and of lecherous advances.

Back in college, when I used to openly flirt with hitherto unknown strangers of the opposite sex, my friends would always tell me, “Hey Anthony, marwayega kya?” Are you going to get us thrashed? I never got slapped, nor thrashed, but gained a lot of friends from amongst the girls. And I learnt that most girls do enjoy a kind admiring attention. But my friends thought that I was crazy. You know, engineering college students, no courage to talk to girls let alone strangers types. I thought they were too, maybe too proper.

Then one day, one such guy felt up a batch mate on the last days of our college, in the college bus. He was apparently drunk, which was no excuse for what he did, and then did some more. The girl slapped him, but to the utter surprise of the girl, the guy slapped him back. It led to a lot of tension in the college, but that is not the point. I am trying to make a point here. Of the difference between flirting with a stranger and of harassment per se.

The difference between the two can be compared with an internet based analogy. Of the difference between asking “hi wanna chat A/S/L please” and saying “cute ID, are you naked?” in the late 90’s chatrooms. I am not endorsing the former, but then I just wanted to make sure that no one confuses, befriending a girl with street harassment. Otherwise I will never get to know a new girl unless I have a solid referral. Jokes apart, I know when a girl can make out the difference. The key word is discomfort. If your advances make the other uncomfortable, do a tactful retreat. Be a gentleman.

And any form of unwanted advances, is harassment. Be it is an isolated street or in a crowded disco. Never do insist. If you don’t know how to make a pass, then don’t. If she says no, consider it a no. Uski naa ka matlab ha nahin hein Boss. This, I have learnt. Key word “ Tactful Retreat”. This was about flirting which I though would be confused with street harassment.

Other than this is what is known as cheap thrill. Somebody feeling you up or rubbing. Now this is not only cheap, but horrible and disgusting. I knew this horrible guy with the height of a midget, who also gave me some unforgettable raggings, who would travel in a crowded public bus from one end of the city to the other whole day just to be in the crowd. Nobody liked him, and it used to disgust us because we knew he did that.
Another is pure eve-teasing, of unwanted sitis (whistle), and chamak challos and nasty remarks, not admiring but leching or disrespectful gestures. To those guys who think we have every right to admire a beauty, girls I know have told me that they know when someone is genuinely admiring or leching. If you want to lech, go buy yourself a porn magazine.

There is only one remedy though. The guilty must be punished. In Pune, there are considerably lesser eve teasing cases because the police in plainclothes would hang out in crowds and even crowded busus especially during festivals to catch hold of eve teasers. I think that is a very effective exercise and should be practiced everywhere, all year long. Every year, hundreds of people are reprimanded.

I will keep posting whenever there is news related to harassment.

But if, by banning even the instances of flirting and teasing that I mentioned as I approve of, street harassment will stop, then so be it. It is a small price to pay. I can always ask for a referral.

One small advice to girls. If you travel by local train or walk often in busy street, carry a small haversack or back pack which can be hung from the shoulder. Hanging it on the front is very effective, and you will look kinda cool. My ex girlfriend always did that and told me it was quite effective. She used it to hit people also, If she suspects she was bumped.

And learn kick boxing. Learn to give back as you take.
But if a guy admires your beauty, he might also be your future partner. Don’t immediately discount him as a satan. Love at first sight, anyone? It only happen between strangers right. I for one, always smile at a girl.

Please Support the Blank Noise

Action Hero Anthon

Here's my contribution to the Blank Noise ........

Ethiraj College, Chennai, June 1998. It was my first week of college. After years of co-ed school, it was the first time in a girls only institution. It felt unfamiliar and strange.......

While I was making new friends and exploring my surroundings, Sarika Shah, a senior from my Department went out with friends. She was walking with them, to a juice shop near college, to sip some cold fruit juice on a hot Chennai summer day, perhaps to gossip about someone, perhaps to talk about a crush, perhaps to talk about the latest fashions or movies or perhaps just to to talk about everything and nothing as girls often do......

As Sarika walked, a rickshaw with a bunch of guys came wobbling by. Hands reached out of the rickshaw to grab her and to touch her. Sarika tried to swerve out of the way, lost her balance and fell, hitting her head hard on the ground. The rickshaw went wobbling away, wolf whistles fading into the blazing Chennai sun, while Sarika lay motionless.

Sarika was rushed to Apollo Hospital, where she remained for a week, fighting for her life. Sarika died a week later, on her birthday. The college remained closed for a day to mourn her. When it reopened, women police were active around the premises for a while and then that too was just a memory.

I got used to being in a girls college. In 1999, a good friend came to possess one of Sarika's textbooks. Her name Sarika Shah was scribbled on the cover. I often thought of Sarika, when I saw the book, or when I passed the juice shop. I thought of her when unknown hands gropped my friend in a bus and an old woman sitting in the bus attributed it to her (my friend) having worn a sleeveless salwar and tempting poor men.

I thought of her, and of her cruel and sudden death, her last conscious memory being that of groping hands reaching out........
With a prayer on my lips for Sarika, I turned to join my friends in the comforting folds of the girls only crowd at Ethiraj College.

Action Hero Rambler

In Delhi where I grew up, things are different you can evade taxes you can cheat death through reincarnation . But roadside romeos, well, they're inevitable

I remember a time, some ten years ago, when as a teenager I came home weeping hard. My mom went pale on seeing me so, and wanted to know what had happened. Between sobs, I admitted that my wallet had been stolen in a packed bus - along with a princely two thousand bucks.

You should have seen the relief on her face.

That's life for us - so expectant of being treated like public property that we're thankful for every time we aren't.

That's how I lived in Delhi. Afraid. Depressed. Demoralised. And wondering everytime a student "committed suicide" because of exams, if an unrelenting attack on her personal space had been the reason. It would be a good reason.

Yes, a good reason. You can spew dialogues and sagely advice on how women should shout and fight back and end all molestation. And how my statement is so like the stupid Hindi movies where the only way out to save your izzat is to go jump in a well. And how being a victim does not make you lose your dignity, and is no reason to end your life over. And I would agree with you.

But fighting back is so much easier said than done. And it doesn't take away the despair.

I know that every time I've tried - and I've had sufficient times to try, along with a lot of mental preparation for the 'next time it happens' - it just doesn't work. One moment I'm a strong Anuja, ready to write blogs on the issue, and air opinions in discussions, and shout loud on the issue - and the next I am a weakling without voice, with no coherence of speech who's too dazed to take any action. I don't know what happens - I know it doesn't happen to everyone. I wish it didn't to me either, but it does.

The one time when I got strong enough to try and smack the face of the man in front of me, I missed for lack of coordination. Twice. It wasn't funny. And it did scare him away anyhow. But I cried later. Not because I missed hitting him, but because even though I stood up for myself, it didn't change the big picture. I could feel the strain on my freedoms. Lewdness had a free run of the streets, while I was in essence home-jailed. If I needed to go out, it almost like parole, where I felt the need of an escort.

That's why I hate the place I grew up in, and left it at first chance.

And that's why I love Jamshedpur, because that's where, for the first time in my living memory, I could walk in the middle of the road without feeling scared, without turning around hastily at the sound of a vehicle approaching from behind, without needing to be at full alert regarding the traffic on the road and what it might do to me in passing.

I have never forgotten that first time I felt free.

I know Jamshedpur, or Mumbai where I am now, also suffer their share of crime against women. Indeed, as many blogs today will report, whistling, commenting, eve-teasing, shadowing, groping, molesting, and other things depressingly, unendingly worse have proliferated without boundaries. "Delhi-Style' rapes, as a stupid tabloid cruelly and tastelessly labelled them, have occured in Mumbai too. Just yesterday, a woman's nude body, with eyes gouged out, and limbs tied up was discovered in a railway cabin.

Can the worsening of our world be reversed?

Generating awareness is just the first step and faaaaaaaaaaar from enough.

What we need are vigilant spectators. And we need a legal and judiciary system that can support conviction, and fast.

Action Hero Anuja

Happy(?) Women’s Day

Why do we celebrate Women's Day? Isn't it a day to tell to the world that women are in par with men? If yes, can you tell me that no woman faced any eve-teasing today? Shouldn't we be ashamed to give a negative answer for the above question?

Why is it that a woman has to undergo all ordeals? Having her monthly friend to trouble her, do all household chores, go to work to meet her family's financial requirements, give birth to a baby and to top it all, feel ashamed for having born as a woman when guys join hands to tease her.

Shouldn't we be ashamed of this fact? I have undergone a great deal of eve-teasing. In the initial days, I never had the courage to raise my voice against those stupids. I was afraid. When I started raising my voice, started slapping those guys on their face, I realized that they were mere cowards who tend to utilize the slightest opportunity to touch a woman, pass comments about her, etc. If she doesn't have the guts to protect her, then they build their courage and take their liberty in over-doing their favorite time-pass.

How many of you will be happy to have your daughters out there being teased by a rogue? Are these men getting encouraged because of our movies that make women do only the glamour role? Then why are we encouraging those stupid movies? Why isn't there any rule to stop this non-sense? When government can impose rule to stop showing scenes where a person smokes, why cant they stop making a heroine wear a two piece costume while the hero is fully dressed?

There was this wonderful link at Blank Noise where a guy has poured his mind out. Yup.. I agree with most of his points.. but, why is it that girls who are well-dressed and decent are also teased by men? Doesn't that showcase the cheap mentality of men? Why are gals getting raped and killed every day? Even if they have showcased a part of their body, why should men go to the extreme limits? Haven't you seen men who roam around with sleeveless shirts? Haven't you come across men wearing tight pants so that you can make out the shape of their wallet? How many of them are getting raped or the least, how many of them are getting teased by other women? When we gals maintain our decency and limits when it comes for commenting on the dress code of men, why cant men draw boundary lines for themselves?

I am sorry if this post ended up to be a very serious one.. I had just poured my heart out.. Please correct me if my views are wrong.

This day being Women's day, I humbly request all men who read this post to take a pledge not to tease any woman. And ofcourse, to all girls out there, no adam-teasing please.

Action Hero Anurama

Of women and men...

There is no privilege like the male privilege. We are born with it. It is like a birthright that is biased against women by its very nature. Men and women are treated differently right from the day they are born. So different that in quite a few places in India, the female child is killed; sometimes as sacrifice to the Gods asking for a male heir. That is an extreme case and most urban, middle-class families would distance themselves from such practices but it does not mean that the longing for a male heir does not exist in their minds. And boy (pun unintended) do they wish it! In the cities, they are more sophisticated and female infanticide becomes female foeticide. I am not against abortion but what I am against is the selective abortion of children based on this privileging of the male child.

Even if women survive this initial period of their lives (over which they have no control over whatsoever), they have a lifetime of segregation to face. They would have to hear comments like, "you have to learn cooking because that's what will help you keep your husband happy" and "you are just a visitor who will leave for another home soon" and "what will you do studying so much; they will not help you", almost all their childhood and adolescence. This is still overt and there are subtler ways of putting a woman down. Even if you do not say those above words, those intentions and thinking behind those words would still be there and is quite perceptible to children who are so sensitive to adult behaviour.

Even if a woman does get educated well by her family and does manage to get a job in the world, she faces problems just because she is a woman. Women are harassed on the streets, in public places and there is nothing they can do about it expect carry pins and respond violently to the harassment. One feels disgust reading the testimonial of Annie and that of others who have responded in the comments with stories and anecdotes of their own. I have blogged about this before and you could also follow the link there and read the stories there too. Today is March 7, 2006, a day declared by Black Noise as a day for Blog-a-thon 2006.

Of course, this is not the only the only problem that women face in the male-dominated world but this is one of those problems that pervades their life everyday, at all times, and something that they are vulnerable to.

As a man, it disturbs me to see that it is so pervasive and so problematic to women and it seems to be quite universal. Every woman has a harassment story. Most women face harassment every single day. It seems to be a socially sanctioned practice that hampers the everyday life of millions of women. I take special care on buses to stay away from women because I am afraid that I might unknowingly/unwittingly cause mental stress in the woman standing next to me just because the driver thought it was prudent to brake so hard. In Madras, there were special 'Magalir mattum' (for females only) buses that used to (still might be in operation) run during rush hour that alleviated the stress that women felt in the mornings going to colleges and offices. I strongly recommend such buses as I do not see the situation improving overnight. I used to wonder why educated women would leave a prospect of a promising career and become housewives but the more I read the testimonials of these working women, the more I realize that it is not such an easy question to answer.

How do you tackle this problem? There are numerous suggestions that keep popping up in my mind.

1. Make legislation that metes out harsh punishments to people who harass women.

2. Spread awareness of this issue and how women feel about this in society

3. Learn marital arts and beat up every single person who does something undesirable.

4. Take their pictures and post them in a public place like Holla Back NYC (it does not necessarily have to be a blog. It could also be a news channel) and hope that it embarrasses them so much so that they won't behave like that again.

The problem with the first suggestion is that there is already existing legislation does not seem to be effective. If it was, 'eve-teasing' would not be called by its harmless sounding name and it would not be so pervasive that Indian movies would not show them as a valid wooing technique!! And there is one story by a female commentor on the one of the above mentioned blog posts which seems to suggest that the police are indifferent to this kind of mistreatment of women. The problem with this kind of offence is that of proof. How will you prove that a certain person groped you? How would you convince the people who saw the whistling/eve-teasing to come with to the police station and testify? How would you convince the policeman that you were not over-reacting and you don't want to just let it go? In other words, how would you break the barrier created by gender stereotypes that typecast women who fight back against such men as evil, conniving, lying feminists who hate all men?

The second suggestion is what Black Noise is all about and I think it is the most effective one because it seems to target the thinking of people in society. Spreading awareness of this issue is an important step towards making the world more equitable for women. Changing the perception of the people is a slow process, one that is probably going to take a couple of generations and it does not alleviate the problems faced by women today.

The third suggestion is something that is already in place. Women do learn martial arts to be able to defend themselves on the street but it cooks my goose that they have to live by jungle rules to be independent, working women! It seems to put the onus of defending herself on the women and seems to suggest that men would always be like that and women should expect such behaviour from them and they should defend themselves as it is unlikely that the society would come to their help. Saying that, it is still a very practical approach and one that is strongly recommended. Martial arts / expertise with handling pins / using heels as toe-busters are all useful skill in the present scenario!

The fourth suggestion is a question of feasibility. If you take the picture of the guy who is harassing you, he could easily misconstrue as a statement of interest and harass you further. Also, no public place is that public, is it?

Saying all this, I wonder about all the men who do such heinous work. What do they really think? I suppose there might be some distinction amidst them. There would be the gropers, the whistlers, the starers, the 'eve-teasers'. It is not necessary that all harassers do all of this. There would be some who would 'eve-tease' thinking it is just teasing but they might never grope. Most men are starers, particularly when the object of their stare is at a distance and not looking in their direction. But even here, there is finer distinction. There are those who make it a point to stare and hang out in public places to leer at women passing by, there are those who do not do it regularly but would leer if some well-endowed woman passes by, etc, etc. But I think that in all these cases, the problem is the same - the objectification of women. And our popular media seems to reinforce that idea in the minds of the people. The bollywood movies, the remix videos, the bangra videos, the fashion shows, etc, etc. I personally think that the image of women in media has to change. Today, I saw an ad in the paper that shows a woman with a child on her lap, talking to some one on the phone, and working on a laptop, the tagline was "Women can multitask. Blah blah blah." The implied meaning being that men can't multitask. Such an image of women serves as an excuse to expect them to do all the housework, take care of the baby and pursue a career. It is either this or the portrayal of a woman as a vamp whose overactive sexuality lures men left and right.

Given all this, I am surprised that women don't screw men over whenever they get the chance (some women do but not all) because men (again, not all men) screw them over (pun intended) all the time. I am also surprised that in spite of going through all this, they never say all men are like that (and it is true). I wish Black Noise all the best in their efforts to change the perception of the world and I hope that we can make a better world where men and women would be truly treated equally.

Action Hero Mathai

Hai, that love of euphemisms ! (For Blank Noise Blog-a-thon)

Wikipedia defines "eve-teasing" as a euphemism. And what a euphemism ! It's actually a nice word for molestation - hear, hear ! And we need nice words for serious problems like sexual harassment, because how would we, otherwise decent people, live in sanity in our "high-moralled cultural" society, where on one hand we revere the woman as mother, but really can't resist a lascivicous grope when the opportunity presents itself !

And what about the woman upon whom this euphemism is visited ? Have you ever thought of your mother, sister, wife, friend subject to this violation when they step out on the street ? Have you REALLY thought about it ? Or are we now so inured to the subject of abuse on women that we accept it as a part of life ? After all, what do you expect when you go out on the street ALL ALONE?

When we turn a blind eye to this problem, or we suggest to our daughters to not venture out alone, and to travel with a male, we condone the actual problem. We accept that it is OK for women to be harassed in public places. We accept that women are unsafe alone, that women need protection, and are unable to stand by themselves. And that is the message we give out to women and the rest of society.

In my mind, molestation on the street, occurs primarily because of the mindset of Indian society. Issues like street harassment, violence against women, feticide and infanticide are manifestations of the same problem. When we think of women as liabilities, burdens, needing dowries, needing protection, as unable to do anything without the protection of men, then really is it a surprise that such attitudes come back and boomerang ? When in our patriarchal society we accept that men are superior, women inferior, and can be burnt, beaten and molested , that they are in fact powerless to stop violations against themselves, then what do you think the women AND men learn ?

Some interesting links on this topic are :

- Eve teasing on television
- Vikram's article on indian sexuality
- India Parenting
- The worth of our daughters

Action Hero Amodini

Learning the hard way

How the streets shaped me. The way I walk. The things I say. The clothes I wear. My posture. My thoughts. My need to figure out what you are thinking so that I can pre-empt it, prevent it, forestall it. The constant, endless staying on watch. How my body never relaxes.

I have long learnt to mistrust my body that seems to send out signals, messages, silent acknowledgments unbeknownst to me. Betraying me. Letting me down. I learnt to walk in certain ways - with my elbows stucking out slightly, with shoulders turned inwards slightly, my steps moving away from anyone on the pavement. Measuring the distance between me and you, while you are still 5 steps away. I can do this while laughing over a joke, drinking chai or working out a problem in my head. It feels as natural as breathing now, even though it's not.

Here, on different turf, I am re-learning the dynamics of my body. The new interpretations. New ways of seeing. Of thinking. Of dressing. I am on high alert for new, unwritten rules; learning easily. I am also un-learning. Uncurling. Letting go. I experiment gingerly. Lean over the table for a book and stay like that chatting with a friend for a while without having to worry about someone staring at my butt. Reach up on high shelves for something, learning not to instinctively pull down my shirt. Wear a tight shirt and not spend all evening with my arms crossed in an awkward stance. Lean into someone and laugh at a joke. Do a mad little jig on the road. Walk home at midnight by myself with no fear of anything except for the crazy cat that sometimes springs out at me 5 houses down the street. Close my eyes and catch a quick nap on the bus.

Sometimes, just for the joy of the feeling, I stretch in public - a long, luxurious stretch. First my toes uncurling, then my legs follow reaching forward. My back arches and I stretch my arms as far back as they can go. Close my eyes, yawn and let my head fall back. Stay like that for a few delicious moments. Open my eyes to find no one watching. Smile.

Action Hero Anandita

blank noise

I usually stay away from opinion posts in my blog. In part, because I will rather listen, discuss, engage with something I feel strongly about than to merely write about it.

But, over the past week or so, I have been following the Blank Noise with interest. It is a blog-o-thon to protest against eve-teasing. Most of the posts I have read so far have been intensely personal chronicles by women, most of whose stories resonate with me.

I believe I am fortunate in this regard. I recall only few memories of open eve-teasing. Of bottom pinching (age 18: Andheri station in Bombay. Rush hour, a crush of bodies and moist hands that reached out and grabbed me) and thrusting men (ages 15 - 23: numerous small incidents, most of which I have conveniently forgotten). But, I do remember the fear - that trapped feeling.

Age 16. A remote hill station in India. I and some classmates of mine are walking back from "camps". Camps was yet another residual tradition from our British colonial days that our school faithfully followed. We, a group of 12th standard girls, had just spent 4 days in the closest approximation of "in the wild" we had. [background: Camps involved backpacking to a remote campsite, cooking by campfire, living cramped like sardines in tents. I loved it.]. We were exhausted - 4 days of collecting your own water, cooking your own food, building your own fires - and we were beat. Add to that the unnecessary large bags laden with clothes that we had not worn (after all, we were 16 or 17, and this was our first outing in "regular clothes" that we had had in months) and the long march home, and we had never felt more tired and irritable than then.

The journey back was along the main road. We had somehow spilt up into three groups, depending on our walking pace and our group consisted of 6 girls. The other two groups - one of whom was with our teacher - was nowhere in sight. Every car, bus, truck, auto, bike that passed us on the highway were filled with men who yelled "baby, baby" and thrust out their arms out us, forcing us to walk single file as far back from the road as possible. It did not help that some of us were wearing sleeveless shirts - after all, we were just coming back from camps.

We were humiliated and scared. And furious.

Then, it happened. Two men on a bike slowed down next to us, keeping pace with our walking.

-C'mon baby. oh baby baby.[kissing and slurping sounds]. girls girls. come here baby.

They were within arm's reach of us. Suddenly one of the girls snapped - she flung a bottle of water in his face.

The situation went from bad to terribly-filmi-infinitely worse. The man slowed down and started yelling. He threatened to get off his bike and come and hit us. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. We were walking faster and faster, none of us looking at the men, just walking. Yet, I can't remember moving at all - all I remember are the torrent of abusive words he were hurling at us. And, then, just as abruptly, he left.

For a couple of minutes, we just kept walking in silence, not daring to look back, not daring to hope that they had really gone. But, there was silence and we finally stopped and looked around. I can't remember the details - some of the girls broke down, some of us just stayed mutely frightened, yet others discussed what we should do. We reached a common consensus - that we will wait till the group with our teacher caught up with us and walk together.

It occurs to me now that our teacher should not have been a source of protection for us. She was 25 years old, as slim and as small as any of us. Yet, we needed something to fall back on and as the authority figure, we decided that no harm will come to us if we were with her.

20 strained minutes went by and then we caught sight of the other group. Relief flooded us as we explained everything to our teacher and friends. We were relieved enough to go back to joking and talking loudly. Only our teacher stayed watchfully silent. She must have been petrified - this was a tough situation to face on one's own but she was also accountable for 15 young girls.

The noise of a bike in the distance. Again strained silence. But, just a couple of strange men we have never seen before, whooping at us. Then another bike. And then another. By this time, we are more relaxed. And, then suddenly, they are back and they have another friend. We were walking in double file by then. Without realizing it the older looking, more buxom girls were on the inside of the file and the flatter, younger looking girls on the side closest to the road. I was on the outside and I could smell the man as he got off the bike and came towards us. I could not see him - I was too scared to look.

My teacher fell back two steps and stopped him with some quiet words "These are young girls. Don't do anything to them. They didn't do anything. Don't you dare touch them." He is yelling and screaming the few english words he knows "fucking. these girls coming here for fucking. we fucking them." and then frustrated with his lack of english, he switched back to his native tongue, still cursing. Now that we understood the words he was saying, the possibility of those words coming true seemed absurdly real. Absurdly, because it didn't seem possible that this was happening to us.

Maybe it was the tough stance that my teacher took or her quiet words. Maybe it was the fear coming off us. Maybe it was the thought that these girls looked rich and their parents may have connections that could get him killed if he touched them. Maybe it was his friends on the bike, frightened by the sudden serious turn to the events, that were yelling for him to come back. But, he suddenly turned away and got back on his bike. As he went past us, he spat at us.

There were no more jokes, no more talking till we got back to school.

Years later, I was telling some of my cousin's friends this story and one of them said "well, you were asking for it - wearing sleeveless t-shirts in a remote place like that and walking along the highway." What shocked me was not so much his sentiment, widely shared with a large number of people, but the fact that I almost instantly agreed.

This is what I fear the most. The invisible rules that guide what you wear, do, say - distinguishing you from victim to "asking-for-it". The endless need to stay on guard. Be watchful. Go with male friends. Don't stay out too late. Dress carefully. Don't call attention to yourself. Especially don't call sexual attention to yourself.

At one level, these are basic simple precautions. At another, they are an antithesis to everything that the women's rights movement has fought for. And, the time when young girls like me start unknowingly, sub-consciously buying into these notions is when we need to stand up and fight against these ideas. The Blank Noise is a start.

I will like to end this post on a happier note. Two instances when I saw women stand up, fight back and turn against the men who abused them. Both in Bombay.

A man passing by a group of college girls on his bike, reaches out and grabs a girl's breast. She whips around, grabs him by the arm as he goes past, succeeding in pulling him off the bike. With the aid of her friends she drags him to the nearest police station which is 20 minutes away. During this time, he goes from cocky to scared to petrified - at one point, he breaks down into tears and begs the girls to let him go, saying that he has a wife and kids back home. At this, the girl retorts "All the more reason to ensure that you never treat women like this again."

A late-night movie at a theatre. As we try to leave the theatre, we can hear yelling at the entrance. The crowd is moving very slowly and everyone is looking towards something going on near the door. As we approach, we see a man on his knees saying "sorry, sorry, sorry" rapidly. A young attractive woman is standing above him, asking him "will you ever do that again? WILL YOU? WILL YOU? DON'T YOU EVER TOUCH ANY WOMAN LIKE THAT AGAIN."

As a young girl, seeing these women take on the men so boldly signaled hope of a kind. True - these situations don't always turn out well. Men have been known to strike back and/or to gang up against the abused woman. Worse has happened. I am not saying the above cases are solutions. But, they, like the Blank Noise, are the beginnings of a move away from that crippling fear so many of us have felt in the face of overt, ubiquitous sexual harassment.

Action Hero Anandita

On being harassed…

This was written for the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon on Street Harrassment. I couldn't think of a clever title so this will have to do for the moment. This is to all the men out there who dehumanize me, and themselves, regularly and don't even realize what they're destroying.

I could meet your eyes
unafraid, and smile
in recognition
the special kind
that strangers share

I could look at you
and feel a perfect
unbroken love,
the kind that springs
from common humanity

I could imagine,
your life and send
a silent hug, air-borne
to your children
who I will never meet.

But it's hard because
your eyes
burn a leer
into my breasts

It's hard because
your hands reach
where they shouldn't
This is my body.

It's hard because
I know that
alone in dark places,
you are a beast.

Action Hero Anindita Sen Gupa

The power of collective rage


That's what hit me today as I looked around the blogosphere. It was full of posts, poems, notes and memories of eve teasing / harrassment because of the Blank Noise blog-a-thon on street harrassment.

I was sceptical at first. Much as I believe in the power of the written word, I thought the posts would be too few. I thought only the female readers would care. I had underestimated the power of empathy. This is something that all women go through. The blogosphere resounded with many, many voices. Surprisingly, many men also read these posts and commented. Some even participated by posting their own thoughts and experiences on harrassment.

The posts were difficult to read sometimes because they were intensely personal, wrenchingly honest, and universally true. Some of them had me biting my lips fiercely, trying not to cry. Some of them had me clenching my fists in helplessness and anger. But all of them made me feel a sense of unity with other women out there. The sense that we are all the same in some ways. In making us all think, write and read about it at the same time, the blog-a-thon created a feeling of shared truth and anger.

The fact that the nature of harrassment is so familiar should make it easier to fight. After all, it's not one pitifully voice tentatively bringing it up. It's a chorus of protests, a collective howl of rage. It should make it easier to fight. But we haven't been able to so far. Is it because we haven't been loud enough? Explicit enough? Clear enough? Consistent enough?

The thing is: tomorrow - or a week later - we'll go back to our daily lives. We will not forget about it (how can we?), but we will push it to the back burner.

And that's exactly what we should not do. Because some types of rage are good. Some types of rage can change things. And therefore, they are necessary.

Fan the flames then.

Action Hero Anindita Sen Gupta

Blank Noise: Solution v0.1a

If it's a project, it's gotta have a solution! Here's the beta...

Women have always been victims of sexual harassment on the street. Of late, I have read a lot of such stories - stories of women, recounting their harrowing experiences on the street. From women being molested in public, to strange men feeling up their privates, to perverts masturbating on women commuters at railway stations, there are so many stories out in the open, thanks to the Blank Noise - aims to recognize eve teasing as a sexual crime and establish the issue as something that may be normal, but is unacceptable. And many more exist, mostly untold and hidden in the deepest ravines of an affected woman's heart.

Many men and women have made their contribution to Blank Noise and shed light on this reality. I don't intend to just make a contribution. I intend to change the thinking and hope to eradicate sexual harassment on the street as such. I know being male, I can only read or listen to such stories. I will never experience it first hand. I will never be able to step into the shoes of a woman who has experienced such a thing. And when I do read and listen to such stories, I can't help but think what women could do to improve the situation and their chances when they become victims.

I also know it is easy to give advice, and even more, to give unsolicited advice. Women may already know of what I think might be a solution. My words may not be worth a penny. Whatever be the case, here are my thoughts that might improve the chances of woman to protect herself from being sexually harassed on the street.

Recognizing the Crime

Eve-teasing or street sexual harassment, is a social stigma. It is a big problem that manifests itself through small incidents that occur to a large number of women on the streets. To eradicate this, what we need is change in our mindset, thinking, behavior, and most importantly social ranking of women.

Being Less Vulnerable

Like the predators that can sense fear in their prey, pervert men might actually sense the vulnerability in women. Once the prey is vulnerable, a prospective perpetrator’s job is already half done. Take for an instance, a woman standing in a crowded railway station platform. She tries hard to avoid the gazes from men. She stops 'being herself' and pretends to look 'nowhere'. She cocoons herself and turns a blind eye to the truth that several men are gazing at her, with not-so-friendly eyes. These gazes make her utterly uncomfortable and each passing second seems unbearable to her. By isolating herself, she becomes more vulnerable. While she looks nowhere, a pervert brushes past her, touching her where she hates it the most. She is caught unaware and before she can react, the pervert has disappeared in the crowd. Doesn't this happen everyday?

Being Brave & Bold

Another reason why women fall prey to eve-teasing is our culture. By culture, I don't only mean our Indian culture. Women throughout the world are considered the weaker sex, at least subconsciously. When you agree that you are the weaker sex, you get attention - both positive and negative. While chivalry, respect for being a woman, and being treated in a 'womanly manner' count as positive attention, sexual harassment, eve-teasing, rape, gang-rapes account for negative attention. Chivalry that women love is a classic example of this subconscious discrimination - even among women! Now, if women genuinely think they are equal to men and inculcate such thinking in themselves, they will automatically be a lot less weaker - emotionally and physically. They will cease to be exploitable. In my opinion, the key is to be BOLD and not expect any special treatment for being born a woman. Only then will the exploitation stop.

Being Prepared

Finally, besides being a lot less vulnerable, weak, and exploitable, being prepared for such situations can only be a positive step towards curbing such instances. Being prepared for such situation does not only mean carrying pepper sprays and joining the weekend Kung Fu/Karate class. The preparation has to start from the mind. Only when a woman truly considers herself equal to her male counterpart in every way, will she begin to be prepared to combat street sexual harassment.

So the next time you have men gazing all over you, hold your head up in confidence. Be bold, be brave, and most importantly be alert of the environment around you. When a pervert tries to brush past you, you will be able to slap him instantly. Or even better, move away before he succeeds and give him the "You suck!" look. Sharp, 'I'll-kill-you gazes' back at men do work. At least that's what many women have told me!

Action Hero Anish

Blank Noise - Harassment

Had to jump into this one - it's critical and ranges from mild admiration to violent rape with harassment / eve -teasing etc. somewhere in the middle yet close to both extremes.
I have two views - both true I imagine, both diametrically different.
One is the simpler view. I've hardly been to a city in the world where 'eve-teasing' doesn't occur - from wolf-whistles, to leering looks, to driving close,cheesy one-liners heavily sexually loaded, to the breast-grabber and more graphic stuff. As a woman I try and quickly understand the culture of the city I am currently in. Some places in the world, you say 'No' to guy or just tell him to lay off and he does. He's just trying to see if you're game. Some cultures, particularly the North Indian one, the guys don't know better - they don't have the opportunity to engage in normal relationships with women at an age where they have active hormones - and they socio-psychological conditioning is so strong : the aggressive macho male who can have it all anyway he wants completely submerging his own trembling insecurity within. And as a woman, you learn to deal with this guy as well, in the manner that all the other blogs mentioned. Quick tips to keep safe. Sock a guy, keep mist handy, take precautions, use elbows, keep cool.

The complex view (and I'm a little ambivalent on this one, though I cannot ignore it) in India is a rapidly changing exposure to comparatively liberal mores in the media and in society over the past 10 years - not long enough for the deeply-embedded social and cultural conditioning to adapt itself. While I theoretically and personally agree with "if a guy can wear what he wants or scratch his balls in public, why on earth can't a woman wear / do what she wants without getting harassed?", this isn't how it works. Let's be real. We've been used to bare-chested, half-lungi, kaccha -clad guys since forever. But the spaghetti strapped, g-string panty peeping out of low-slung jeans, hugely sexy and carefree young thing is a new phenomenon. Sit at a Subway (or etc.) when school gives over in Delhi and you'll see a bunch of girls in decent school uniforms go into the restroom and come out looking like they're ready for the ramp. I think they look gorgeous. So do the guys. I think they look provocative. So do the guys. And the guys don't know how to handle it. So either those schoolgirls get harassed or some young guy who gets completely turned on but wouldn't dare do anything with them picks on an innocent alone in a bus girl / woman and wants to unleash his manhood on her. Sometimes this leads to more than harassment - sometimes it leads to rape. I'm not saying "she asked for it". I'm saying "he's not ready for so much so fast". And with the focus on looks, clothes, sex etc etc he's getting a lot to handle - and his collective consciousness hasn't equipped him with nonchalance yet.

Any solutions?

I'll try some.

- Mothers, educate your sons

- Media, initiate debate

- Media, (all kinds), you do have social responsibility.

- The older generation cannot abdicate its responsibility to the next and then rue the fact that there is violence and an unsafe environment. So, when you make a Neel and Nicky where the heroine wears a bra throughout and oozes out of it (story does not demand the same) then please expect all the guys from small toowns, villages, big towns to get possessed and lose rational thought.

- Girls, figure what you should wear where.

- Fathers, set a good example in how you refer to women in general

- Schools - talk about this.

Action Hero Anita Vasudeva

Make some noise, Some Blank Noise!

It was woman's day yesterday! Isn't every day woman's day? Doesn't the day belong to them as much as it belongs to men? Don't women take care of us men every single day. Don't they do the things men do, everyday. But it was woman's day yesterday. 1 day in a year to celebrate yearlong achievements. The irony eh?

This Blog is an ode to all the women I know. All the women who have influenced me and continue to change me everyday. Its these women who have made me the man I am today. Its these women who make me a better man each day! My mom, my grandma, my aunts, my school friends, my classmates, my ex girlfriends, my teachers, my neighbors daughters, my friends, my sisters, Ammu and my female listeners. A huge Thank you to each one of you! :)

This Blog is also my bit for the Blank Noise. A unique anti street harassment initiative. They also have offline activities in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. Make sure you take a look, and see what you can do to spread the word. Do your bit to help women from all around!

My woman's day went off pretty well. I went to sleep the previous night watching "Casanova". A story of women actually, (will blog that sometime soon) . I woke up with 2 women by my side..*grin* (now now don't get all excited, One was Ammu and the other mandy) . The first thing I did in the morning (before even brushing my teeth) was head to supermarket to buy the girls a pack of "monthly protection gear". What a way to start woman's day eh? lol. The entire day was packed with women and things women need. A friend of mine did a radio show on radiocity with Jasmeen. Got me thinking on the true meaning of women's Day. To convince me of my opinions and fortify my thoughts, came a blessing in disguise! A woman's day event. My night ended with a woman's day fashion show event At I Bar, Bangalore.

Last night It finally hit me! At the pub, during the event, as semi naked men were walking on the ramp, I realised something! The ladies were whistling, hooting, screaming, burping and being completely outrageous. The things that men usually do. Once the male models started walking the ramp there was ample Clawing, pawing, grabbing, Commenting on Sizes, tightness and color, and glaring, and other ego-gnawing acts. There was a lot staring and letching. And lewd gesturing. Some women even went to the extent of pulling out the models clothes. (the models did seem to enjoy it though) Some women even went on to comment that a planet "without men" would be ideal. Another even went on to explain how she loved vibrators to men!! Another Said she'd like her "sausage".. without the "pig" sheesh!! the things a poor innocent compere has to go through!!

For one night, All the women thought like men! They even acted like men!

Just one night of male bashing, and adam teasing (if there's such a term), made every man in there feel really insecure. It made every man squirm. It made every man cover his private parts. Made every man wish he was somewhere else, probably safe at home. Im sure most men in there wished the earth would cave in and swallow them.

I empathise with women, who have to go through this every day!

I empathise with woman kind, who are taken for granted!

I empathise with girls of all ages who have to mind their tongue, clothes and bodies because us men will do what we do the best.. "Think Like a man!"

Street Harassment is a common phenomenon. All of us know at least 1 girl who has been troubled/letched at or felt up/grabbed by a complete stranger at some point of her life. And mind you, these are only smaller issues. The bigger ones usually go unspoken for. After hundreds of arguments and multiple fights against men who indulge in street harassment, one wonders if there's any point to standing up for it at all!

And then it dawns on you! What is happening is a world wide phenomenon. And unless someone stands up for it, correction, unless everyone stands up for it, things WONT change!!!

There can be a million questions!!! Will men always be men? Or will they change? Women will always be oppressed? Or will that change? Only Time will give an answer to that. But all of us can work our way to the answer we want.

I urge every woman who reads this to get Angry. Get angry for your own sake. Anger creates fury. Fury creates fear!! I urge every woman to get infuriated! Indulge in wrath!! I urge you To NOT lay low!

But its important to get out that anger in the right way. Its important to channelise it. Start using Pepper spray, learn the Three point technique (Eyes, Solar plexus, groin) , start educating the men you know, Talk to other women about things that trouble you, about men who harrass Start voicing your opinion. Start to Make some noise. Some blank noise.

Im proud to be part of the The Blank Noise blogathon

Action Hero Anjaan

Eve TEASING ?????

My class. All girls. Studying journalism with current affairs-social issues-human rights-etc…It was quite inevitable that at some point of time, we would start talking about sexual harassment aka 'eve teasing'. We did. In the first week of our first semester.

Say No to sexual harassment. Voice your experiences of sexual harassment - as a victim, perpetrator or bystander - at work, at home or in the public sphere. Participate in the Blank Noise Blog-a-thon, on March 7th.

Loads of examples. All of which sicken you to the core. Leave you feeling disgusted, dirty and defiled. All about how horrible, sexually frustrated, revolting, men take advantage of women in crowded buses, lonely compartments and desolate roads.

Latest personal experience:

Feb 28th – on the way back home. Bus no. - 29c. 6.30p.m. Attire - Jeans and kurta.

Involves horrible man, with sick ‘thopa’ trying to thrust himself in my back. The jerk of the moving bus working to his advantage. In spite of moving away, he followed me, in spite of telling him to move away, he kept standing there. Thrusting. Till I turned and stood sideways with my college bag in between me and him. And then he moved on to the girl next to me. Another victim. Another chance.

I went home and had a bath.

The first time I experienced this normal part of life in Chennai- I didn’t even know such things happened. It was a huge shock to me. I refused to ever go out of the house again. When I told Mummy, she said – ‘Ya. So what? Such things happen. You have to get used to it’. I eventually did.

And people ask me why I prefer autos and don’t like buses.

What about one's own family?People who are supposed to protect the girl from this?
It is the most despicable act. To violate a women or a girl. It is even more despicable to do that to a small child who has no knowledge of what is happening. And when you are someone she's supposed to trust and love. She’ll probably think it’s a game.

Uncles, Cousins, grand-uncles, brothers and even fathers. And then there is the hazy ‘distant relative’.

A long time ago, I read an “agony aunt” query from a 19 yr old boy who by mistake saw his 21yr old sister change her clothes when he was hiding in her room. He was enthralled by the sight of her breasts. He couldn’t take his eyes of her. He used to hide in her room after that everyday, to see her change… to catch a glimpse. He was addicted, he said. He didn’t know what to do.

Calls himself a brother. F***ing Pervert. Should probably hang himself.

Once upon a time, there were four girls. Close friends – two pairs of best friends. They were always together. A and B went home together. In the train. C and D went home together. In the bus. Then, B began complaining that there was a man bothering her in the train. He got on at the station A got off. He used to come everyday and sit next to her and try to feel her up. Every single day.The four of them came up with a plan. They would go all the way to B’s station but A,C and D would act like they didn’t know her and sit in some corner so that they could observe her. Then the next day, they would come with a police officer.It was a fine plan. They went all the way to B’s station, all the while, watching the ugly scene in front of them. They were helpless and scared. But they told her not to worry. Tomorrow, the police officer would deal with the awful man, they said. ut the next day, she was missing. She didn’t come to college. Not B. A. A was missing. She was the leader in their group. The driving force. The mastermind of the plan. Where was she? She didn’t come the whole week. When they finally decided to go to her house, they found her mother wailing. Her daughter had committed suicide. What??? They couldn’t believe it. Why would A commit suicide? She was so happy! The scared, confused, upset girls turned to go offer their condolences to A’s father. And everything fell into place. A’s sudden silence on the train the day they went with B. The sudden shadow on her face when the other two were consoling B. Her suicide.

A’s father. The man on the train.

Fact or fiction?

Who knows…

Coming back to my class... we talk about it a lot...

and every time, we come up at the same point - the punishment... for rape, eve teasing, sexual harassment....and every time, we come up at the same apt, but unreasonable punishment... Castration... its impractical and impossible... but it is what these men deserve...

Eve-teasing. A word that makes light of the whole situation. Is all of this teasing???

How many women can honestly say that they have never been 'eve-teased'?

Very very few...

Ps- i have been bloghopping like crazy... and i came across an interesting article.. a lot of blogs are discussing this topic. but what hit me the most is that a lot of the men are feeling guilty even when they haven't done anything. as a result i decided to remove the last line of this post. which also asked the question 'how many men can say they have never eve teased?' because i dont feel there is any point in people who are not part of the crime, feeling bad abt it. i dont intend to create any guilt complex in any man who reads this post. However. i strongly am against every person(man/women) who says that eve teasing is natural and should be expected. even among animals, females dont put up with 'teasing'. and sex is solely the decision of the female. then, as humans who rape, and assault and eve-tease, are we worse than animals?

and talking abt rape- 8-10% of all rape takes place against men. just for your info.
and abt animals, i'm not implying they are worse than human. just asking are we worse than them.

and phew! thats a long post script...

Action Hero Anna

Streets, Stories, Strategies

I had my doubts about blogging this - writing about street harrassment.
After all, it's as common-place as paan stains, as ubiquitous as spit.... Will my saying 'NO' to harrassment prevent it? How does telling my stories serve any purpose?

But while discussing the Blank Noise with a male friend (who has never maaro-ed seeti, never chhedo-fied, never sung lewd songs, never felt up, pinched, grabbed any part of any woman), he told me - "How do you know? Some teenaged boy somewhere reads this and decides not to molest women... you never know."

For men like him, I write this post.

(I have no patience for blogging dates, nor this women's day brouhaha, nor a fixed schedule that will guarantee internet access on March 7. So, I'm just going to put it up now and let it be a sticky post.)

Some things, you learn to expect, growing up a girl.

You expect to confront harrassment as surely as the sun in May and the fog in a Delhi December.

When you leave the house, an invisible snake of alert suspicion will wind down from your shoulders down your back and become a clenched fist in all public spaces, through all journeys.

How optimistic you're feeling about man-kind, on any given day, determines whether you take a bus home, or just hop into an auto, or a cab, knowing you cannot really afford it. If you really cannot afford an auto some day, you will not take the bus at rush-hour.
You'll let bus after bus after bus go past. Waiting is tiresome. But waiting is easier than bristling.

You didn't always expect to do this, of course. One learns these things, by and by.

I began learning in Bombay. Yes, that delightfully sprawling city that is so kind to its women.

My first lesson was delivered atop the railway bridge at Andheri station when I was 13 years old. My first visit to this city by the sea. The first brush with the overspilling local trains. The first time someone grabbed my 13-year old breast.

After all these years, I cannot forget - his face pudgy, more fair than dark, moustache, white shirt, briefcase in hand, big belly, must have been about 40. Old enough to be my father. I remember he had walked into me - or pretended to - and while I struggled with the shock of what he'd been doing under the guise of walking into me, he calmly walked past... just a regular uncle-ji hurrying home after a hard day at work.

What did I do?

Nothing. I kept walking on, beside my brother.... My 17-year old brother who might have picked a fight if I'd told him.... What could I have told him?... It was too late anyway. The crowds had swallowed all of us up so completely.

Some things, you learn to expect (relief is always unexpected).

Therefore, you will be very pleasantly surprised when a man takes the seat next to you, and actually leaves two inches breathing space between you, instead of pushing so close that the windowpane leaves marks on your forearm.... All the same, old habits die hard, and you will spend the journey with a clenched fist balled up somewhere in your shoulderblades, because, you never know when he'll start acting up, do you?

You will also feel miserable when the well-behaved one gets down two stops before yours - it's too much to expect two well-behaved men sitting next to you on a single trip.

But no matter how much you steel yourself to it, sometimes, you will still get reduced to tears.

Seven years later, again in Bombay, after swearing to travel only in the ladies compartment of the local train, I learnt yet another lesson : some 'ladies' compartments turn into a free-for-all feel-up-jam-session after nine o'clock at night.

Suddenly, there were men's crotches pressing into my face, my knees and my shoulders. I stood up and fought my way to the door. Only to be surrounded by half a dozen men offering to 'get me out safely'. As the train stopped, half a dozen men got on, half a dozen got off. Trapped between them for a few seconds, I lost count of how many hands felt me up.

I cried tears of rage - if only that train hadn't moved away... I wanted badly to drag at least one of them off that train and smash his skull on the nearest railway track.

Some things, you get used to. Like rage.

Your ears will be whispered into, your behind will be touched. Songs will be sung...

You will learn to laugh. Humour is a great self-defence tool.

For instance, when a boy calls out 'good morning, madam' on a busy street crossing, I laugh it off.

When a boy follows me from my office everyday, offering to marry me, I laugh it off.

When silly men accost me on the streets and demand to 'make friendship', refusing to take 'no' for an answer, offer me lifts, I laugh it off.

When somebody calls me 'taazaa malaai', 'mirchi', 'badhiya maal', 'chhammak-chhallo', 'lassun-pyaaz' (yes, even that!), I shake my head and laugh it off.

Over the years, I even learnt to focus on the merits of the songs being sung/whistled, thinking about the musical tastes of the modern roadside romeo, instead of the intent behind the singing or whistling.

But when I am walking home at night and a car full of drunk men slows down, I cannot laugh. I can only seek relief in the other car coming down the road; when that car also turns out to be full of drunk men who also slow down near me…

it is hard to keep up a sense of humour all the time.

Five years ago, once again in Bombay, I lost my humour, and learnt not to NOT do anything. At Andheri station, again, for the first time, I used violence.

A man asked me 'how much?'.

I tried to walk past quickly.

He asked me a second time. 'How much?'

I took a step forward, then stepped backward, swung around, and threw a punch.

He looked very surprised and asked 'what did I do?'

I didn't stay to explain. That night, my fist was swollen. I'd never seriously hit anyone before.

The next time two times I punched men, it was at railway stations in Bombay. In both instances, I didn't hit out immediately. It was only when they persisted a second or third time, despite my obvious disinterest.

The third time was in Kathmandu, outside a movie hall. The man touched me three times before I finally lost it.

He began by protesting - 'I didn't do anything' - and ended by saying 'sorry, sister'.
(Bless his poor sister, if he has one; I wouldn't want to be in her shoes.)


Some things, you learn. Some things are shaken and scolded into you.

For example –

When walking, don't think. If you get lost in your own internal world, somebody or the other might misinterpret this as an invitation to grab some piece of you.

You stay alert. Not glaring at every passerby suspiciously can be interpreated as an invitation.

When walking, don't take quieter, narrower lanes which are more picturesque and less polluted. Those are pretty much reserved for the goonda-types and 'eve-teasers' of the city.

When walking past a parked car with the engine idling and man/men sitting inside it, step aside and put at least four feet between you and the car's doors ... don't you read the newspapers?

When lost, don't roll down the car windows all the way while asking for directions. Ask women and chowkidaars for directions, preferably.

Try not to park in basement parkings zone, if alone.

When in public - don't sing, don't smile, don't swing your arms, or your hips. It is better to wear a frown on the streets, along with mouth that looks like it can chew your head off, spewing some rather choice invective, if bothered.

Learn filthy abuse; use it.

When something is lost/stolen, don't go to the police station alone.

If propositioned in a dark, lonely spot, do not slap or insult. In a low, pleasant voice, say you're already engaged. If cornered in a really dark, really lonely spot, give him a fake name, fake phone number.

When accosted by a cop, tell him your dad/grandad/uncle is a senior cop.

If there are less than six people in a bus, don't get on. From Churchgate, at night, don't travel in Ladies first class. From Andheri, early in the morning, don't take the Ladies first class.

Don't hitchhike.

Don't sit alone by the sea for more than ten minutes.

Stop thinking about watching the sun rise over a field, all by yourself.

Stop thinking about long, leafy walks that lead nowhere.

Stop wondering how the streets looks at midnight, after a drizzle.


I don't know where, if, and how, this will stop. But I hope it does.


There is another aspect to this that I can't help thinking about: it creates a never-ending trap of dependence that many men resent equally.

We women depend - are taught to depend, are left with no option but to depend - on men for our safety and survival.

We can go out, but with 'ghar ke ladke' to take care of us. The brother, husband, father, cousin or boys known to the family will escort us - to a movie, to a mall, to a party. At best, you might be able to manage if you're a big group of girls. But how many times can you walk around as girl-gangs?

We learn, consciously and sub-consciously, that we cannot do anything alone. And if we do, we're going to have wage war every inch of the way.

That lesson is etched in so deep that conceiving of 'life' alone is...
No wonder you need men. No wonder you need marriage. No wonder you cling to the man, because how will you manage alone?

Action Hero Annie Zaidi

If, when… and until then

Yesterday, I was filled with a deep, deep sense of despair.

Never, in recent memory, have I felt this numb, this deflated. As I read, account after account, after abusive account - from women and men and the children we have been - I was engulfed by a frozen sort of exhaustion.

Account after abusive account on Blank Noise led to more windows opening up into my own memory - this happened to me too, at ages six, eight, nine, ten, eighteen, fifteen, twenty-five.... all of this and more. That man, that place...

Writing the last post, I had thought I was making the token gesture - how difficult could it be to speak up, anyway? If I can live it, I can talk about it.
Talk about something that's choking our gender-divisive culture, something that is making monsters of us when it comes to sexual attitudes and liberties.

When the comments started pouring in, I was a little overwhelmed. Then the downpour became a deluge, and now, I am very quiet, very sad.

Because... that these 'strategies' I had written of, in part-horror, part-rage, with a sense of bitter irony, should be taken as 100% serious advice.... could anything be sadder than that?

One part of me wants to un-read it all - all those hundreds of stories here, in the comments and those entries for the blog-a-thon. As if un-reading it, could undo it.

But for all that, I have more to say.

If we're going to build a serious debate around this issue of abuse (please let's give 'eve-teasing' a grand burial right now. This minute. The word has no significance, no relevance, no place in our experience), we need to talk beyond the rage, beyond the sharing, beyond the opinions.

Because if we stop here, then we might as well have never started.

The first thing we have to deal with is the definition and scope of 'harrassment'.

We may recognize that each individual has different needs for personal space and different perceptions of appropriate behaviour, BUT if we're going to take a legal stand, insist upon pan-Indian, or even global standard of behaviour as a norm, we're going to need specifics.

Is staring/ ogling/ checking out/ leching wrong?

I don't think so.

Does it make me uncomfortable?


A man leering at you through the evening can ruin your party. But I also recognize that this bothers me more in situations where I know the leer can easily turn into a grope.
Besides, there are many occassions on which I have 'checked out' members of the oposite sex (no pun intended, she says, biting down a smile). I want to continue to have the right to look at men, appreciatively or just to guage the attraction quotient. Men have the same rights, then.

Is whistling, passing comments, singing songs wrong?


Does it annoy me, as a woman?

But I recognize that the man is not phycially or psychologically damaging me in any way, and so he has a right to whistle, sing or comment.

EXCEPT when the words turn abusive or sexully violent. Verbal violence is punishable by law. Threats are punishable by law, and there is no reason a woman(or man) should have to hear any.

Is touching wrong?


When you touch a another person without his/her permission, you run the risk of violating the person. If you touch them in places that are - in normative terms - regarded as sexual areas, therefore off-limits for those who do not have sexual rights over you, this person will be perfectly justified in snarling, snapping, slapping or otherwise reacting violently to your gesture. You could also be punished for it legally, though we - as a society - must come to some sort of agreement about what punitive action is fair, or deterrant enough. (One blogger - I'm confused about who - suggested community service. Picking up trash. Scavenging. I think that's not a bad idea, actually.)

I also believe that we Indians already recognize this, cultural conditioning be damned!
That is why there are many more incidents of feeling up/groping/pinching in crowded places like buses, trains, bazaars, footpaths - where it would be hard to pin blame, where one can pretend it was all an accident. That is also why men will take fewer chances if a woman is accompanied by a man, but will grope and pinch with alacrity if they're in a big group themselves.

Is following/stalking wrong?


I have not figured out the precise definitions for this, but legally, at least, there is a precedent for disallowing stalking. (And we really must learn to use the word 'stalking' instead of 'following', which sounds like a benign sort of thing a cute puppy-dog might do, when he isn't nipping at your ankles.)

Is propositioning wrong?

I don't know.

We are swimming in slightly murky waters here. Almost all relationships begin with a proposition of some sort. (This, incidentally, is the same line adopted by every single stranger who has come up to me with a proposition for 'friendship') Almost all of us have accepted some propositions at least partially, tentatively, from some trusted people.

I personally do not blame the stranger who walks up to me, saying he wants to have sex, or offers to 'buy' me. He is only asking me a question. I find it offensive - but I think we, as women, must also learn to question the reasons for our taking offense at such a question. Why are we so insulted if somebody equates us with, or treats us like, a prostitute?

(Speaking for myself, I find it equally offensive when I am asked my religion while entering a temple or a mosque, or filling up a government form. In all honesty, I think the latter is a far more dangerous question).

But when I have said 'no', and this stranger persists in making his offer, it does amount to harrassment. Then, I have the right to tell him to get lost. If he doesn't listen, I have the right to drag him to the law enforcement authority.

Which brings us to the cops.

The police is known to be unsympathetic. I think we should lobby for the police to be especially trained in dealing with instances of harrassment and I also think that the women's cell of the police should be prepared for complaints against their colleagues who fail to treat a victim of sexual harrassment as they should. The battle will be uphill at first, but a few prosecutions should set a precedent. Precedents are good weapons.

And yes, I believe training and counselling does help.

I have been to a police station alone in Delhi - fighting off my own instinctive misgivings - and have found at least one bunch of officials to be polite and non-lecherous, even though they may not have been as quick and efficient as I want them to be. I was later told that some sections of Delhi police have been slowly workshopped into behaving with a modicum of courtesy. If this is true, bless the workshoppers.

Some people have spoken of clothes and the impact they have on harrassment.

From personal experience, I know there is no direct correlation.
The first incident I mentioned, when I was 13, occurred when I was in frilly frocks and still had ribbons in my hair. Almost all later incidents have happened when I have been in shalwaars and full-sleeved kameezes.

Strangely, the rare times when I have stepped out wearing short skirts and tank tops, men have kept a slight distance. I fail to understand this paradox. But I do have a hypothesis -
When I am wearing a short skirt in public, I give out a signal. That I am not meek. I'm not your regular bhartiya naari and that you cannot count on my being a placid, accepting victim.

Many more men stare at bare shoulders, bare legs... many more women stare too. But, in my limited experience, few men dare to touch a woman they're shocked by.

And yet, knowing this, I find myself hesitating. Worrying.

I bring out my short, revealing clothes every week, try them on and put them back in the cupboard. This is not because I will attract potential molesters. This is because I know that IF there is an attempt, I will be held responsible. I will hear 'but look at what she's wearing'.
I do this because my own women-friends come up with quasi-insulting statements like 'you don't like clothes, do you?'. Because I've been told that there's a time and place for every dress; high heels and bare shoulders are only okay if you're at a private party, amongst friends and are getting picked up and dropped off in a private car.
I've been told and I cannot shake off the fear that IF something goes wrong, I will be humiliated even further by allegations that I was 'asking for it'.

THIS fear is what we have to counter.

We begin by watching our own tongues. When we see a girl in a mini-skirt in the train or in the vegetable market, we stop saying 'ohmygod! what's wrong with her?'. We have to stop telling each other 'your bra strap is showing'. (It's only an effing strap! Give me one good reason why it should not show?)

Sure, the change will take time. But the change must come from us. From everybody who believes that a person has the right to not be molested, whatever the circumstances.

Some other men mentioned feeling ashamed. They are angry that all women view them with suspicion, contempt and fear.

All I can say, is - the burnt child dreads the fire.

Or like we say, doodh ka jalaa chhaas ko bhi phook-phoonk ke peeta hai.

Besides, the nice men are in a bit of a minority. I can recount more than ten incidents of harrassment, right now, without having to dig into the darker recesses of memory. Listening to other women, I'd say that ratio is fairly average. If there are ten wrong-doers for every one victim.... you do the math.

Can you imagine the scale of this gender's collective fear? Where is the room for rational behaviour, or trust?

Yes, this too can change.

For every man that tries to grope me, if there are five men stopping him, it will change.
For every small gang that roams the streets looking for somebody to harrass, if there are two small gangs on the lookout to protect, it will change.

For every woman in an oversize t-shirt, walking with a file across her chest, if there are a hundred who refuse to cover up, refuse to de-sex their persona, refuse to slouch, it will change.

For every family that tells a daughter 'don't go out alone at night', if there are fifty families who send their girls out at night, armed with the determination to have fun and the confidence that they're not going to be the only women out alone, it will change.

For every woman who scurries past, head bowed, if there are ten who strut, and smile at nothing and everything, it will change.

When we have men and women talking to each other without being censured for it,

when boys in school are taught to take permission before touching women,

when girls in school are taught that it is okay to give this permission, if they want to,

when both genders can interact without fear of ostracism or moral policing,

it will change.

Until then, I leave you with these lines by Dushyant Kumar:

"sirf hangama khadaa karna meraa maqsad nahin

meri koshish ye hai, ki ye surat badalani chahiye.

mere seene me.n nahin to tere seene me.n sahi

ho kahin bhi aag, lekin aag jalni chaahiye"

[My purpose is not to simply create a furor

this attempt is to try and change our situation.

And if not in my breast, then let it be in yours –

it doesn't matter where, but the fire must burn]

Let's keep this fire burning.

Action Hero Annie Zaidi

Street harassment

When I went back to Delhi in the summer of 2005 a fleeting thought passed my mind while packing my clothes – maybe I shouldn’t pack my tank tops and skirts. I had been living alone for 6 years in San Francisco, wearing whatever I felt like, going wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And it was going to really hot in Delhi. I was confident that I could tackle anything that came my way.

In Delhi, I was warned against wearing shorts to the gym so I wore my track pants the first day. I almost passed out from the heat while working out and resolved to wear my shorts the next day onwards. I wasn’t about to let fear of being harassed interfere with something as mundane as a good workout. I came up with a theory that if I appeared confident and unafraid, no one would harass me. I glared at any men who came too close and sure enough nobody harassed me.

This gave me the confidence to venture out alone to Connaught Place. I wore a knee length skirt, hailed an auto rickshaw and made my way to meet my friends in CP. On my way there I noticed a man on a motorcycle driving beside me and staring. I didn’t give it much thought and just looked away. When I got off the man also got off his bike and accosted me. He asked me for my number. I was taken aback but thought he was on of those “I would like to be friends with you” guys. I walked in another direction but he wouldn’t go away. I was zigzagging through cars trying to get away. He shouted at me “What do you think you are? I know exactly what you do!” I was too confused to react. What did that guy mean? What give him any indication of “What I am?” I looked around at people thinking if they would protect me if he tried anything funny. Fortunately I spotted my friend and walked towards her. As I was telling her about the incident the man disappeared. She told me that while she was waiting for me in front of the Wimpy’s an uncle-ji tried to feel her up. She even pointed him out while we walked away.

On my way back I kept watching out for any motorcycle that stayed with us for more than a couple of miles. Nothing had changed since I was a fourteen year old girl afraid to walk home from my bus stop after school. Everyday in the bus, as we neared my bus stop, I would start dreading the walk home. A nearby school ended at the same time and a group of school boys would harass the girls passing by. They would shout obscenities and throw stones at my feet. I used to look forward to examination days when I got home earlier and didn’t have to pass by that group of boys. I was jealous of my cousins who had an elder brother who walked the same route with them. He once chased a boy who teased his sister and beat him up. I was jealous of my twin brother and sister who also walked together. I tried to get my mother to pick me up from my bus stop but didn’t know how to explain the mental turmoil I went through everyday. One day on my way back, after I had passed the group of school boys, I turned a corner, and a man turned towards me and flashed me. That day onwards I started taking a longer route home just so I wouldn’t have to pass that corner again.

When I turned eighteen I was ecstatic to start learning to drive. I could now drive and never have to walk or take auto rickshaws or the most feared – DTC Buses. The joy didn’t last long when my driving instructor surreptitiously started touching my breasts while changing gears or turning the wheel. I wasn’t sure how to tell my parents that I didn’t want to learn driving from that instructor. I asked my dad to teach me driving but got into a small accident. I had to continue my lessons with the driving instructor.

Now when I think of these incidents I can’t imagine why I didn’t take action against this kind of harassment. But as a girl in my early teens I lacked the confidence and maturity to deal with these incidents. I was too embarrassed to discuss any of this with my parents. I just learnt to go to any length to avoid a group of boys loitering on the streets or to make up excuses about why I need my grandmother or cousin to be in the car with me while I learnt to drive.

When male friends from Delhi narrate stories of eating paranthas at 1 am on the roadside or playing holi with friends on the streets, I am amazed. These are luxuries that I could never afford. They are amazed when I tell them that I only traveled in a bus once. They automatically attribute it to me being a rich spoiled brat and I prefer not to tell them the real reason. I would rather repress the thoughts of one of the worst experiences of my lives.

I can only begin to imagine how traumatized my sister could have been during her teen years in Delhi. After having lived in the US for two years when she had an opportunity to visit Delhi, she refused. She desperately wanted to meet our family but was too scared to go back. I convinced her to go but she fretted for days leading up to the trip.

I thought I would be able to deal with such harassment as a mature woman now. I was not a scared teenager anymore. However, in Bangalore on a trip with my parents, when a man started running his hand up and down my leg, I could do nothing. If I told my parents I knew my dad would get in a fight with him. I didn’t want him to get hurt. I just kept scooting closer and closer to my sister till she asked me what the matter was. She switched seats with me since she was wearing jeans and stomped on his hand. After all he couldn’t complain either.

I once started researching Sexual Harassment in India to write a paper for a class called “Women, Minorities and Law.” During that research I found out that “Eve teasing” is a termed coined and used only in India. I never wrote that paper, it was too painful. I sometimes day dream that incidents of street harassment would air on television and men would be forced to face the guilt. They would be made aware of the trauma they cause. I’m not sure when that day would come but Blank Noise is definitely a step in the right direction.

Action Hero Anshu

Of women and men...

There is no privilege like the male privilege. We are born with it. It is like a birthright that is biased against women by its very nature. Men and women are treated differently right from the day they are born. So different that in quite a few places in India, the female child is killed; sometimes as sacrifice to the Gods asking for a male heir. That is an extreme case and most urban, middle-class families would distance themselves from such practices but it does not mean that the longing for a male heir does not exist in their minds. And boy (pun unintended) do they wish it! In the cities, they are more sophisticated and female infanticide becomes female foeticide. I am not against abortion but what I am against is the selective abortion of children based on this privileging of the male child.

Even if women survive this initial period of their lives (over which they have no control over whatsoever), they have a lifetime of segregation to face. They would have to hear comments like, "you have to learn cooking because that's what will help you keep your husband happy" and "you are just a visitor who will leave for another home soon" and "what will you do studying so much; they will not help you", almost all their childhood and adolescence. This is still overt and there are subtler ways of putting a woman down. Even if you do not say those above words, those intentions and thinking behind those words would still be there and is quite perceptible to children who are so sensitive to adult behaviour.

Even if a woman does get educated well by her family and does manage to get a job in the world, she faces problems just because she is a woman. Women are harassed on the streets, in public places and there is nothing they can do about it expect carry pins and respond violently to the harassment. One feels disgust reading the testimonial of Annie and that of others who have responded in the comments with stories and anecdotes of their own. I have blogged about this before and you could also follow the link there and read the stories there too. Today is March 7, 2006, a day declared by Black Noise as a day for Blog-a-thon 2006.

Of course, this is not the only the only problem that women face in the male-dominated world but this is one of those problems that pervades their life everyday, at all times, and something that they are vulnerable to.

As a man, it disturbs me to see that it is so pervasive and so problematic to women and it seems to be quite universal. Every woman has a harassment story. Most women face harassment every single day. It seems to be a socially sanctioned practice that hampers the everyday life of millions of women. I take special care on buses to stay away from women because I am afraid that I might unknowingly/unwittingly cause mental stress in the woman standing next to me just because the driver thought it was prudent to brake so hard. In Madras, there were special 'Magalir mattum' (for females only) buses that used to (still might be in operation) run during rush hour that alleviated the stress that women felt in the mornings going to colleges and offices. I strongly recommend such buses as I do not see the situation improving overnight. I used to wonder why educated women would leave a prospect of a promising career and become housewives but the more I read the testimonials of these working women, the more I realise that it is not such an easy question to answer.

How do you tackle this problem? There are numerous suggestions that keep popping up in my mind.

1. Make legislation that metes out harsh punishments to people who harass women.

2. Spread awareness of this issue and how women feel about this in society

3. Learn marital arts and beat up every single person who does something undesirable.

4. Take their pictures and post them in a public place like Holla Back NYC (it does not necessarily have to be a blog. It could also be a news channel) and hope that it embarrasses them so much so that they won't behave like that again.

The problem with the first suggestion is that there is already existing legislation does not seem to be effective. If it was, 'eve-teasing' would not be called by its harmless sounding name and it would not be so pervasive that Indian movies would not show them as a valid wooing technique!! And there is one story by a female commentor on the one of the above mentioned blog posts which seems to suggest that the police are indifferent to this kind of mistreatment of women. The problem with this kind of offence is that of proof. How will you prove that a certain person groped you? How would you convince the people who saw the whistling/eve-teasing to come with to the police station and testify? How would you convince the policeman that you were not over-reacting and you don't want to just let it go? In other words, how would you break the barrier created by gender stereotypes that typecast women who fight back against such men as evil, conniving, lying feminists who hate all men?

The second suggestion is what Black Noise is all about and I think it is the most effective one because it seems to target the thinking of people in society. Spreading awareness of this issue is an important step towards making the world more equitable for women. Changing the perception of the people is a slow process, one that is probably going to take a couple of generations and it does not alleviate the problems faced by women today.

The third suggestion is something that is already in place. Women do learn martial arts to be able to defend themselves on the street but it cooks my goose that they have to live by jungle rules to be independent, working women! It seems to put the onus of defending herself on the women and seems to suggest that men would always be like that and women should expect such behaviour from them and they should defend themselves as it is unlikely that the society would come to their help. Saying that, it is still a very practical approach and one that is strongly recommended. Martial arts / expertise with handling pins / using heels as toe-busters are all useful skill in the present scenario!

The fourth suggestion is a question of feasibility. If you take the picture of the guy who is harassing you, he could easily misconstrue as a statement of interest and harass you further. Also, no public place is that public, is it?

Saying all this, I wonder about all the men who do such heinous work. What do they really think? I suppose there might be some distinction amidst them. There would be the gropers, the whistlers, the starers, the 'eve-teasers'. It is not necessary that all harassers do all of this. There would be some who would 'eve-tease' thinking it is just teasing but they might never grope. Most men are starers, particularly when the object of their stare is at a distance and not looking in their direction. But even here, there is finer distinction. There are those who make it a point to stare and hang out in public places to leer at women passing by, there are those who do not do it regularly but would leer if some well-endowed woman passes by, etc, etc. But I think that in all these cases, the problem is the same - the objectification of women. And our popular media seems to reinforce that idea in the minds of the people. The bollywood movies, the remix videos, the bangra videos, the fashion shows, etc, etc. I personally think that the image of women in media has to change. Today, I saw an ad in the paper that shows a woman with a child on her lap, talking to some one on the phone, and working on a laptop, the tagline was "Women can multitask. Blah blah blah." The implied meaning being that men can't multitask. Such an image of women serves as an excuse to expect them to do all the housework, take care of the baby and pursue a career. It is either this or the portrayal of a woman as a vamp whose overactive sexuality lures men left and right.

Given all this, I am surprised that women don't screw men over whenever they get the chance (some women do but not all) because men (again, not all men) screw them over (pun intended) all the time. I am also surprised that in spite of going through all this, they never say all men are like that (and it is true). I wish Black Noise all the best in their efforts to change the perception of the world and I hope that we can make a better world where men and women would be truly treated equally.

Action Hero Apurva Mathad

March 7: Blank Noise

Today is the Day, one day before Women's Day, in which we all make noise and kick some ass about that most routine and yet accumulatively humiliating type of sexual harassment that women are subjected to the world over: Eveteasing.

Shout out to the Blank Noise.


I vaguely remember the first time I was harassed on the streets. It stayed in my mind because it was a novel incident that I didn’t know what to make of, and because I was not aware of my body, my spirit as a sexual being.

It could have been possibly when I was 13 or 14? Boys had started looking at me with some amount of interest, nice boys that is, and I didn’t know what it was or why I liked it. I was just me, the girl whose mama forced oil on, the girl with the big plastic glasses who read in the bathroom and loved puppies. And it made me feel nice and want to include them in my Mary Poppins technicoloured dreams. But I hadn’t been aware that men would too. Men were a world removed – a realm of ideologically distant fathers and uncles, and faceless strangers one didn’t bother about.

So it was a rather rude shock indeed when slowly, the mirage in which I dwelt threatened to crash down around me as the impudent leer “Ayy sexy” sounded around the vicinity of my year. My budding breast, cocooned in the breathable fibres of my literary space, that had always created a diaophanous barrier protecting me from the world, was jolted into reality by the jolly shoulder of a faceless man. My insides widened as I walked on reflexively, while he disappeared into the heaving railway carriage of passengers that comprises Mumbai streets.

I didn’t know what to think. At that moment a flurry of questions swept around in my blood. “Did he say *gasp* sexy?”, “Did he mean me?”, “What is sexy anyway?”, “How can I be sexy?”, “It must be a bad ‘adult’ thing”, “That means its bad if I’m sexy”. But these thoughts were forgotten soon enough as exams loomed on the horizon and study and friends put an end to my meanderings around my house.

The second ‘memorable’ incident occurred when I was 16. Fresh and blooming in every respect one could think of, which men took no time in taking notice of and trying to appropriate, however evanescent the possession was. I was walking to Sterling Cinema, hanging on the arm of my first boyfriend, my everything in the world, when I felt my breast being rubbed in a way even he hadn’t dared to touch by a file of three men who roughly brushed past, who muttered something about my sex. By then, I was old enough to not be spared the implication, and the humiliation drove me to the verge of tears. I couldn’t believe my ears when my boyfriend, attempting to allay my pulsating emotions, said that in a way he felt proud that men considered his girlfriend attractive enough to want to touch. I felt like screaming that they HAD succeeded! And that they were not the sort of men I would WANT to touch me! I felt betrayed, not just by a stranger’s disrespect but by a loved one’s pacifism. That night, my imagined invisibility was shattered, as was my feeling that I could be secure even with someone who passionately declared his love for me.

For I realized that a woman is only a person in societal imagination, and after much much abuse. She is a commodity when unattached, and symbolic property when attached. She is the elusive trophy in the perennial territorial game between men. A stranger’s brush against her body signifies a kabaddi-esque penetration, and bears an unspoken challenge, one that usually walks away defeated. Even if the stranger is confronted by the male companion of the woman, and is even beaten up and reduced to apologetic pulp, he has still won the set, though his future sporting career is questionable.

I’m not a commodity that can be cleaned with a simple superficial caress when its sullied! The clear muslin of my mind both holds and allows experiences to seep through, rendering each more concentrated in its separate identities.

I had been gifted with a not only a horror of penises, from the constant fondling ‘down there’ that I was forced to witness, to an octogenarian chasing us, pulling apart his dhoti and rubbing himself, but also a repulsion for my own body and the sexuality it represented. I was afraid to wear shorts, to wear sleeveless tops, to breathe too hard, to run, to in any way make my presence conspicuous. I felt as though a burqa of black canvas were snaking around me, stifling my freedom.

Till suddenly, it all changed. But one day I felt free of the binding, of the stares, of the murmurs. I discovered the delightful portability of music, and the world became my ramp. The rhythm taught me control of my steps, the words once again transported me to my erstwhile alternate universe, as I dodge the passersby oblivious and at peace.

I realized that I don’t WANT those experiences. And I don’t have to have them. The panacea for all evils is the mainstay of this decade, and that lesson is ATTITUDE.

There are times when I still need to hold on fiercely to the few remaining shreds of my silken cocoon, but it is precisely those dreams that protect me by a hair’s breadth from the careless tearing hands that long to strip me to my bones.

Those dreams that taught me to walk tall. To look straight towards my destination. To not apologise for what nature has made me.

I am a woman, and I am beautiful. You can look – you can’t help it, poor thing, but YOU’LL be damned if you touch.

Action Hero Aranyi

Preventing Eveteasing

Reading people's blogs and my own comments and my experiences walking home yesterday has got me thinking as to whether our whole attitude towards eve-teasers is skewed. Whether we, by our attitude, are actually encouraging them, rather than protecting ourselves.

Ive read so much in the last couple of days about the travails that women face, especially in intensely public spaces like railways stations, more so than streets, and ALL of them, even this suspenseful, sensitive one by Anil Purohit, talk about how women are forced to shrink into themselves and become as small and invisible as possible to focus the male gaze on as little of their body as possible. And I understand, because it's a natural instinct to want to run and hide.

To all these women I would like to say: I understand, I've been there enough times. But there's only so much you can do. I know that all of that which you are hiding - your legs, your breasts, your ass, even the glow on your face, will be folded into a snug little bundle in the area between your chest and pelvis, and held close to your womb. But do you not realise, that your physical self is not reducing in size? You are not protecting your body, merely putting it and your mind more at edge by compacting your tension into one contracted, shivering explosive area. Making you more jumpy and aware and hence, prone to offense.

By shrinking into yourself thus, you are simply giving the eve-teaser more space to invade into your territory, more room for his confidence and arrogance to expand. In a crowded place on the street, the sexual perpetrator is simply a bully. A bully by definition is one who picks on weaker, smaller people. Besides, a bully has no power against those who stand up to him. In such cases, he merely cowers or run away.

A woman may be smaller in size, but she is certainly not smaller in aura. When I said attitude was the panacea for this problem in my post to commemorate the Blank Noise 3 posts ago, I meant it. Attitude is not only in your core, but also in the periphery that is manifested in your physical being.

I was walking home from the parlour yesterday - a ten-minute walk - in tottering high heels. It was 6 pm - peak travelling time and I had to traverse dug up , crowded sidewalks and cross a busy intersection and walk. I tend to walk ramrod straight, very tall, face facing straight ahead, nose up, only looking down if the pavement is bumpy or Im in deep thought. And even then, I do it with a full awareness of men watching, which they invariably do. (The music helps me zone out and relax, of course). Yesterday, I noticed that I do maintain basic courtesy in not being in a hurry, in letting people cross, and in making sure I dont accidentally touch anyone. It is very easy to develop agility in dodging. I also noticed that while a lot of men look at me, they generally don't touch. Now this led me to think: why? I got felt up a lot when I was younger - I was fairly tall then as well, so I was possibly more vulnerable because of my age and lack of awareness. Is it because my sense of self has evolved greatly through the years and this has manifested itself in my mien?

I really do believe I have a subtle force field around me because no matter how close men get as they walk past, they just don't touch me. (of course, this field is blatantly invaded in Shrinathji temple at Nathdwara because the temple is always sooooo crowded and you're simply swept away from the door to the corridor by the force of the crowd). Or at least their brush is rendered inoffensive. I think it also helps because I look straight through, and not away from men, if I happen to catch their eye.

It's been studied scientifically, and results show that women who behave very confidently, who walk tall, who acknowledge their molester by turning back and looking, who display no reaction, such as quickened pace, facial nervousness etc., who even stop and let the potential molester pass, are less likely to be molested. That's the first thing they taught us in self-defence in college, and throughout women's studies. They do recommend we yell for help, fight back, but concentrate on getting away most of all in case of attempted assault.

If you do get eve-teased and wish to complain, a woman has the right to not go or be held up or questioned overnight at a police station between 6pm and 6 am unless there are women officers there and she has been ordered by a woman officer.

You're a woman, you're naturally beautiful. You have curves, you have softness. They cant help looking at you. But you have every right to NOT be violated. And to prevent that, you have to start with yourself. If you make it a big deal, that your supposed, socially-upheld but actually imaginary 'honour' is at stake, you're actually giving them a situation thats more of a challenge to them, and therefore, a prize that's all the more valuable when, despite all your resistance, they manage to violate you.

I know this requires a complete overthrowing of the belief system that has been imposed upon us by social pressure and actually coming to terms with a lot of aspects of the female self that is simply not addressed except in the terminology attributed to a wife or a mother. And you know what? It's completely okay!!!

Action Hero Aranyi

And you call that eve-teasing?

I still remember that day. It was a cold winter evening, around 6 o'clock. I was taking the DTC bus 588 to go to my nani's place. It had started getting dark. I was just a couple of bus stops away. The bus, like always, was crowded. Since I was sitting at the back, I got up to move towards the front door, otherwise you sometimes miss the stop.

As I moved, I felt someone trying to brush up against me. I looked around and gave a stare to the man behind me while trying to rush through. Within seconds, I felt it again and now the guy just stuck on to me. I felt sick and yelled hard, giving him an indignant look. I generally try to create a scene by yelling so that I bring it to people's attention and the person generally stops due to embarassment. It always worked. But this time it did not. The guy yelled back at me using abusive words, to my utter shock and continued. No one said a thing. Everyone was looking though. Like you watch a goat sacrifice. This has to happen. This is its destiny. Our prayers and wishes for you. But we wouldn't raise a voice. Perhaps we don't have one. I felt scared but I was also angry. I shouted hard for the bus driver to stop the bus, I wanted to get down. The driver stopped the bus for me, thankfully.

Or I thought. That guy got down behind me. By that time, I started losing my nerve. I could feel myself trembling inside. I did not expect it to stretch like this. Since where I got down was just a few meters ahead of a bus stop, I tried to rush to the stop. There were people there. I tried to hide around behind people, poles, shadows so that he couldnt spot me. He was looking for me though. And all this while, I was thinking, what to do next. A bus was out of question for obvious reasons. There were auto-rickshaws. I quickly decided to take the auto. I ran, and asked an autowallah if he would drop me at Lodhi Road, I would pay more. He agreed immediately. But to my shock again, this guy came out of nowhere. He grabbed me by my shoulder and touched my face with his hands while talking some abusive stuff. I shrieked with fear, shook myself off and tried to get into the Auto. That guy started forcing himself inside the auto. And the stupid autowallah was watching as if in an eternal dilemma of what to do. I jumped out of the other side and ran across the road. And I dint see whether there was traffic coming. I just ran for my life. Thankfully,I remembered that I had an old batchmate Ruchi, living very close by. I just ran to her house. Things were fine after that. She pacified me, shared her experiences and dropped me to my nani's place.

I could not muster the courage to take 588 for almost a year after that. I was 19 then. After a few years when we bought a car, I stopped travelling by buses in Delhi completely. And I have never boarded a bus since then. Not that I have not had experiences in other places, but you just do not want to be part of that crowd specially when you know no one would do a thing in your support.

I sincerely appreciate the Blank Noise and support the cause whole-heartedly. 

Archana Bahuguna

Sexual Harassment

A group of bloggers in India have come up with a commendable blog-a-thon initiative called the Blank Noise Project. The idea is to get as many bloggers as possible to write about sexual-harrassment-on-the-streets and post it by Tuesday, 7th March. It is hoped that the coming together of so many different voices - cutting across gender, race, culture, language and countries - will, somehow, raise greater awareness of the problem as it exists, and succeed in painting sexual harassment for what it really is - a criminal offence.

It's a great idea but the problem is, the boundary lines of sexual harassment are not clearly defined as we would like it to be, and this creates its own difficulties. If one has to define it as a criminal activity, then, one has to know the (immoral) parametres within which it resides. Not an easy task if one probes the issue under a microscope and ask some unsettling questions.

Where does admiring a girl end and sexual harassment actually begin? What is that thin line that divides the terribly romantic from the hopelessly depraved? When does a seemingly innocent touch become a humiliating gesture? Why do women erect these barricades of self-defense when a man looks at them admiringly? And why - on earth - do men inspire such low confidence when they approach women with hearts full of love and passion?

The last question is easy to answer because men, in general, have had such a miserable track record as far as promoting gender equality is concerned. Somehow we have goofed up so royally that women have no choice but simply misunderstand our motives. After all, some of the most vocal men have proved to be those who allow their crotch or their hands to do the talking, and others who may not be so explicit in their gesture but are those who firmly believe that a woman's place is at the bottom rung of the ladder.

So where does that leave the rest of us who think differently? Do we have to first apologise on behalf of our gender and then state our case? Sometimes it may seem we have to do just that to make our presence and argument palatable but I disagree. I don't think we have to adopt this 'poor-me-am-just-the-oddest-man-alive' approach and say that we are sorry for all the scums of the earth. Why should we apologise for them? Why should we bear responsibility for their actions? Why should they be our definition?

Alright, I just needed to get that off my system.

But going back to those other questions, I guess, we need some clarity or we'll continue wading through the muddle till kingdom come. Or will we really?

At the end of the day, it's pointless for us to break our heads and try and come up with a precise answer because it is simply not possible. There is bound to be someone who'll take offence at something or the other. Codes of conduct usually have that kind of effect upon those who are obsessed with legalese. And the end result is a petrified society that's afraid to fully and freely express itself emotionally. At least, in the matters of love.

So what is a man going to do if he is interested in a woman? What methods would he have to adopt to impress his heart-throb without running the risk of being accused as a lecher? Is it possible to be hopelessly romantic without being perceived seriously annoying?

Yes, it's possible. And the one word to make that happen is, respect. A man - any man, really - must learn to respect not just the woman he is interested in, but all women who manage to inhabit his vicinity. Respect is not a complicated word or one that requires a PhD in behavioural psychology to figure out its intricate details. Respect is all about 'doing to others what you want to be done to you'. Respect is all about treating a woman like the human being she is, created by God in His image and worthy of honour. Respect is knowing that giving space to the other person is as much important as the need to draw the person closer.

Respect is all about...

not grabbing a woman's breasts just because they are there,

not undressing her with one's glares and crippling her confidence in the process,

not pinching her buttocks because one feels like it,

not stalking her on a 24/7 basis and leaving her a nervous wreck,

not making cat calls or wolf whistles at her for one simple reason: she is not a dog but person,

not assuming she is an easy lay just because she turns you on,

not making any presumptions inspired by wet dreams.

But most important of all, respect is ALL about knowing when a woman says no she means no. Period. A woman's 'no' is not 'maybe' or an orgasmic 'yes' but it is a down-right categorical NO. Quite simple to understand, right. Sadly it isn't. Most men have trouble understanding this concept and, hence, they resort to harassment as a way to reach out to women. Of course, some men harass because they are basically warped and looney or both. But there are many others who don't have a clue about how to behave themselves in front of a woman. They need the fear of God put in their hearts, and to be constantly reminded that their actions are a criminal offence and inexcusable.

Will this bring about change? I am not sure but I hope it will because the present situation is very frightening for millions of women to whom this is a reality they have to endure everyday.

Shame. Shame. Shame.

Action Hero Ashish Gorde

Speak Out

I was about 12-13, I think. I would join a friend who lived nearby and we’d walk to the neighboring naval colony to play hopscotch with our school friends. There was a small gang of scruffy looking boys who’d lounge by the roadside and snigger at us as we passed by. And then one day as we walked home, we found huge hearts drawn in chalk on the road, with our names and rude comments inscribed within. We were mortified, and furiously tried to rub the marks away. But they remained, jeering at us for a few days. I was most ashamed that the sweet old auties and uncles who knew us would read those disgusting words ont heir daily walks.

That was my first memory of eve-teasing/harassment – an experience that is perfectly normal, and indeed expected, by an Indian woman.

When I first started traveling in Bombay – using the buses and trains, I was 15 and still naïve. Men would stand too close, or brush up against me, and initially I always wondered if I was being overly sensitive, and that perhaps the crowded situations were to blame for these ‘imagined’ touches. But bitter experience taugh me to trust my gut instincts and never, ever second-guess myself.

There are incidents too many to recount here. There was the time in an over-crowded bus when I felt a stranger’s fingers creep an inch under my loose top and stroke my waist. I whirled around, only to find a dozen male strangers nonchalantly minding their own business. Who could I blame ? Then there was the time when I was sitting in a crowded bus seat on the side, and the man standing next to me kept using the bus’s motion to shove his crotch in my face. The many times when I’d travel in a crowded train compartment and feel the men pushing against me as we struggled to get out of the compartment. Rarely was there a clear perpetrator whom you could identify and jab with your elbow (or even better, your umbrella), and create a hue-and-cry.

And sometimes even that didn’t help matters. The offense so quick and fleeting, the perpetrator so nonchalant and quick, that I would be left in humiliated self-doubt and frustrated indignation.

Another touchy issue is dealing with the stares. Those utterly male stares that mentally strip you and make you feel completely exposed. The leering grins that make your teeth clench. The salivating looks that make your toes curl up. That make you want to shove your knee in their groin and scratch their eyes out.

And it’s worse when they were in groups. All that co-mingling testosterone seems to bring out the predators in them. The less dangerous ones would pass insolent remarks, or sing demeaning Bollywood numbers. The more dangerous ones would stalk you, and follow you around. I was plain enough to not attract such stalkers, but I have friends who suffered.

I have always worn an invisible armour in India. Apart fromt the universal fear of death in dangerous situations, was a fear, unique to women, that cloaked me all the time. An armor that I shed when I came here to the U.S. Oh don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of dangerous places here too. But the danger is of losing my life. And the danger of being an immigrant. But rarely the danger of being a woman. I went back to India this Decemeber, and found myself wearing that lost armor again.

The funny thing about all this is our general attitude to it. It is something that we women expect to experience. We ‘modern’ women may have stopped taking it lying down, and take action when we can. Nevertheless, it’s a sad fact of life that eve-teasing is a normal part of life. We Bombayites even considered ourselves luckier, because at least we weren’t like our sisters in Delhi – who’d travel in busses with their arms crossed at their chest, pointed needles poking out of their fists at either side!

We must recognize eve teasing as a crime, something that may be normal, but nevertheless unacceptable. And the responsibility falls not just on women, but equally on men too. I’ve found that a lot of these boors prey on women, only because they take advantage of the skewed power balance between the sexes. Add a man or two to support the woman’s side and the cowardly perpetrators will quietly slink off. Male or female, our job is to speak up. Us womenfolk have to treat eve-teasing as absolutely unacceptable and speak out against every act of harassment. And you men cannot stay silent – you must speak up, speak out, speak against. Do not stand quietly by as such things happen. Use your voices.

Blank Noise is doing a good job at this. They’ve organized this Blog-A-Thon to bring attention to the issue. Do join in with your own posts, comments, thoughts.

Action Hero Ashweeta

Harassment : Blog-a-thon

What do you do if you are not someone who has been harassed, or have not seen anyone be harassed? That is more a question to me than to you. I guess there might be something right there.

Most of these incidents that I have read have been harassment where the victim's response is muted and does not draw attention to the harassment when it happens. Perhaps, in a society where people take their perceived self-respect a little seriously, they continue to engage in this behavior not because they won't get referred to the police, but they won't even evoke a whisper. At least in all cases where the victim knows what is happening to them, and can raise the issue. I think that might have made the issue claimed to be present everywhere to be there on every mind too. Won't you think that would help?

It would be a good question to ask, how can men (since they form the significant problem) who commit harassment change? I fear not. At least historically better judgment has dawned on the 'bad guys' only at the end of the struggle. For example, take the Indian independence, or Segregation, the untouchability issue, or the feminist movement. The way forward is for people who are compassionate to rally behind the cause, not just in the streets, but every place, including work, home, and temples. The issue then will receive the attention of the society and no one can neglect, and people who had been committing these crimes will know to not just stop, but some may even be won over to rally the cause.

There are many factors, many reasons for why it is so, many ways to break it. This issue and every other issue that we face needs persistent effort from us if we are to make earth a better place. Now, I go hopping on to the blog of the fellow bloggers in the blogathon.

Action Hero Bharath

No. Stop.

for blank noise's blog-a-thon 2006

:lets start from kashmere gate station, delhi. though i would invariably board from paharganj, somehow my return trips would always dump me at kashmere gate. in a whoosh, autowallahs, cabbies and all sundry would envelop me. not unnatural. then it would come. every single time. "madam, kahan jaayenge? kahan, madam? majnu ka tila? chalo, hum chod dete hain" i would walk rod-straight. NO "nahin, bhaiyya"s and all. still it would go on. "koi nahin, madam. majnu ka tila hi jana hai na? sau rupai. bas. aap ke liye." i would just focus on the pre-paid counter, now a few metres ahead. "chalo, madam. majnu ka tila ke liye free. bas. aayiye." a peel of laughter and sniggers would ring loud. every single time. the ordeal of a woman on a street anywhere in india has started. it becomes tougher and nastier if the woman is a north-eastern to boot. double 'fun' for the men. double trouble for the woman. for the uninitiated, majnu ka tila is a prominent red-light area near north campus, delhi university. the sex workers of that area are invariably from sikkim, nepal, north-east india etc; in mainstream lingo 'chinkies'; in mainstream mentality 'cheap, easy girls'. jabberwock talks about the divorced women as easy prey. north-eastern women anywhere in india (except in the north-east) have to face double, treble, qaudruple the same 'easy prey' mentality. on streets, schools, colleges, offices, friends' houses, parties, restaurants etc etc.

: north campus. am standing at a divider. i have to pop in at srcc for some work. a maruti 800 is racing up, full blaring music. not unnatural. before i realize it, a mineral water bottle hits my right knee. a lusty chorus 'oye, chinki' follows.

: noida mod. am again standing at a divider. i have to cross the street and get a bus. it is dark. a black cielo pulls up. not very natural. window rolls down. a well-dressed man behind the wheels. he takes out a wad of notes and then, "oye, chinki, kitne mein aayegi?" full-throat laughter. zips away.

: coming back from iit. safdarjung bus stop. a man behind me. "do you want to go for dinner? five-star hotel?" i ignore him. its dark already. i take a mudrika. after an hour or so, i get down at camp. the same man again. "special dinner. five-star". i walk straight to the first traffic policeman i see at the signal. the man disappears suddenly.

this is just delhi. i have more to say about bangalore, mumbai, kolkata, agra, shimla...

Action Hero Bem

For the Blank Noise Project: Scraps.

The following post is for the Blank Noise Project Blog-a-thon which seeks to record testimonies, thoughts, analyses etc of street harassment. Please go read what other people have to say too. There are some really horrific, insightful, intelligent, despairing, heart-breaking posts out there.


Written in 2002.

I don't want to be here. Odours silence my restive cries as my mouth opens and closes several times like a fish. I lay still on a red and black seat - torn in places with cotton peeping through - as disembodied hands slide under the red tee-shirt I thoughtlessly chose this morning. Reality borrows the clarity of dreams, but disposes of the promise to wake me up. From the corner of my eye I can see the taxi driver through the rear view mirror looking forcefully at the streets ahead of him. I know I will die today. I know I will be cut into four pieces, tucked into a V.I.P duffel bag and tossed into the Arabian Sea."You're so're so beautiful", the words segue into noisy orgasms that only I can hear. I'm losing track of what's happening. A tongue entangled in frantically making their way to bra is being masterfully unhooked...we're taking a left turn...maybe it's a right turn...? "You shouldn't dress so're so fucking beautiful..fucking beautiful..." The rest of the sentence merges into the restlessness of a Bombay weekday. Abruptly,the cab stops at a red light. He sits up straight, stretching his hands. Then, he opens the door and steps out, peers in through the slightly open window and smiles. "Thanks".

A few months ago, I was at Bandra station at about 6:30 in the evening. As I made my way through the throngs of clammy chaos - dodging stray elbows, lewd comments, lecherous stares, "accidental" run-ins - I spotted a group of young men congregating by the rickshaw stand. I made a mental note to stay away from them; they wore the kind of sneers that meant trouble. A few minutes later, I saw a girl barely 18 or 19 years of age. As she walked by them, the young man closest to her reached out and hit her breast forcefully with the back of his hand. The others laughed exaggeratedly and congratulated his audacity with high fives. The girl - like everyone else who'd witnessed the incident - simply walked away.

I wanted to see if she was okay, but she'd scurried into a rickshaw already. Regardless I knew exactly how she felt. I knew her eyes were probably stinging with tears of frustration, humiliation, helplessness, anger. I knew that she regretted walking away, that she was probably rehearsing an appropriately scathing response for the next time it happened. Worst of all, I knew she knew that there would be a next time.

I don't know why we're so apathetic to street harassment - the majority of public spaces in this country are cesspools of misogynist behaviour. To me, being leered and leched at is as much a part of my every day life in Bombay as brushing my teeth. I'm not even really sure what gratification someone gets from calling a female passer-by a "saxxxxy item." You've all heard the feminist rhetoric before but it all does go back to power; they get off on knowing they can get away with their impudence.

It's only recently that I've realised that "eve-teasing" - I hate that word with a passion, but there it is - is actively condoned by Bollywood. I get the feeling that when a 15 year old whistles at me, he half expects my initial spurn to transform into perfectly choreographed pelvic thrusts, with hot-pink clad dancers mimicking my every move.

No, seriously, who remembers the song "Aankh Maare?" or "Aaja Meri Gadi Mein Bait Ja?" or really, any of the other 5462 Bollywood songs where a roadside romeo follows (read: harasses) a girl, interpreting her blatant lack of consent as coyness or irritation or a personality quirk? He is, of course, right and eventually she falls desperately in love with our eve-teasing protagonist who turns out to be quite the paragon of virtue.

I'm not saying, of course, that it's all Bollywood's fault, but my point is that we live in a culture that breeds and encourages sexist behaviour. We teach our daughters to "dress properly" and "behave modestly" but why can't we teach our sons to be more respectful, less aggressive?

In the words of one of my favourite sociologists, "The rules of masculinity and femininity are strictly enforced, and this difference equals power. The difference between male and female sexualities reproduces men’s power over women and simultaneously the power of some men over other men, especially of the dominant, hegemonic form of manhood – straight, white, middle class – over marginalized masculinities. (…)"

I used to carefully calculate my outfit before leaving the house - I had to make sure my shirt wasn't too tight, my bra strap was safely invisible, my jeans weren't too low, my skirt wasn't too short - and despite the (positively oppressive) precautions I took, I still got pinched, poked, grabbed. Day after day after day.

No more.

Now I wear what I want because it doesn't make a difference. I didn't ask for it, I don't ask for it. I never will ask for it.

I try relentlessly to stop feeling shame, to treat my own body with the respect it deserves. It's an arduous journey, but slowly and not without setbacks, I - like several other women I know - am getting there

Action Hero Aurina

'That sort of women'

A lawyer I was interacting with in the course of an internship, once said that women who get into trouble with drunk boys in cars, while waiting for an auto on their way back home, are the sort of women that are looking for that kind of trouble.

It is intriguing that large sections of our communities think that public space is meant for male sexual aggression, and women who seek to access the public space without any believable reason, are 'that sort of women'.

Women who stroll on the roads on lazy afternoons, or meet friends over beer- that is, without any partcular need to be out in the public sphere- must all be 'that sort of women'.

Everytime I think of sharing my story in the public sphere, I think they must all think I one of 'that sort of women'.

What else can a woman be called if she trusted someone in a college campus, to chat once in a while with him, drink and smoke with him? Dance with him at a party? What else can a woman be called if she thought he got the message the first time around, that she wasn't looking for anything sexual, but if he wanted to hang around, chat, be friends she'd be more than game?

What does one call a woman who thought he got the message and ventured to chat with him when both were quite high at a party again... of course, it was her fault that in drunken stupor she did not resist when he made the advance. What did she expect- that in the middle of an advance, if she protested, tried to get out of the situation, a man would hear of it? Of course, no man would... if she had to say NO, she should have said it in the beginning... she should  not have acted friendly with him, she should not have agreed to chat with him away from the crowds....


I am not as angry that this happened to me, as I am angry that there is virtually no support mechanism for this kind of an incident. It's almost like I voluntarily put my foot into the lion's den, so I deserve the attack. I am angry that large numbers of people believe that I must not live my life the way I want to, because men have the right to unfettered sexual expression/aggression, that men never have to respect my personal liberties, but I must always look out for their excesses....

Thank you blanknoise, for giving me a voice...

Action Hero Atreyee

On Violence Against Women

Street sexual harassment is something that women have to contend with in India. While generally true, I have heard that the degree of harassment varies from city to city. Delhi is especially bad but Kolkata is a much safer place for women. It appears that in Kolkata, people take an interest in what is going on around them, and if they notice a woman being assaulted, they actively discourage the behavior by beating the crap out of the person. It is part of the culture and everyone knows. It basically is common knowledge: that if you are considering harassing a woman in public, you are likely to get beaten up; and if you the third party, you are expected to either initiate the roughing up or join in enthusiastically in the edification of the criminal.

Beating up guys for assaulting women is a second best response. It would be much better if they could be dealt by the law enforcement. But then there are better things for the law enforcement to do. Yet, there are ways of fixing the problem without too much effort. You don’t have to police people everywhere everyday for years on end. The society has to take a stance and decide to change the “culture” of violence against women. The cost is front-loaded but it is a one-time cost. Here is what you do.

Publish and make it known that violence against women will not be tolerated from such and such a date onwards. Make that date a few months into the future. Plaster the notice on such places where potential assaulters will have the opportunity to know that there will be zero tolerance for the crime. Make it known that the punishment will be exemplary and harsh.

Then go out and on that specified day, catch a few guilty of street violence against some women. Throw the book at them and report the incidents far and wide. Let it be shown on TV, talked about on the radio, discussed in the pages of the newspapers. Let the pictures of the guilty be published all over the place as if they were movie stars. Do this every few weeks and I guarantee that in a few months, street violence against women will be a thing of the past. The culture would have changed.

It is tolerance of what should not be tolerated that causes problems. People consider it acceptable—both the criminal and the victim take it as part of the way that the world operates. But if the signal goes out that that something will not be tolerated, people figure out the changed circumstances and respond appropriately.

You may recall what happened to the 18-year old American kid, Michael Fay, who was arrested in 1994 for vandalizing cars in Singapore. They caned him, since that was the punishment, and they did that despite pleas for clemency from the President of the US. The incident was well publicized and with good reason: the Singaporeans wanted to make sure that they did not have to cane too many people. People are rational beings and are quite capable of figuring out that vandals are punished severely in Singapore and alter their behavior appropriately.

The punishment for street violence against women, in my opinion, should be caning, followed by 100 hours of community service—picking up trash from the streets. Trash should be forced to pick up trash.

Impoliteness and rudeness in society is a symptom of deeper problems, rather than a problem in itself. While it is good to address the symptoms, it is also necessary to understand why it exists and what can be done to address its cause. That is a difference and long discussion, however.

{See the Blank Noise Project: The project seeks to recognize eve teasing as a sexual crime and establish the issue as something that may be normal, but is unacceptable. The Blank Noise project works both online and on the streets of Bangalore, Mumbai , Delhi. We invite you to come along!}

Action Hero Atanu Dey

Post-blogathon thoughts

As a woman, it was cathartic for me to write about my own experiences. At the same time, as a blogger, I felt that my post had nothing new to say. So many women were writing the very same thing. And then I realised, that’s the point , isn’t it ? All of us women, from various walks of life, talking about virtually identical experiences. Which just goes to show how ubiquitous street harassment is.

Another thing that made my stomach churn was that nearly ever post began with “I remmeber when I was twelve/thirteen”, and some even with “I remember when I was eight”. Children. We were mere children, innocent kids, girls. And our innocence was stolen in an instant, leaving us bewildered and suddenly aware of the world.

Extempore says,

Do you know - this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about these things publicly. My family, not even my brother, still does not know they’ve happened to me.

I read that, and I just wanted to reach out and hug her, because I know. I know how that feels. The inability to express that fear to your family. The hidden secrets that have never been spoken. There was a reluctance to transfer my fear, humiliation and anger to my family. I felt that it would be best to forget, to ignore. An impossible task. And I wonder how old I will be before the secrets spill out …

Some have questioned the purpose of the blogathon saying that bloggers in general belong to a category of people who do not indulge in such activities, and the blogathon will teach them nothing. I point them to Karthik, who admits,

I’ve seen a lot. In buses and movie theaters, upscale malls and vegetable markets. From catcalls to breathing down the neck, from elbowing a fellow passenger to things a bit more than elbowing. Everytime, a silent “What the…” and I’ve moved on. Sometimes, not even that.

I do not think that street harassment is restricted by class or by education. It really has no boundaries. All the nameless, faceless people who play the villains in our posts have come from all walks of life. Young and old. Poor and rich. Illiterate and educated.

Patrix says,

I do not wish to project an image of suave machismo but I guess the sense of protection accorded to the womenfolk is hardwired into the male genes. How can some men transcend complex biology and stoop to the level of inflicting the treatment that they wouldn’t tolerate on their loved ones on to other women is honesty beyond me.

So many times we talk of guys acting too tough, too macho. Being overly possessive and protective. The ingrained me-big-man-me-protect-little-woman instincts. Where are these instincts in the bastards who feel us up ?

Annie talks of the rules – some spoken, some silently understood – that govern the very way we live. That mock the freedom and independence we claim on the basis of our education, our intelligence, and our strength. Aishwarya talks about being dependent on her guy friends to drop her home at late night. The dependence on men, that is necessary. And that embarrasses our embrace of emancipation.

Sujatha wonders,

Why are not women seen as another being, having the right to walk carefree on a street or ride on a bus and to reach their destination without being abused, assaulted and battered, without feeling frustrated, guilty, angry, simmering with rage, reconciled to being violated, tearful, afraid for their safety, feeling like shit, feeling dirty, or without feeling like an object of someone’s uncontrolled lust?

Why indeed ? Is it no wonder that I have no desire to return to a society that treats me like this ? I never thought about it, but certainly this would be an unconscious factor driving me away from returning. Thalassa Mikra rightly terms us the world champions of sexual hypocrisy. Why would I want to return to a place where my daughter will be humiliated in this way ?

A wise man, viz. Saltwater Blues, says,

A women is like a flower, and the moment you attempt to violate her, you are causing harm to something that adds beauty to what is otherwise a very drab world.

A mushy thought, but I wish more guys thought that way.

Action Hero Ashweeta

Blog-a-thon 2006 - Nenju porukudhilaye indha nilaiketta manidharai ninaithuvittal

Chennai is my city, my place, the only one I call home.

But isn’t home where you don’t dress up, where you prefer to lounge in your pyjamas? Isn’t home where you don’t have to be eternally conscious of the way you sit, how you walk, what you wear? Isn’t home the protected territory, a place where you can let your hair down and sing, or dance or jump or just be yourself?

After nearly twenty one years of deluding myself that I was living at home, I moved to US and suffered the worst culture shock of my life. A shock at finding out that being harassed on the streets is not a part of normal life. A shock on realizing that I can walk with my fists unclenched, that I don’t have to be paranoid about any guy who walks near me. A shock at the culture back home which accepts harassment as being normal and had brainwashed me into accepting it, to be silent, to be frightened, to be confused, to feel guilty, to feel ashamed and helpless and to cringe everyday in fear of what is in store.

Nenju porukudhilaye indha nilaiketta manidharai ninaithuvittal.

Anji anji savar, ivar anjadha porulilai avaniyilae!

My heart cannot bear to think of this fallen crowd

Who are scared to death of everything in this world.

I was part of the frightened crowd. I wonder why I never reacted, I wonder why I never complained. Why did I take it with nothing more than brimming eyes and a nasty taste in the mouth?

I don’t know.

For that rainy night when I ran towards a lighted shop seeking refuge instead of poking my umbrella at the motorcycle wheel and bringing the idiots to a bloody crash,

For that travel in the bus when I clenched my teeth and unsuccessfully tried to stamp his feet instead of turning around and screaming or slapping,

For that time when I looked away instead of staring down the cowards,

For the countless times that I tried to armor myself with my backpack instead of punching their face with it,

For all those times I cowed down and walked to my house instead of taking the bus,

I write this post.

I refuse to be scared anymore. I refuse to be harassed anymore. Street harassment is not normal. It is sickening. Don’t take it.
This is part of the blog-a-thon initiated by Blanknoiseproject against street harassment. Go and read many more tales there.

Action Hero Dreamweaver

Telling Tales

I could tell you a thousand tales. And round it up with an account of how the autowalla nudged his elbow into my breasts and stared at my chest as he took the money from my outstretched palm. Or that someone rammed into me last week on a crowded bus where there was a mishmash of sweaty legs, arms, thighs, breasts and backs. Aunties and children with drooping bags and office going men. It might have been a mistake, an involuntary slamming of the brakes maybe causing someone to grab me instead of the handle for support… but a hand snaking around my chest to feel me up, and not just one a tangle of hands – all going for the kill? How can someone – respectable, my father’s age… Maybe I should recount how we saw a man leering as he masturbated away on the metro.Or perhaps the most traumatic – middle bunk on the train to Rourkela and the man above flailing long arms to squeeze my breasts. That was no accident ..just my introduction to the big bad world . I was twelve.

I have had my moments of triumph though. Stamping on feet. Thank god for high heels. Nudging a safety pin against someone’s prying palms till they yelped. The people were nice; the conductor hauled the man off the bus. I was lucky. It helped that my sister was with me, that I knew I could get down from the bus and walk away. But far and few in between.

I often wonder about the song “Hungry eyes” from “Dancing” and how true it is in a different context. Have you ever been mentally undressed by someone, had them appraise your body? Have you had someone follow you home? And all the while on a deserted street you agonized over what if? Cant run , cant let them catch up. Rapid steps, bag clutched to chest as armour. And the smell of fear in the air. Everytime I go out.
Because you see I was inviting trouble by wearing something sleeveless, I asked for it. I am just an assimilation of breasts and a vagina and a butt. I am not thinking of the lewd comments and the silly songs – that’s just routine and I manage to laugh it off. I wish though I didn’t live in this constant state of watching my back every time I go out. As a friend once said – it’s enough to be a female to evoke such reactions.A male friend once got propositioned on a Mumbai local train . And developed a profound sympathy. And really how humiliating it is for men to be told that they have no control over themselves. Just because a girl is showing her bare arms.. There are exceptions of course - men who have supported me on buses, friends who have got into fist fights because I was harrassed,policemen who were kind.

I could tell you about clothes I haven’t worn because I was so ashamed that they had provoked the nudges and shoves. The guilt, the shame, the anger. The conspiracy of silence and the acceptance that this will happen, what can we do about it..chod do.
There are so many tales to tell. She (1 dec post)could tell you what it is like in Bangalore, so does she.My friend Sangeeta would have tales to tell I am sure if she visited.I don’t know any woman exempt from this forced sisterhood.
I hope something constructive comes out of this. Thank you for trying. Maybe something will come out of these myriad tales.

Action Hero Dreamcatcher

Respect HER and HER Rights

Its Powelessness, lack of ombudsaman, lack of representation, lack of voices, lack of genuine supporters, lack of intent and ill-will to respect sexual egalitarianism.

There have been innumerable times when ive had the strongest of intent to murder the guy that turns back from his vehicle to 'check' me out when im all at is to have a pleasent evening walk. Or drill the eyes (with a drilling machine) of a smut letcher that makes impropreity passes, or to hammer the head of an autodriver that adjusts his mirror just to have a better glimpse of his hiree.

But almost always i dont vent the frustration and i let it go by, partly because im not empowered adequately to have the 'Perpetrators' punished and partly because somewhere within me i have grown to accept and expect this 'decorum-less' treatment meted out to a women. In a country where rapists can be spared capital punishment, surely eve-teasing is considered in the eyes of the law-practioners as not abnormal.

I know as i write this, im writing what millions of young indian women like me go through almost with a religious regularity after every dawn and dusk.

Yes i know i should think about being a part of the solution and not a problem, but just here really i wish somehow a gentle swing of a magic wand brings about the correctitude paradigm shift in the great indian male minds. Forever. Really. No wait why should this be a wishful thought because all we're expecting the men to do is behave themselves.

Written for - Blank Noise

Action Hero Divya Kumar

Sexual Harassment on the Street: Blog-a-thon

The Blank Noise Project has called for a Blog-a-thon :

"To recognize Women's Day, and as part of an effort to build a core constituency that is aware of the Blank Noise Project, we're organizing a blogathon for Tuesday, the 7th of March. Blank Noise is asking other bloggers to post about their experiences of sexual harassment - as a victim, perpetrator or bystander - at work, at home or in the public sphere. Or deal with the subject anyway you like. On International Women's Day, which is March 8th, it would be exciting to see the theme of harassment become audible on the Indian and diasporic blogosphere."

I remember many instances, as a teenager, way back in the 80's being 'harrassed' on the street and in public buses. At the time, I didn't know quite what to do about it ... it was almost embarrassing to mention it to friends or family, it seemed like such a personal 'attack', and in my growing awareness of my body at that age, it wasn't something I could share easily. Neither was it something I could 'prove' in any way, it was sometimes just that brush of a hand against your body, sometimes more blatant than that. I remember many times in a really crowded BEST bus where you're squashed among bodies, smelling armpits as you cling to the handle, when a hand would snake around my breasts and try and squeeze them. Or I'd feel a hard groin against my back. Though I hated it, I thought then, it was just part and parcel of travelling by bus. I didn't even realise then it was 'harrassment' of a kind.

Just the once, did I actually retaliate ...I will share that story on March 7th !

I'm happy to see a space that encourages people to talk about this, one that tells you that it is wrong, and inspires you that you CAN do something about it.

(And heh .. just came across this blog that's called Holla Back NYC - which asks people to send in pictures of street harrassers ... it even has a Holla Back Hall of Fame. Cam phones make it so easy to do! Its also a little scary ... )

Do spread the word for the Blog-a-thon ... and share your experiences ... and tag it with this code :

Blank Noise Project Blogathon 2006

Updates :

Annie Zaidi has a really powerful post on her experiences and lessons learnt in navigating the streets of Delhi and the local trains in Bombay.  She also brings up another aspect worth thinking about ....

There is another aspect to this that I can't help thinking about: it creates a never-ending trap of dependence that many men resent equally.  We women depend - are taught to depend, are left with no option but to depend - on men for our safety and survival.
We can go out, but with 'ghar ke ladke' to take care of us. The brother, husband, father, cousin or boys known to the family will escort us - to a movie, to a mall, to a party. At best, you might be able to manage if you're a big group of girls. But how many times can you walk around as girl-gangs?

We learn, consciously and sub-consciously, that we cannot do anything alone. And if we do, we're going to have wage war every inch of the way.  That lesson is etched in so deep that conceiving of 'life' alone is... No wonder you need men. No wonder you need marriage. No wonder you cling to the man, because how will you manage alone?

And Stephanie at HumLab joins in with a twist : "We will attempt to capture 'being a women' through audio, text, picture, collaborative sidewalk art, as well as giving women a change to blog in their own words. There is a twist, however! You get the chance to participate by sending in your digital pictures to our flickr account. The theme is, of course, 'on being a woman'. The email address to send in photos is"

Action Hero Dina Mehta

His friend made the headlines

Recovered from discarded old diaries found in a trunk, for Blank Noise blog-a-thon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2003

What do you say when your best friend becomes a newspaper headline on a morning?


Now, that he looked back, he saw her standing outside the house with slit wrists. “I screwed up again”, she said. His first reaction was shock. He couldn't open the latch. A further spurt of blood from her wrists shook him out though.

His mind was racing around slasher movies and Discovery channel medical programs. The cuts were more wide than deep and blood was gasping out of her right one. He held her hand close to the wrist, trying desperately to stop the flow. Somehow, they managed to reach the fridge. Ice. After ten minutes of ice and pressure, the blood stopped.

Questions would come later. He had to cry first. They cried together.


Today, he would rather that she would come to him with slashed wrists. He was 2000 miles away. And she had turned into a newspaper headline.

'____ girl raped in a moving car'.

In the morning, he had read through the pages on the website without a break. As always, once he had finished with the sports and the comics, he had but 2 minutes to look at news about his city. Crimes against women was, but, a regular feature. On an average, five every day. On good days, maybe two. Not that he didn't care. He would do something, if only he could have. But what could he?

Then at 4, the call came. "____ has been raped again." "Again?". "Yes. In the middle of the day".

His mind wasn't racing through anything at the moment. In fact, it had managed to cocoon itself completely within the narrow confines of the phone booth. He had to something. He wished he could hold her hand close to her wrist. Or something.

Once back in his room, he checked indiatimes. Which had NSUI and ABVP protesting at the 'failure of the system'. Police had made an assurance that the culprits will be found. There was an entire opinion piece on tinted glasses on car windows. He also found that she was in the hospital and cooperating with the investigation.

This wasn't the first time. She was undergoing counselling for the previous time. He had met the counsellor once. She had asked him to.

"Think of a dustbin. We keep on filling it with garbage through the day. Whenever it stinks, we close it with a lid. Then we open it and fill in some more. We keep the lid on. However, the garbage will keep on stinking. We are trying to get the garbage out now. We have to throw it out. It will stink, and it will be uncomfortable. But unless we throw it out, the dustbin will remain clogged. Ultimately, the lid will not be able to keep the stink in"

Whatever was the problem with these counsellors, he had thought. Now all he could do was stare at the dustbin at his feet. "How many times will she have to clean it?"

Then, he cried.

For BLANK NOISE blog-a-thon 2006

Action Hero dhoomketu


Is there any girl who lives who has not been harassed on the roads? I think not.Probably the first time ( which I am not ashamed to recount) I was harassed was when I was eleven years old. I can still recollect that day when an old man in a motorbike stopped me in the middle of the road, when I was walking back from school in the pretext of asking me for directions. No sooner had I given him directions ( not a word of which he heard), he told me," Don't you think you are too young to have breasts?" gesticulating towards mine. I was horrified.Before I could even scream out "Bastard" he had sped away. I remember going home that day, falling on my bed and crying all evening.I didn't have the courage to talk to anyone about it. For an entire week all I could think about was that horrid old man.You know what the worst part of being harassed when you are too young is ?

You are not indignant.

You are not outraged.

Instead, you feel ashamed.

Humiliated and ashamed of YOURSELF.

Like as if the sin was commited by the sinned not the sinner. It's like the attitude that some people carry towards rape. "She asked for it!".An oft heard remark.By the stupid narrow minded jerks in the world!

It was a couple of months later that my humiliation turned to outrage when a group of us girls gathered together and started speaking about it.The tales I heard were horrifying. We were all just eleven then and I guess the age where men know us to be vulnerable, innocent and unprotected. Too young for parents to worry about and too old to be protected by childish innocence.

One of my friends had been told to come to the back of a grocery shop to pick up what she had come for and when she went in, the grocer caught hold of her and started rubbing his hands up and down her chest.She had to bite him hard on his hand to escape and run away.I was onced offered a choclate by a shopkeeper if I came into his shop and saw the pictures he had.They were all pornographic and he did the same 'pinch on the chest trick'. Luckily there were four or five of us girls then.I wonder what would have happened if I had been alone? Another friend of mine had been stopped by a guy driving a car, again in the pretext of asking for directions. It was worse this time around.The guy had unzipped his pants and had semen coated on his hands and asked her " Do you know what this is? Shall I tell you what it is?".She cycled away as fast as she could from there.Another time when the same friend and me were skating in a skating rink at six in the morning alone, an old guy blocked our exit and removed his dhoti and started waving his penis at us.

Do you know what the one thing we all shared in common when we recounted these incidents was? We all of us blamed ourselves. Believed that the cardinal sin was comitted by us and not the perpetuator.Tell me one thing. Is it for this reason that children are targeted so much by these lechers? Because they know that we don't know how to react?

Pouring our hearts out was the best thing we ever did. I think we grew up overnight. Became wary and cynical.More watchful and distrustful of what every stranger said or did. Where previously we would smile winnningly at the stranger who patted our heads and butts, started to shie away and have that 'keep your distance' look in our eyes.Good. It atleast stopped us hurting.Kids do need to grow into adults.But incidents like this just help in hastening the transition.

The next year I joined Karate classes.Trained to defend myself.It helped that my Karate Sirs included kicks in the groin as a part of our lessons.They especially taught us girls how to defend ourselves and how to be watchful. It did help me.A couple of years later when a guy on a road reached out his hand to grab my breasts ( What is this obsession that guys have with breasts????? Is it that you don't have them??) ,I judged his intentions and knocked his hands off before he could succeed and walked away( I am yet to sum up the courage to walk THEM to the police station).Another time when my friend and I were going doubles on a very lonely stretch of road called Besant avenue, late in the evening, a guy in another cycle stopped us in the pretext of asking for directions. ( Is this the most successful approach till date??).When I pointed out the way he needed to go, he suddenly grabbed hold of my top. Before he could take two breaths I had punched him on his face ( I was still on the cycle) , opened my fingers and scored my nails down his face ( I bet it hurt like mad).My friend with equal presence of mind kicked his cycle and he toppled down. Before he got up we fled away. We didn't want to take the chances of him having any friends nearby. All this when we were fourteen.

These days a guy who flicks our hair and whistles saying," What is the reason for your beautiful hair?' , gets retorts of "Sabeena or Ujala". A guy who accidently pats you on the butt gets an equally accidental knock on his head by a wayward elbow or even better, an umbrella. The guys who look you up and down get look-ups and downs themselves. But that too is just by a select few girls. Most still cringe in fear.The girls who are yet to learn to defend themselves. And what about those incidents where you cannot defend yourself?Reminds of ( read my post 'A scary experience', when an auto driver asked me "Aren't you scared of going alone in the night?" during a late night trip. I replied "No. I know Karate". To which he says " What if there are six or seven men? Then what will you do,huh?". I was paralysed with fear then.

But really? What could even the braver ones do? Sit back, be raped and say "Thank you" ?

p.s. I hope the girls who read this post of mine gain the courage to be brave themselves and know they are not alone. I hope the guys who read this know to not just never harass but also spread the message and get the same attitude grilled into their friends.And I hope that everyone who reads it understands that even young children are susceptible to being harassed and get easily traumatised by it.So keep an eye on them for such signs of withdrawal and educate them when they are still very young about what they need to watch out for.

I would like to thank BlankNoise for the opportunity to represent myself in this blog-a-thon in a topic so close to my heart.

p.p.s I made the collage above as a true representation of what I felt.

Action Hero Deepti Ravi

I am....

I am a woman

“no ur not…ur justa girl”

“ur a girl..behave like one”

“gosh u look like a boy”

I have a face

“ur so cute”

“colgate smile”

“ewww..metal mouth!”

“nice nose”

“u have a funny nose”

“your skull has a weird shape”

“nice thick hair”

“madam your hair needs to be smoothened. You could also try L’Oreal’s latest hair colour”

I have a body

“hey miss matchstick”

“nice ass”

“did he say ‘nice ass’ to you…hahaha…where is me!!!”

“he grabbed your ass???? On the streets! Wtf!”

“girl…men wont give a damn unless you have big boobs!”

“snigger are u anorexic?..snigger snigger”

" look like a french model!”

I wear clothes

“ur skinny, u can pull anything off.”

“please don’t ever wear a sari till you put on some weight!”

“oh my god..that cb bitch…what kinda clothes does she wear?”

"wow...nice clothes!"

“if u wear t-shirts like will attract unwanted attention. So stop making a big deal

about harassment in the workplace”

“u look so sweet in shorts..wish I had the guts to wear them!”

“what, you left your dupatta at home?”

I hate dupattas…they are potential killers

“yeah u say that cos u aint graceful enuff to carry it off”

“they are lajja vastras..don't you know??”

I hate duppattas even more….


I believe in God

“U cannot go to the temple if you have your periods”

“Navarathri is a celebration of shakti…of the ardhanareshwari”

“how can they emulate Krishna..such a flirt!”

“that they made Sita do an agneepareeksha..”

“Sita needed the lakshman Rekha to stay within her limits”

God has created me - a beautiful wonderful woman

“hey ugly”

“she called you ugly? Don’t feel bad…have u not heard the story of the ugly duckling?”

“hey beautiful”

“pretty boy!”

“you are beautiful…and I love you”

“hi sexy”

“I used to think ur pretty, now I only see you as someone really smart."



“happy puppy”


I am….what I am…

As for what you say, I really don't give a damn!

I am me, constant self

I am me, ever changing self.
This article was composed for the blank noise blogathon, but please note that only certain parts of it deal with harassment. Its more about being a woman, reflecting on womanhood, the good times, the bad times, the uncomfortable times, the soft, the sweet, the rough…. but more importantly, it's a celebration of womanhood, to take in the smirks and the smiles, the punches and the caresses, the colours and contrasts, and continue to love every single moment of being a woman.

Happy Women’s day!

Action Hero Chitra

A few faint scars

Thanks to this initiative, this post is about eve-teasing. There have been times when I did wonder whether I would be able to address this issue with as much clarity as it is happening around. I hope that this is a right step taken in this direction....

I was familiar with eve-teasing – and every time I used to ignore the sly whispers or the raucous shouts. Unke koi maa behen hoti nahin hain kya - I stopped wondering about that long back when I realised that for some men, women are nothing more than mere ojbects - that too of the use-and-throw variety.I gyuess it is just a mode of sadistic pleasure for them. "Why should I react?" - was my mode of reasoning! But then, it had not yet taken a turn for worse......

AA and I were in the habit of talking long walks in the evening – something which I miss at times (especially the company). Recalling this incident, I can place the time to somewhere around 7:00 at a deserted road in our area. AA and I were walking along this road in deep discussion about some subject when I noticed a lone cyclist cycling leisurely towards us.

I would not have paid him much attention except for the fact that he brushed a bit too close for our comfort. I yelled back at him. To our shock, he wheeled back and came right at us. Before I could even regret what I had done, he pulled my plait hard (enough to bring tears to my eyes) and vanished. AD and I were too stunned to react. Here we were – two young girls – totally helpless and at a loss as to what to do next. Nothing had prepared us for this eventuality.
Needless to say, we seldom frequented that particular stretch after this incident.

Even after so many years, I still remember the sense of guilt - it was my reaction which involved AA in this mess right - and the sense of loathing - how could I allow this to happen?

But there are times, while walking across this stretch, that I wonder – what if I had remained silent, what if he had done something more than just pulling my hair? Would I have remained a mute spectator to the events? Where should I draw the line? And at whose risk?

Never (again) would I pray for a repeat just to seek these answers......

But still some questions remain - react to, respond to or ignore eve-teasing?

Action Hero Chitra

...blank noise project...

I have written this for the BLANK NOISE PROJECT

Grit your teeth. Look busy. Pretend to talk on the phone. Frown. Look into the distance as though you cant really register your surroundings (and yet you have never been more aware of them). This is pretty much the best way to deal with the sly calls, the whistles, the cars slowing down. The scooters that stop uncomfortably close to where you are standing on the road.

But if the threat grows, if your space is invaded to a point where you cant breathe - pick up a rock. It has worked for me for many years… because they mostly don’t want their faces smashed. Or their cars spoiled. Or their helmets damaged. And of course... last but not the least - resort to actual physical violence when you cant take it at all...

I have to admit that the choking "after" feeling is something that I have not managed to work on. I still get chokey. I still clench my fists. I still get hot tears behind my eyes. And none of it is my fault. The feeling of helplessness is often mindnumbing. The anger is too much to take. There is no outlet. Then sometimes it explodes.

A few years ago, I was on a shoot. In Old Delhi. Need I mention - covered from head to toe. There was nothing even remotely sexy / alluring / attractive about me. I was running after my cameraman through the narrow lanes and suddenly I felt my butt being grabbed. Not too hard. But more than just a brush. I stopped running. I stopped breathing. There was a buzzing in my ear. I turned around and there was a man walking away from me to a tea stall. I calmly followed him and with the edge of the two beta tapes in my hand started hitting him between his shoulder blades (anyone who has had training from older brothers knows that this is a sensitive spot). I couldn’t stop till my cameraman came from the back and held my hands and told me to calm down and get away from there. A crowd had gathered. Not for me. For him. He was asking me over and over again, “What did I do? What did I do?” I couldn’t speak. Words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. You touched me. Just now. Then yesterday and the day before that and last year. And when I was in school. when I was at the market.... you violated my space. My dignity. You made me feel dirty. Cheap. Low. So, so helpless.

Was it wrong of me to take out my frustration on him for all the other times as well? I dont know. Did the hitting make me feel good? I am not sure. ‘Cause it was not enough. It was not enough ‘cause it did not leave me with the strength to do it again. And again. And again.

Being on edge all the time can be tiring. But then that is what you need. To survive. Because you are a woman.

Action Hero D

Blank Noise Project - ... the actual post

Allow me to start from the end...

Apologies for the philosophical sidenote, I hate transposing reality into the academic realm... It makes everything too detached, too convenient and ready for dissection... But a number of events in my life have made me appreciate those white, old/dead, Eastern European male writers A LOT. Damit, they were right when they wrote about that duality between existence as a subjct and an object. The border between the two clings to us all like clothing, and shines like an ill aura when a woman walks down any public space. To you I am an object, viewed from the clothing outward. Voiceless, mindless... And I must say that as hard as I have tried - the louder I scream and flail my arms... I just become a very animated object, the subject behind it as invisible to you as the real body I guard under the clothing that separates you from me. An approppriate dose of stubborn dehumanisation makes anything acceptable, doesn't it?

At the age of 12, anything new feels good if it’s introduced gently. As you, girl, proudly begin to witness the appearance of the curves you’ve so been waiting for, it’s nice to know others are taking notice. Recall how many vacuous moments were filled laying your eyes upon the changing shadows of the flowing fabrics passing you by, recall the many ways you wondered if your shirts would someday crease in that fashion, the hem of your skirt bounce to that rhythm. Knowing that others could possibly look to you with such wonder in their eyes… it made you walk a little taller, each step a little more accented so as to lend grace to your newly-rounded angles.

And then the eyes stopped being silent and as you grew the words they sent your way grew up too. Into more ‘adult’ words, to suit the thoughts your now-adult body made legitimate; taking advantage of the license it gave them. You let your body talk that way – let me answer with the words it’s been asking me for.

Screw the childhood, forget about any illusions of gentle appreciative stares, you’re almost thirteen now. Welcome to the real world.

In the mall my booty was ghetto and appreciated in packs – at times I had trouble distinguishing what scores they were referring to because I knew their jerseys had won the night before. Throughout Europe I was worth a whistle, in Cuba a click accompanied by sustained eye contact. I averted my eyes and turned back once at a safe distance – the eyes would still be looking, stray dogs gathering around them hoping food was the reward for answering the call.

On Guy or Crescent they were Arabic and Greek and Italian words I wish I didn’t know, and whispered promises in passing - I will… I could… You make me…

In Morocco the echo of a compliment resonated through a souk – Why thank you, I DO find my pussy quite sexy, I’m happy the feeling is mutual. When the group of people I had met at the conference that had brought me in the Maghreb came together for dinner that evening - a bunch of young women and men from around the globe - we couldn't help but compete over our day's experiences of street harassement, laughing about getting our breasts and behinds groaped. We - the girls - shrugged our shoulders and blamed culture shock, while the boys sat in shock and dismay at our ease with letting it all slide. Culture shock, really? You're going to let them because they're different? Yes, yes I will because I refuse to believe it has anything to do with ME, it has to do with what they see when they look my way.

In the Village they came in the early morning, when the butches were recruiting and the fags were touchy – I think it had something to do with insecurity and power. Or blood-alcohol content. Or something. Because there was always an obvious attempt at courage in their voice – in all their voices, their whistles, their clicks. It’s not because I want you, it’s because I can. I can make you react, know your place, remind you of mine. Over and over and over again.

In Japan it’s a polite side glance accompanied by a sneer, alternating between myself and the manga on his knees. I cannot help but wonder if I become the girl on the page – the look towards either being equally empty, the assessment quickly consumed and disposed of. I haven't had a run-in with those famed chikan yet. Count yourself lucky.

In the Philippines my sister and I were always accompanied – by my father, my cousins, a ten-year-old acquaintance – anything with the proverbial balls we physically lack. It was my father’s first encounter with emasculation, as he cannot help but feel what my sister and I feel… The men directing their thoughts about us towards him did not help him in his attempt to ignore the stares that weighed on our pale shoulders.

You shouldn’t keep such beauty all to yourself, sir.

He wanted to puke.

You’re a lucky man, walking with such gorgeous things. Are you their father? Why, you’re an artist, sir.

I was used to it by that point, ten years had passed since I turned 12. But my heart broke when I saw his shoulders hunch a little lower and his eyes lose a little more pride with each fleeting comment. I knew what he wanted to answer…

Yes, I’m responsible for the entire shell, but you should see how I helped them decorate the interior – doesn’t that matter too?

I have walked alongside boys and men who have gotten angrier than I have at the knowledge of what populates my daily walks. Once at our destination, safely sheltered from their glances and their sounds, these boys and men ask me how and why I take it, why I don’t answer back.

All I can offer them is ‘What am I supposed to do? Stop and school each one?’

Frankly, I simply take comfort in knowing that while they’re standing, sitting, or taking their time wandering the same city block waiting for myself and women like me to pass by… we’re actually steady going places with a mind uncluttered by the delivery of the next inconsequential one-liner.

Read others' thoughts on the topic of street harassment and eve-teasing for their links on the BlankNoiseProject blog.

Action Hero dancing chaos

Eve teasing. What we CAN do about it.

Every city in this country has its horror stories: The recent rape of a college girl in Mumbai by a city policeman in broad daylight on Marine Drive; Seema Shah’s death in Chennai at the hands of a bunch of eve teasers in an auto; well chronicled and endless outrages in Delhi, including a girl at a bus stop dragged by her hair for a distance by a motor bike riding eve teaser because she wouldn’t respond to his dumb comments.

What is it with our society that encourages ‘eve teasers’? To begin, with the place of women in society. Where a large section of the population considers them ‘inferior' to men. Its not just a socio-cultural phenomenon, but goes deeper into how women have been exploited to ‘keep them in their place’. Then it’s the unnatural segregation of the sexes in many cities in schools, colleges and even social functions. So that boys and girls don’t know how to interact naturally with each other. And worse, have no decent opportunity to do so.

Most of all, it’s the lack of proper values instilled in families in their children about respecting the sexes as equal. But then, if the social fabric is flawed with regard to the sexes, what can you expect? Especially when you have middle class ‘respectable’ fathers who become groping octopuses on Delhi buses. Which brings us back to the question, if the problem is so large, what can we do about it? Why do so many women suffer the indignity & ignominy of eve teasing in our cities?

It’s because no one around them rises to their aid. It’s ridiculous but true. Eve teasers know that what they are doing is not acceptable. They have wives, daughters, sisters and cousins like anyone else. You think they’d do the same to them? No way! They’d kill anybody who tried. Yet, because nobody around them comes to the help of the victim, they continue to prey on them. Take the recent case of a plucky Chennai girl who dared to retort to an eve teaser with a group of boys harassing her at a popular Chennai theatre.

She verbally put him in his place. Incensed (I suppose his ‘manhood’ was affronted), the eve teaser attacked her. He slapped her first, then punched her a few times in the stomach. What did the other movie goers at the theatre do? (Mind you, the place was packed). Nothing. Everyone discreetly looked the other way. Why would not eve teasers continue to do what they want then? After all, society doesn’t protest. And by virtue of this silence, gives them leave and license to continue to do what they do.

Come on, people of India. Stop clucking about how bad it is. Get a backbone, and next time you see something that’s not acceptable, step right up and confront the eve teaser. Since they already know what they’re doing is not acceptable, they will back down. Not if the victim protests, because it’s a power thing with a victim, but if others around raise their voices in protest. I know, I’ve done it many times. You don’t even have to speak. Sometimes all you have to do is walk in between the eve teaser and the victim, and give him a forbidding stare.

Let me share something with you. When I was in the first year in college, I had to take a long bus ride to get there. The bus passed the Holy Angels Convent girls school in Chennai. Many of the school’s students used to be on the bus. So were a horde of young men who felt they were fair game. They used to move through the bus to try and position themselves next to one of these pretty, innocent young things so they could get up against them for cheap thrills. I would move in such a way that I would get between them and the girls so they couldn’t reach them.

If they tried pushing past, I’d shove them right back with a steely stare. Over a period of time, the girls sensed what was going on. And if they saw me on the bus, they ensured that they were close to where I was so that they felt protected. None of those eve teasers, and there were many of them over time, dared do anything when they saw there was some one to watch out for these girls. I never spoke to any of the girls, but they understood and appreciated what I was doing. They would look at me and smile their thanks as they got off the bus at the Holy Angels stop. That’s all the thanks I needed. After all, they could’ve been my kid sisters. (I never had one).

Is that so hard to do? Think about it. And the next time you see some one teasing a girl, speak up, or get between the teaser and the teased and put a stop to it. I would. I would even go so far as to clout the guy if he deserved it. Like the one who punched the girl at the cinema. Believe me, the rest of the crowd would rally around. So let’s take on the eve teasers in the world around us. Rather than just bemoan what’s going on. For the answer lies with you. And me.

Action Hero David Appasamy

Updated: Blog-a-thon 2006: Tainted?

Papa called her bahadur beta. Mummy called her sher.

But when she stepped out, where did her Mummy's sher beta run off to? For she no longer felt like she was brave.

How could she? They never let her- no, not since she had started to grow up.

Intelligent,sensitive,shy,- read her report cards. But when she walked past them she felt like the figures in her Biology textbook.

She felt she was the girl in those pictures. Naked. Exposed. Her privates labelled out with large arrows so no one would miss them.

Nothing else was brought into focus. No one labelled her smile as sweet. Or her eyes as twinkles in the amavas night. Or how her broad forehead certainly betrayed her quiet intelligence. They didn't want to know what she liked. Who she was. They didn't even want to know her name.

She was nameless, just a pair of breasts and ass and that was enough for them.Clearly labelled for all to see. By Them.

Like the girl in those pictures. Ch-13- Reproductive System.

She showered each day, twice, like good Brahmin children. She still felt filthy.

Their roving eyes cast black over body. No not like soot, which came off with a slight wipe off a wet finger. Like artificial colours of Holi, unnatural, impure- clinging to the skin , that a few hard scrubs couldn't take off.

Neither could Lux nor Dove. Nor Nirma nor Surf.

Industrial detergents only burnt that offensive skin. But it would grow back, fresh for countless coats of humiliation brushed on with fervour by those who unclothed her daily.

Their glances suffocated her in a sea of black ink- like the voter's dot on the index finger, hard to see and hard to clean.

Surely Eve must have lived even if Mummy had said no. She thought she must have, for she was Eve every day. Impure, unclean.Damned until her flesh withered away.

So she removed herself from that body. The body that brings in so much pain, humiliation and shame. The body that was brushed by 'accidently'. That was felt on crowded buses. That was smacked in throngs of people in the bazaar.

"No this body can't be mine", she thought, "Which is unclothed by their eyes everytime I pass by. Unclothed against my will. Unclothed when I thought these layers, metres of cloth, without form or attraction, could hide this body of mine. This body that becomes part of public, to be seen, felt, used to suit whosoever wishes to. Will this body ever be only mine?"

She was Papa's bahadur beta and Mumma's sher.

But if she was brave, then why did she die everytime they saw her?

But if she was a sher, why did she feel hunted,why was she the prey?

Men are individuals with free will. Excercise it- control your actions.

A woman's body is hers and only hers alone- not one to be treated as part of public property.

Street harassment is a crime.

Stop street harassment of girls and women.

Update: While I avoided writing a personal account /testimony of street harassment, for those memories come with their share of pain, humiliation and helplessness, Annie didn't and I think those who questioned the 'purpose' of this blog-a-thon might want to read it.

If nothing else you'd see how women are made to depend on men, why we cannot be alone, why we need separate lines and compartments. And if nothing else, you can remind yourself to not brush away our pain, our humiliation. To not brush us off as weak.

Lastly, I'd like to add, this isn't restricted to India. I experienced it first-hand in the Middle East.

Afterall, geography doesn't limit a man's ability to be an asshole.

Action Hero Deepali

Which way are you goin'

Over this past week, consequent to the blogathon, I have begun to ponder over issues that I had never really considered in the past.

For instance, does being a part of the Blank Noise Project automatically make me a feminist? What is feminism in our times? We've come past the suffragettes, we've come past the bra-burning stage but women are still oppressed and they are still fighting glass ceilings.

I came across the Wikipedia definition, which I feel is broadbased and quite comprehensive. And I can apply 'a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation' to my own involvement with Blank Noise Project. I did join the project to be a part of something that, ultimately, aims to create a legal space for sexual crimes that have been trivialised too much, for too long. Anyhow. This is something I shall have to grapple with for a while, I think.

While reading the blogathon posts, I came across this one, which included a response to a comment I had sent Jasmeen before joining the core team and she decided to post it on the blog.

It may be a bit late to, and maybe I need not, but let me clarify.

No, just checking out a woman does not amount to street harassment, or eve teasing, if you will. Certainly not. In that post, I wrote - 'you do not have the right to stare at my body and imagine what I look like, naked'. And I meant that because how often have women been subjected to long, leering, lecherous stares that make you want to go home and take a very hot bath?

I did not mean to 'make even decent men, who may steal a glance or two, feel like a serial rapist who has “defiled their soul” by virtue of their glances. The contention that looks leave scars on a womans mind is, well, overstating the case'.

Indeed, I rest my case at the mention of the word 'glance'. And calling decent men serial rapists is also overstating the case. I don't think we've ever done that or ever intend to, at Blank Noise.

In fact, one of the major tasks we have is to define street harassment. When does a look cross the line into being a scarring leer? How do we define this adequately enough to not have to argue all the time?

Action Hero Chinmayee Manjunath

I never ask for it - Blank Noise

It was always a feeling of shame. Shame that when 14, a passing cyclist grabbed me. Shame that in the school bus, the driver always fiddled with the rearview mirror so he could look at my chest. Shame that men leered with smug smiles when I walked past. Or tried to brush up against me. Shame because I felt it happened only to me and only because there was something wrong with the way I looked or dressed or walked or talked or was. Something wrong - terribly, terribly so - with me.

And the only reaction seemed to be silence. Because confrontation might lead to attention being drawn to a dirty experience I wanted to keep secret. Because speaking out meant acknowledging that something was wrong when I could cloak it.

I don't know exactly when silence turned into anger into indignation and then confrontation. Perhaps when I was forced out of my cocooned world of being accompanied and driven around into the rush of public transport, government offices, the streets and the slums. Perhaps when a man pushed his crotch against my back in a crowded bus. Perhaps when I saw that most women sat with their bags held tight against their chests in autos. Or, perhaps when I learnt that a friend, too, was grabbed.

Now, the shame is gone but the scabs remain. I don't pick at them because there is no point. What I can do now is know that I never ask for it. That no woman does. That my body is my space and when you lech or whistle or grope or leer or ogle or grab, you abuse it. And that it's not okay.

So what it takes now is one question - Why are you looking at me?

Action Hero Chinmayee Manjunath

Romeo and Eve on blank noise

Blank Noise has the blog-a-thon 2006 going, inviting stories and thoughts from people about the problem of street harassment. People, because men need to speak out on this as much as women do.

I was waiting to attend the Blank Noise meet in Bombay before I posted on this. Some thoughts from there. The idea behind Blank Noise is to raise awareness among people that we need to Say NO to street harrassment, it is not okay to harass or be harassed, even in the name of fun. It is not okay to encroach upon a woman’s personal space, in the name of checking her out or appreciating beauty. No, it is not okay when the woman feels uncomfortable by this.

So what is harassment? And what is not?

So where do we draw the line and say this is okay and this is not? Start with looking at the innocuous name given to such harassment in India - eve teasing. Uh? teasing? The unemployed Rmeo whistles at the girl, sings lewd songs at her, and in the next scene fades out with the girl and the guy singing lewd songs tgether, declaring their undying love for each other? Nope, Eve and Romeo… doesn’t work that way.

One of the things Blank Noise wants to do first is to understand exactly what constitutes harassment. Please leave your thoughts on this here and spread the word around. Eve teasing to me means blank

Activism is such a dirty word?

It is alright to write about it but getting down to the streets where the harassment actually takes place is not so easy for everyone. You do not have to stand in the streets and ask people questions and hand out pamphlets. be your own activist - when you see a woman get harassed, take some action. Show your support in some way. And if you want to be involved in blank noise, please get in touch with Jasmeen right away.

But what can I do about it?

I agree often there isn’t much you can do about it - in a crowded space, it is sometimes difficult to even tell who pinched or groped. But when you do know, then make a scene. Ask him ‘why are you staring a me’? I have tried this and it works. It sends the “teaser” into a tizzy. Shout if in a public place and get the attention of others.

And if you feel physically feel violated in any way, first get this clear - you are not responsible for it. It is not about the way you smile or the clothes you are wearing - it is about the fact that you are a woman and you happen to be there. I don’t know if this is supposed to make one feel better or worse, it is not about you - it could have been any woman there and then.

All that I have written, I have faced, and thought about.

And the stories….

As Annie said, karoge yaad toh har baat yaad aayegi. It just needs one person to start talking about it and then suddenly every woman has her own story to share.

After all these years, I still get disturbed when I think about this - and I do often. Twelve years old and in a crowded temple on a festival way. And a man squeezed my breasts from behind. hard, so hard that I shouted out. But I had nothing to say when my aunt asked me what had happened. And I saw the man. I saw him again and again. I saw the leer on his face. And I saw him come towards me a second time, and it happened a second time. And I saw him walk away. And I came home and cried unconsolably.

I am shaking with anger as I write this. What breasts does a twelve year old have, you bastard? I have noticed that I still instinctively cover my chest if I sense a stranger come too close to me, and if I am not wearing a dupatta. And I have not mentioned this to anyone in my life till now.

Walking to class at 16. Passing through a house where four teengae boys sang dirty songs every single day. Till I snapped one day. That night, they came to my house drunk and made a scene infrnt of the gate. Neighbors watching in avid curiosity, and supportive parents who threatened to cal the police. The next morning, my dad and I went to the house; the boy’s father as a well known physiotherapist, and compalined about him. The boy’s mother advised my dad to keep his girl under control. They did not sing from the next day, but I didn’t feel good about that “victory”…

And then driving classes at 19. And the scent of the male instructor as he leaned over my neck teaching me to reverse the car. That nauseous smell of coconut oil, mixed with sweat and what, lust? I snapped at him after three days and demanded a woman instructor. And he failed me in my preliminary driving test before going to the RTO. I don’t drive to this day.

Related : my earlier post on Being a female body

Action Hero Charukesi