Blank Noise

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


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 junkmailonly

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 project” 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


- Action Hero amit

Hai, that love of euphemisms !

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, foeticide 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 patriarchial 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

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 Project 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 Project 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 Project, 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 A

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 A

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 dehumanise me, and themselves, regularly and don't even realise 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

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 Gupa

Blank Noise: Solution v0.1a

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 Project - a project that 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 the project 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 mErCuRiAn

Blank Noise Project - Harrassment

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 comparativly 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 Scribe

Make some noise, Some Blank Noise!

It was womans day yesterday! Isnt every day womans day? Doesnt the day belong to them as much as it belongs to men? Dont women take care of us men every single day. Dont they do the things men do, everyday. But it was womans day yesterday. 1 day in a year to celebrate yearlong acheivements. 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 neighbours 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 Project . A unique anti street harrassment project. 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 womans 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 dont 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 womans 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 womens Day. To convince me of my opinions and fortify my thoughts, came a blessing in disguise! A womans day event. My night ended with a womans 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.


- 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 Project 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

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

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

Eve-Teasing: A menace to Society

I just found my way to this blog named BlankNoise Project. Felt like its a worthwhile effort and so shud 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 Project.


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

street harassment and eve teasing

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 project 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.

- Action Hero Anthony

Sarika Shah

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


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

For Blank Noise

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? Isnt 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? Shouldnt 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.


Shouldnt we be ashamed of this fact? I have undergone a great deal of eve-teasing. In the inital 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 oppurtunity to touch a woman, pass comments about her, etc. If she doesnt have the guts to protect her, then they build their courage and take their liberty in over-doing their favourite 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 isnt 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 project 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? Doesnt 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? Havent you seen men who roam around with sleeveless shirts? Havent 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 dresscode 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