Action Heroes On Duty. Delhi . 2008

Action Heroes On Duty. Delhi . 2008

ITISHA page 33

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is a group of mothers who came together at the time of Argentina's guerilla warfare (dirty war) to protest against the disappearances of their sons and male relatives and demanded their return. Although the women identified themselves primarily as housewives, their bravery placed them at the centre of political opposition.

Maria Suarez, the co founder and producer of Feminist International Radio Endeavor, notes about the struggle:

"it was the way in which motherhood became political, the way in which women had to break the separation between the private and the public and make their concerns a public issue. these were the women who were in charge of the children, who were in charge of the livelihood of their husbands, of their brothers and so on, and once they were disappeared, these women politicised motherhood. It also meant that there was a reconceptualisation of the struggle for human rights because the motherhood and what happened in the house stopped being a private issue."

All of us, in some measure or the other, sometime or other, have been down on the streets, feeling 'stares' trailing behind our backs, catcalls, snide remarks, sniggers, in whatever little measure, has happened to us all. And this happens, even when I am dressed in the most conservative of clothes, even when I am supposed to be safe, walking with a guy. Even then it happens.

And this has happened to me also: a bunch of us, walking down the road, and a car, with tinted panes, stops right there, in front of us, incredulously(?) expecting us to 'ask for a lift'. The car still waits, even when we have crossed it and are on our way ahead. (Calcutta, 2002)

While trying to cross the road, that car, with a middle aged man, who waits, rolling down the windown pane, looking clearly and distinctively at me; expecting that I WILL get in, smiling lewdly. (Bombay, 2003)

In the train, when on the platform a guy 'marks' me out and asks "which compartment? which berth? travelling alone?" and then incredulously comes up to me in the train and says, "you can move to where my seat is, there are a lot of us there...." (Delhi, 2004)

Drunken night revelry at college rain dance parties or fests, where men 'poke' you as lightly on your arm and say, "come dance with me" and you realise just how dead drunk they are. Do you refuse? Do you accede? And worse still, in such situations what do you do if your MALE escort tells you, "Relax! Its all right. I am there na. Nothing will happen." Ya, right! (Calcutta, 2004)

When you take the public transport, and in a bus full of lots of people, you have men guffawing away; and each single female on the bus looks at the other and looks away: is this harassment? Should I be scared when my mom tells me, "see what Delhi is?" As my favorite city, I really dont want to believe her. But I am not even in a position to deny that it does not leave me feeling very very insecure. Sad, at a personal loss of my freedom to walk, stroll and use public means of transport.

Once, i raised my voice. And it felt great. Although the experience left me shivering all over. While travelling in Delhi, i normally use the "chartered buses": they ply on pre destined routes, pick up pre destined passengers. Normally, safer than the usual public transport system. There was one day however when I just could not catch my bus. And I was down to using the public transport. I travel along the Lodhi Road, Moti Bagh, Cantt Flyover, Cantt, Jail Road, Janakpuri, Vikaspuri road. There was this old drunk man who boarded the bus. At the time when he boarded, the only seat empty was the one next to me. There was already another lady sitting next to me and he came and sit in the between both of us. And started mumbling incoherently.

First, I thought he was just drunk. And then suddenly, i felt a hand brush against me. I looked up at him and thought he was mistaken. Since it didnt happen for a while again, I indeed thoughtI was mistaken. And then, it happened again. I tried moving away a little and that man moved towards me. I again tried moving on the other side, but there also was a man sitting there. And i was caught in a fix: I didnt know whether I should speak up or keep quite. But I was really running out of place.

And finally, i decided to take action. I got up and stood next to the railing. The ticket collector was there and he said 'there's an empty seat, sit.' And i told him 'not unless that guy gets off'. The lady who was sitting next to me understood. Travelling with her husband, she switched places with him and asked me to sit next to her: she promised me nothing would happen. Nothing did happen. The TC roughed up the guy, who kept on saying I didnt do anything and actually tried wanting to talk to me. The TC actually asked the driver to stop the bus and the guy was made to get down. And i really thought that when you speak up, everyone does with you. Till then they just think that either nothing is happening or you are not bothered with what is happening. That its acceptable and Ok. (Delhi, 2005)

Walking down the road, with bikes zooming on the opposite side and turning to look the other side, only to realise that they did a U-Turn and are trailing me. Its a clammy feeling. Dreadful and frightening. And I can rest assured that I am dressed from head to toe, in addition to the fact that I dont call myself either 'slim built' or 'physically fit'. (Calcutta, 2004)

What then is the value of the argument that such things 'happen' when I am the one who is not even someone who is 'desirable' or 'good-to-look-at'? What then is the logic: should I stop going out in the public. And finally, what then is the answer.

Law, doesnt help me. It doesnt protect me. It says it does, but then we all know it doesnt. Who would want to be told 'your modesty cannot be outraged, as it is establised that you are of loose character' or that 'if i dont have any injuries on my body, i must have consented and enjoyed the harassment' [MATHURA rape case] or that 'since i belong to a lower caste, i CANNOT be raped!' [BHANWARI DEVI rape case]. Law then clearly, which doesnt even provide for eve teasing and sexual harassment in public places, is not the answer.

Social change is. But how easy it is to change someone in whom it is ingrained that the hierarchy between sexes is only natural. How easy is change for people who perceive my rights to be DIFFERENT and LESSER than theirs? How do you attack the mindsets of people who consider us women to always be in need of protection. Who simply think that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves? Definitely, not easy.

But it doesnt mean we shouldnt try. It doesnt mean we shouldnt even begin. It doesnt mean that we should sit, without doing anything, because anything would be a lost cause. It wont be. Change occurs one at a time. And that is what we have to look at: changing one person at a time. And then hope that it trickles down and spreads. It is upto us, just like the Mothers of Argentina to make our private issues public, in order to get for ourselves the rights to be free from the clammy feeling. To have the right over our bodies. Both in public and private.

Ending, I want to do with this little piece of poetry, which somehow tells us how important our individual power, as part of a collective group is.

In Germany, the Nazis first came for the Communists
And I didnt speak up because I was not a Communist

Then, they came for the Jews
And I didnt speak up because I was not a Jew

Then, they came for the Trade Unionists
And I didnt speak up because I was not a Trade Unionist

Then, they came for the Catholics
And I didnt speak up because I was not a Catholic

Then they came for me.
And I looked behind...

But by that time, there was no one to speak.
For me.....

Its time we spoke up. For ourselves. Before anyone going all out for us, we have do this favour to ourselves. And for everyone like us. One at a time. Is a lot many voices together :)

Action Hero Immature

22nd March 2007

I gritted my teeth, thinking of the many times, I had to be disgusted in the crowded

KSRTC buses enroute Coimbatore to Kerala, as I went for classes, as perverted sons-of-guns brushed, touched, nudged or felt whatever area of skin available closest to them

About the many times, I have killed their intentions with fiery stares. Some girls leave an impression on guys. Stare hard enough; they know if they mess up with the lass, she won’t suffer in silence.

Then my thoughts lingered on my PG buss-mate who sat with a funny look on her face in the aisle seat of a totally uncrowded bus with just one guy standing next to the conductor behind our seat. I prattled mindlessly about R.P.R professor and the sadistic Nalini madam, not grasping her absent silence. Suddenly it stuck me, this loner behind our seats.

I glared and asked "Is he?” She stifled a sob and said, "Yes yaa, from the time we sat here. I thought he will go, he is not."

I turned to the conductor who sat just behind us and shouted almost," Ask this dumbo to take a stupid back seat, he’s bothering my friend". This puny bozo just got down at the very next stop, I am sure to date his tickets was for a longer trip. But I pity Smitha for not reacting and spending a dull 45 mins straight in silent denial.

Another time, a freaks fingers almost broke from the load of thud from my 2000 page thick F.E.A text as he tried to inconspicuously touch my nape while holding the handle bar of the seat. (I really hope he had to see a doctor to mend his fingers….Hhmmmph!). He too got down in an incomplete transit.

The only time, I hassled a senior citizen runs to my mind. It was again in a public line bus in Chennai traveling somewhere from Nungambakkam to TNagar. I still wonder what got into me that day, whether I would still do things like that. I was tired of being tensed every time; I had to get into buses trying to be free of all the numerous insinuations.

I always move miles away from suspicious looking gentlemen. Yet some one pinched my legs, through the side slits of my churidhar. I do not know what snapped within, but somehow when you are really outraged and terribly angry, lithe bodies assume inhuman strength. I grabbed the pinching hand with my one hand, turned and slapped his face with the other, despite carrying a file and a backpack myself. In front of a crowded bus in full view of PUBLIC.

Only after slapping, I saw the freaks face. He must have been above 60, bald with little sweet white hair remnants and looked like a real sweet Grandpa with snow-white moustache and black rimmed specs. Had his hand not been in mine still, I would have panicked about hitting an old sweet man. Reality hit me too hard. I shouted "Stupid" on his face and got down in my bus stop.

Every single time, I travel alone in public, in taxis, buses, trains, planes, I still feel

drained by stress, as to this time what will the trespass be, with slimy smiles, nauseating passes, or body revolting touches. And mind you, I am no Aishwarya Rai, just another ordinary pretty face, nothing significant. I rarely wear anything other than oversized sleeve-full churidhars (pun intended…in lieu with Nargis’ hillarious blouseless sleeves) with 3 meters long duppattas.

Many times, my tension was flooded with relief, as mostly its bogus bomb scares. But never-the-less it makes me go bonkers. I shudder to think of greater victims.

I have lost count of the number of times, I pretend I don’t know the language the taxi driver or auto driver speaks. The look of DUMB CHICKS who can’t even tell a pass from a real joke. Yeah! Yeah! The greasy pudgy language of sickening sex.

And every single time, I dare to talk to my friends, men and women, I get at least one instance of victimization, small or large on streets, in buses, in malls, in taxis...etc.

I am yet to come across one female friend, who does not have at least one tale to tell.

Which means, if 99% women complain, then 90% of the men are involved in this I-don’t-know-what-name-to-give-game? I perceive the sweeping calculation may not be all too correct, but it’s not all too wrong too...

And every single male friend I talk to, kind off shrugs shoulders, they do not know who the funny minded people are. I wonder, it really can not be the same 10% attacking the 99%.

It got to be a higher proportion and probability. And I am not accusing anyone.

Sigh, I guess, the only way out, is to tell them, let them know, that we are not available for abuse. Even if we do not look all that dangerous, we CAN be. (I know, I know, the word Dangerous has double meaning)

* Stares shoos off a handful

* Hit the rest with bags, umbrellas, safety pins, files, whatever available. The safety pin is a mighty tool and fun too, to watch them bear and squirm in silence.

* Learn Karate, Kungfu, Martial arts, Kalaripayattu, whatever to defend yourself.


Action Hero Enchanted World

22nd March 2007

"One of the first times I felt empowered this way was while walking down a crowded Brigade Road with my parents in 2003. A man pinched me and started walking away. Totally unrehearsed, I turned and grabbed his collar. Just a few minutes later - yes, fair Bangalore has its fair share of roadside romeos who all seem to be on this road - there came along another guy. I communicated some pretty unflattering things to him too. But what I remember most is being drunk on the knowledge, for hours after, that I had done something. The exhilaration heightened since this had happened in front of my parents, who had possibly never before seen - whom I had possibly never before allowed to see - me as a sexual being - being harassed, giving it back."

Action Hero Monica Mody

22nd March 2007

It was 1993. I was living in Montpellier, France as an exchange student when I was 21. My American friend Soonie and I had gone out in the centre-ville and were walking back home to our host family's houses at 3 a.m. We lived in a quiet, quasi-suburban neighborhood, the kind of place where nothing happened. As we chatted in English, walking down the narrow street that led to the hill to our homes, I noticed footsteps behind us. In a case like that, it is natural for me to maneuver so I can see who's behind me, at least in my peripheral vision. So I whispered to Soonie to move over to the side so we could get this person in front of us.

He was a guy not far from our age, dressed in the normal manner. That was a relief. He stopped next to a car in the row of parked cars. I heard the jingle of change. He didn't unlock the car door, though: he dropped his pants.

Soonie walked away.

I aimed four front snap kicks into his testicles with my Ferragamo loafers.

Soonie burst out laughing. I realized it would be smart to run. He didn't follow us. Probably hard to after you've been kicked in the balls four times with pointy shoes.

Action Hero Molly

22nd March 2007

Here's what Shwetha Shenoy, my colleague & an awesome action hero, wants to share:

This is one of the incidents I can never forget!! Coz I was involved.

I travel by bus. As usual I got into a bus n two stops later this gal aged about 22yrs follwed by a middle aged guy got in.. I was sitting. That gal was standing just opposite to me n was busy over phone. I noticed that the guy was standing right behind her n was tryin to touch her!!! I was shocked. Then, thought (1st time) he must ve done that by mistake.. But then, I saw he continued doing the same n the gal din't even notice.. that was all I could take. I shouted at the guy asking him to go behind as there was enough space available. The guy answered back askin me, what my problem was n I had a seat n why his standing in the front was bothering me??!!!! I lost my temper n said, I'm gonna complain about it. Probably he understood/ he didn't understand, I'm not bothered. Coz the guy went back n stood away from that gal. Later he got down before the bus reached the main bus terminal. Else he would've had it!! The gal dint even notice all this happening in the bus!!!

After we (me n that gal) got down, I went n spoke to that gal n asked her to be more careful n keep her eyes open while traveling in the bus.

Action Hero Mini Soumya

22nd March 2007

Long ago, …cant remember the year/month/date - It was approx 8:30 in the morning, usual time to leave for the college. I was standing at the bus-stop, waiting for 114 (Grameen Mudrika) to come. Just then two ladies stepped down a bus - we had a small institute nearby (maybe for some vocational studies) for which many female students used to come in the morning via local busses.

But just when the ladies were stepping down the bus, a guy just happened to come in front of them & they almost collided - it was neither’s fault. The guy was hit a bit - but nothing major. Though the ladies apologised (even when it was neither’s fault), the guy started abusing them… All this time I was there, standing at the bus-stand. But when he started abusing, I could not stop myself & decided to step in. I managed to get inbetween the ladies & the guy, turned towards the ladies, requested them to leave - telling them that I’ll take care of the guy! & then I turned towards him, who was now almost frowning & gave him a good stare. Though I was in a no mood to fight, but was ready to tell him sternly that what he was doing was not atall civilized! But I think that he himself understood that when I started staring at him - he turned around & went his way.

Nothing heroic - But it takes just a little to stop someone from being harrased. Stand up for it when the need be!

Action Hero Makuchaku

22nd March 2007

This again, is a story set in Bombay. I got off the local train one night and it was barely 8 o'clock in the evening. I got off at Churchgate station and took a cab back to the hostel that Audacious Iz and I shared.
And a man on a bike began to follow us. He came close and said something. Stupid me thinks he wants directions and leans towards the window to hear him better. He wants to spend the night with me and wants to know my rate. Sweet.
I roll up the window and shimmy down to the middle of the cab seat and want to die. But this guy won't give up. He goes around to the other side of the cab and puts his hand in through the window in an attempt to pull off my dupatta. I scream and the cab driver yells at him to go away. He keeps following us.
By this time I know I don't want him to see where I live so I decide to drive back to Churchgate station where it is crowded and I can seek safety in the bright lights. As I reach the station I realise my folly. He can now mingle in the crowd and feel me up and there is really no one who gives a shit. So I make the cabbie turn and drive back towards the hostel. Bear with me people, I was young and foolish.
I finally reached the hostel with this man driving his bike close behind us, shouting lewd comments at the traffic signal and trying to touch me through one window that wouldn't go up completely. And all the while Bombay continued to function unconcerned and unaware of the very obvious spectacle.
I reached the hostel which had a police station adjoining it, paid the cabbie and hopped into the safety of the police station. And rushed in to make a complaint. Only to realise that at 10 pm I was sorely out of place there. A woman in a place full of drunks and criminals. And all I had to complain off was a small harassment issue while others with bigger issues were keeping the cops occupied.
I finally managed to fumble my way through the story to a cop who sympathetically wanted to know what a decent young girl like me was doing in a police station so late at night. This amazes me. Shouldn't it be the safest place. In India we act as though it's worse than a whore house and to be seen at one is below one's dignity.
A plainclothes policeman offered to walk me to the hostel gate. When we walked out towards the road, I saw the same shameless man sitting on his bike waiting for me to walk out of the police station. I don't know whether he realised I had walked in there to complain about him or what he was thinking of, because he was just sitting on his parked bike and looking around vaguely. The cop left me and sauntered over to him. Because he was in plain clothes the man didn't realise and before he knew it, the cop reached over and pulled the keys out of his ignition.
To cut a long story short, he was dragged back to the police station and I think I filed an FIR. I say 'think' because they wrote something in a file that I didn't get a copy of. And was not given any receipt or number to follow up on.
His wife was called and asked to come to the police station and release him because he was harassing a girl less than half his age. He was an LIC agent by the name of Vispy.... I saw his card and identification so that is all I can be sure of. By this time he was blubbering and crying... a 45 year old man in tears because I had called the cops on him. They hadn't beaten him or done anything.
But this is what eve teasing is about. Bullying. Oppressing someone who you think is weaker than you. And like all bullies he was a coward when it came to the crux. I left clutching my bag and feeling braver. Perhaps nothing came of it. But I did what I could and I got home unharmed and stronger. This is my story.
Have been surfing all the regular blogs I read and the amount of angst and outrage and fear I see is amazing. There is no one who is untouched and yet no one has spoken out till today. Thank you Blank Noise for giving us this opportunity. Hopefully this will snowball into something bigger someday. Until then, lets learn from our parents' mistakes and protect our children. And let this knowledge make us stronger women.
Edited to add:
Just recalled another incident and had to add it. Very same hostel, two of my friends were out shopping when a man brushed against them. Once. Twice. The third time he came near, this girl threw herself at him, with all her strength and weight and purpose. Naturally he fell to the ground with her. I am sure he expected to feel her up, but she had dropped him with a plan in mind and kicked him in the crotch. I wish I had been there to see it. We did celebrate in the hostel that evening though.
The second incident that remains with me is of a friend who was the youngest female karate black belt instructor in the country at that time. And she lived in our small town and was my classmate. She was going home in a cycle rickshaw when two boys on a bike began to follow her and pass comments. She bided her time till they were close enough and then just kicked out. I guess she knew exactly how to do it with her training because though it was an awkward angle, the bike fell and they were quite badly hurt.
No doubt she was a professional and that gave her the courage to take them on knowing that if they did get up and try to harass her again, she could have twisted them into balloon animal shapes. Not all of us have that advantage and I wish we didn't need to take self defence classes to feel safe. I wish safety and security and respect were a given.

Action Hero Mad Momma

22nd March 2007

The other day, I was walking Dobs in the lane just outside the complex. It was six in the evening and still bright. Two men started walking near us, just far enough to avoid Dobs but too close for comfort. One of them started whistling at Dobs (ostensibly) while fixing a leer on me. His smile was jaunty. His friend smoothed back his hennaed hair, laughed his encouragement.

I tried the usual methods. I looked away to ignore them. I looked at them fixedly to shame them. I walked faster. They caught up. I slowed down and stopped. One of them bent down to tie a shoelace. I turned and walked back towards the complex. They kept pace with me, whistling and leering with infuriating persistence.

Then I lost my temper. I whirled towards them.

'Kya hai? Kya chahiye?' I yelled, loosening my grip on Dobby's leash slightly. He barked at them furiously, happy to be useful.

(Dobby is a mini pomeranian who firmly believes that he was meant to be an Alsation. He is about 2 feet high with an ambitious bark. I believe he has the makings of greatness.)

'Kya hai? Kya kar rahe the?' The tone was defiant but they were throwing furtive glances in Dobby's direction. They had started backing away slowly.

(The biggest bullies are cowards.)

'Peechha kyun kar rahe ho? Kutte se khelna hai?' I had walked right up to them and Dobs was now barking his head off and excitedly jumping up and down.

'Nahi, nahi. Kuchh nahi kar rahe the.' By this time, they were having visions of being eaten for dinner. They decided to abandon manly pride. They turned around and broke into a full-fledged trot in the opposite direction.

(The biggest bullies really are cowards.)

By this time, I was having fun. So I started running after them, Dobby in tow. We chased them for a little while before turning in at our gate. The security guards were a little astonished to see a distracted looking woman and her pint-sized dog chase two grown men down the road.

(What is sad though is that I wouldn't have been able to have the same effect myself.)

Action Hero N

22nd March 2007

And last night's incident reminded me of my experience with 'eve-teasing' in which, amazingly, I did not let myself become a 'victim'. (God alone knows how I hate this word.)
I was travelling in an auto with my friends.And our auto was at a signal when a man, who was crossing the road, reached out his hand in the auto and pinched me. I barely got to see the colour of his sleeve and I ran after him and hit him hard on his back. Abused him standing there on the road...
the most surprising part of it was his expression-HE was surprised!! He couldn't 'understand' why should a girl react.
I think it must have been a first time for him to see a girl reacting to his lewd conduct!
Perhaps inaction of his past 'targets' encouraged him.
All the more reason for us to turn 'Action Heroes' so that others don't become targets because of our 'inaction'.

Action Hero Nisha Chandwani

22nd March 2007

bus smile statements touch

I remember only 1 incident where I even said anything. I was in tenth standard, I was only FOURTEEN in a SCHOOL UNIFORM, sitting in a BUS, in PUBLIC when i felt a hand touch my side and graze my breast. I looked back alarmed to see the man sitting behind me smiling and asking "Any problem?" . All I said was "Keep your hands to yourself." Now I wish I had slapped him, reported him to the conductor, kicked him in the balls.

Action Hero Nithya

22nd March 2007

January 2007,i was walking back from the college where i had gone for a guest lecture,Auto strike and my house was two km away,a narrow lane in Mehadipatnam,Hyderabad and being new to those lanes i asked help from a stranger who was fiddling with his phone standing with his bike at the pavement.
all i wanted to know was if that particular lane leads to VijayNagar colony and he said yes and even while i thanked him and started walking away he offered me a lift which i rejected only to realize that he is following me and kept pestering and the lane was all quite in the mid afternoon and there was a huge MCH park to one side and a building at construction to other side,and when i yelled at him and tried walking away he just cut my path with his bike and held my hand and in a few sec my mobile fell down and so did my handbag,and i just punched on his face,
Yes,i did and even when he lost his balance and fell down along with the bike i just walked around and hit him hard on his face and he did try hurting me and by then a few people passing through the lane stopped and tried beating him up and the Bastard had the guts to say that he was innocent and was only trying to help me,by then someone called the police and half an hour later i walked back home all the way.
Called hubby who was in some other city and he was shell shocked and took the next flight to be home in three hours only to see me sleeping sound.
Why was i not scared? asked him.Was i not? ofcourse i was,but then i know not to be a victim,i learnt it as a kid and i follow it till i live,for him it was a first instance where a women had to handle such a situation,his family is protective about daughters and mostly women are escorted when going out and many of them stay home {what a luxury} but for me this is how i survived my childhood or college days.

I had no choice,my mom couldn accompany me for my morning 5am classes or night 10pm home coming in a bus,i had to walk back a km daily to reach home,and being a single parent is not an easy job,and she did her best,she gave me one line which i follow till date "fight but never giveup without trying,you can always help yourself,just try" and i do.I do wish i had my father to drop me at college,bring me back from classes,escort me to picnics and movies,but i learnt living on my own and fighting back eve teasing or those good for nothing idiots on roads which think women are a commodity.
Hubby said "i am proud of you" oh,thankyou,so am I. and amma said "Thank god it was you at that moment,what would happen if it were someone who dint know how to fight back?" I hope not,yes,even i think i thanked god for a moment that it happened to me instead of someone who could have been helpless,but i wish and hope there were no helpless victims.
I tell my students also,tears will never solve any problem in this world and there is no problem without a solution either,dont stop yourself from doing things just because you are worried about the big bad world outside,being secure is good,enjoy it while it lasts,but when it comes to surviving on your own be ready to do so,Help yourself and the world will salute you,more than anything you will understand your own worth"
Happy women's day world,I am proud to be a woman and when i have a daughter i will tell her how precious it is to be a woman.

Action Hero Alpana

22nd March 2007

Every woman encounters some form of sexual harassment and/or abuse at some point in her life. Eve-teasing comes in daily, weekly or monthly doses. And there are those times, when there is very little you can do to fight back.

Among my many failures in my fight against harassment, I have a small victory story to tell.

Almost a decade ago, my father and I went to give his car for servicing. Unfortunately, the garage was about 15kms away from home. So, on our way back, we had to take the (in)famous BTS bus of Bangalore.

Since the bus was nearly full, we got to sit at the very end of the bus – which is usually a long, seat that resembles a park bench. As my dad had eagerly grabbed the window seat, I was forced to sit in the center. At the next stop, a young man, probably in his early twenties, came and sat beside me.

I nonchalantly continued staring into space, not knowing that this man had more than just a bus ride on his mind.

About 5 minutes into the journey I felt something slide below my T-shirt sleeve. I hastily shrugged it off thinking it must be a bug of some sort.
Then, it happened again, and this time I checked; and found nothing!

A couple of minutes later I felt the same sensation, but this time, I figured out that it was a slimy finger, sliding under my sleeve, steadily moving towards my chest.

That was it! I got up, asked the man “what the hell he was trying to do?” and gave him one-tight-slap!

Obviously, I was loud enough to attract attention from co-passengers and even the conductor came up to enquire. At this point, the creep got up, and rushed out of the bus, mumbling under his breath that some passengers don’t allow others “to travel in peace” – trying to create the impression that I was the one ‘bothering him’.

While I felt great that I had managed to nail the guy who’d try to feel me up, I spent the entire week, shuddering at the thought of many such scum-balls lurking around, waiting to pounce at innocent women.

Even today, as a working, married woman, I get eve-teased on my way home - by old men, suffering from mid-life crisis, and by young boys who’ve never been taught that women are people too. What do I do about it? I pretend that I never heard them, and tell myself – what goes around, comes around.

To all you brave women – wish you a very happy women’s day and never say die!

Action Hero Neeta Shenoy

22nd March 2007

Thinking back, there is one incident that stands out. This happened almost 12 years ago when I was college student. I was hardly the most spectacular “Action Hero”, but I learnt a very important lesson that day: if you don’t stand up for yourself, don’t expect anyone else to.

Anyway, here goes:

I must have been in my first year of college and just started travelling alone by public transport. One day, I was coming home from Connaught Place, Delhi, when a drunken man started troubling me. The bus wasn’t all that full, and he came and sat next to me, tried to paw me.

At first I tried to ignore him. I was rather frightened, to be honest. When I finally gathered my courage to unobtrusively push him out of his seat, he just went and sat in the seat right in front of mine, and continued turning back to talk to me and poke his hands through the backrest. This went on for quite some time, and as scared as I was, I was also embarrassed about making a scene and, consequently, a fool of myself.

Seeing how passive I was, he started getting bolder. He tried to talk to me—fortunately, I couldn’t make out what he said—and then pulled out a bunch of notes from his pocket and pushed the money towards me. That’s when I finally snapped and started shouting and hitting him.

The transformation around me was amazing! Immediately, the bus stopped. The conductor and another man sitting close by hauled this guy up and pushed him out into the street. The driver shouted out, “No, no, don’t make him get off. We’ll take him to the police station!” Apparently, the guy was sober enough to run, and he did.

Someone sitting close by said he’d seen that something was going on, but couldn’t be sure if the guy was really troubling me as I didn’t seem to be reacting! That’s when I realized what a prize ass I was to sit quietly and take it!

I like to cite this incident as an example to young women to show how ignoring the incident or being quiet for fear of embarrassment is not the right way to go. It is never your fault, and the perverts who get their kicks out of harrassing young girls need to be pointed out and ridiculed in public. They are also the worst kind of cowards that can exist and usually turn tail when they see a woman willing to fight back. Even if they don’t, once you take charge, it galvanizes the public around you into action.

And I can definitely say this: when you stand up for yourself, it makes you feel ten feet tall and gives you no end of confidence in yourself. Nowadays, if anyone sidles up to me, I just look them in the eye and say, “Move.” It never fails to send them scurrying.

Action Hero Payal Dhar

22nd March 2007

Neither an adult nor a kid, the age when you see the world as it is and not through those rose colored glasses.. the time when I spread out my wings and take off the cocoon my parents had lovingly created.. to leave the safe world was an adventure, a step into adulthood...It was exciting and scary!! And it was during these days I became a victim...
Counting down days, I waited for those long-awaited trips home.. study holidays, festivals and semester holidays.. each holiday I religiously traveled back home... these long trips involved train journeys and bus journeys... and then I realized how bad the world was....
Those gropings and touchings once the lights were off in trains and buses were indeed annoying and scary making night-time train travels a nuisance .... Men of all ages, irrespective of anything else, derived a pleasure in such activities... I was a victim....till I decided I was not going to sacrifice my sleep and peace to evade Mr.Gropy hands, I needed to do something ...
The next time, the groping hand came towards me, I was ready... the common safety pin holding my dupatta is place was ready to strike and the howl that followed was music to my ears...and I did have one of the well-rested train journeys that night...
The world outside is like the big, bad wolf.... it will huff and puff and try to blow you away... the secret of survival is just being strong...
Today am no longer a victim and am no Hero.... but I am a woman against sexual harassment...

Action Hero Pooh

22nd March 2007

The feel of your palm hitting an offending entity's cheek.


And when rightly delivered the effects are as desired.

Blogging as part of the BLANK NOISE PROJECT BLOG-A-THON 2007 I am recalling this incident that took place a few months back. December 2006. I was walking home on a Sunday evening around 830, and the stretch was pretty deserted. After 10 minutes of walking I noticed these two men, well, boys actually, because they were no more than college students, like me. they had been following me for quite some time, and were now upping their pace, and were catching up. As I kept at my walk, one of these guys, just brushed past me - full body contact. Stunned for moment, I thought I'd let it pass, 'til I saw both these buggers taking a u-turn a li'l ahead of me, and heading back. As the guy came into my personal space this time round, SMACK!

Once, forgiven. Second time, no.

These fellows actually had the audacity to stop at that moment, and very threateningly tell me, to walk properly on the road without brushing against them. I yelled, really yelled, back at them. And yelled 'til a few of the local 'uncles' started walking up to us to sort out the argument.

*slow grin*

The guys scooted.

But the satisfying part of the entire incident was the moment I hit back. No one uses my body to sidle up against, not without my permission.

Some slaps do feel good.

Action Hero Richa Mehta

22nd March 2007

The ladies compartment turning to gents after 10pm is a source of worry for many of us who have to travel late. It drives me wild to see empty trains pulling in, with the largest concentration of men in the 'Ladies' bogies.

On one such day, when I boarded a train, I had to brush against many of the %#$^%@$# who were standing around, and get right into the bogie, which was relatively empty. There was a fourth seat available then, which eventually allowed me to sidle further along towards the window. This man,[ middle-aged, huge, fat, pan-chewing, asshole] stood above me. I was wearing a salwar kameez and had taken special care to use my dupatta to wrap my upper body up. Yet, everytime I looked up, he was staring at my breasts or trying to look down my neck. After around 30 seconds after the realisation, I asked him what the ______ he was looking at. He shrugged, murmured something incoherent and looked away. Five seconds later, he resumed his ogling, and this time I screamed loud enough to make sure everyone within earshot got a good idea of what he was doing.
This time, he had the audacity to say "Kya Hua?!" and then blatantly look into my eyes and then down at my breasts repeatedly, even when all the while I was screaming. The rest of the people in the train said nothing. [How very typical of our junta]

As is the case with the general public, they just stared. Then he started to move out, into the aisle. As he went, I kicked him in the shins. Not much of a comeback, but I got the pleasure of seeing him wince, and then he was out of the train. As soon as he got off, he came to the window and let loose a string of abuses and a lot of stuff about how he'd get me and kill me.

Anyway, my way of getting back at these people is always making a scene. I'm getting better at it. At first I used to be very self-conscious and would just mumble some stuff and let them get away. So now I yell and tell them to come with me to the cops and that they can be arrested and stuff. This makes them move away real quick.

I'm sure this story sounds familiar to a lot of people! 

Thanks for listening.

Action Hero Riya

22nd March 2007

Of the many occasions that I have been harrassed on the streets most of the times I preferred to ignore and walked away. All the while seething inside wishing for a gun to shoot through some heads. Kolkata is notorious for the way women are abused on the streets and I have documented some of the events in my journal.

At a busy fish market one sunday morning a mean looking burly man kept touching me everytime he passed by me. Finally I screamed and hurled my shopping bag at him. My dad joined in and after we created a ruckus the other marketgoers chased the man out. Both of us were pretty shaken up but decided to shop elsewhere for that day. It was not the first day I was shopping with my daddy at that place and on that particular I had not been wearing my regular jeans/capris but a forlorn salwar suit. That should shut the people who toe the your-clothes-attract-abuse line. Its not always the case. If people intend to be mean and abusive they would do it anyways.

Right now I am at Pune, where things are much better than what I have seen back home. Though I'd like to warn anyone frequenting the Kalyaninagar area...things are not so nice after dark around here. On 14th February, there was an unusual crowd of young boys all over this place riding on bikes and harassing the girls walking down the street.

I wish Jasmeen and all the others the best with the Blank Noise Project. I hope something does come out of it. And the noise is not blank at packs a punch if you care to stop and listen.

Action Hero Runa B

22nd March 2007

Trust me, when you act to become an Action hero, you look like a heroine on a bollywood locale. Also take my word: when in this country you are being sexually harassed and want to fight back, NO ONE will ever help. So it is you who needs to decide and act or else sit back and be a source of sadistic sexual pleasure to an unknown bastard. Me decides to revert most of the times.

Today is International Women's Day, and as promised, I have my Action Hero story to narrate.

I was traveling in a state transport bus from Sonipat to Delhi. A nodding uncle on my next seat decided to use my shoulder to lean on, every time the driver decided to break. Occasionally I wud feel his arm trying to rest on me on all the wrong places. Any smart woman can identify a ‘touch’. I just pumped up my strength and waited for the next jerk, “thud” went the brake and there went the uncle’s head on my shoulder. I was all set and there I went “uncle mein yahaan aapko sulane ke liye nahi baithi hoon” (I am no sitting here to make you sleep). Now this appears to be a normal story…lemme bring in the spice.

The uncle, too embarrassed by my high-pitch complaint, decided to revert in the same tone “ek to itni der se haath peir maar rahi ho, ab chilla ke neend kharaab kar di”(After repeatedly trying to touch me, why have you now disturbed my sleep with your scream). Now that was a little too much to bear. I took a deep breath to think and plan and act: I called up 100, informed the cops and requested them to help me when I reach ISBT. All sounds in the bus died out and what followed were murmurs and turning heads. I looked at the uncle who had started panting as he heard me on the mobile, maybe wishing that it just turns out to be an empty threat…it wasn’t. The moment the bus stopped at ISBT, two cops who had just then emerged from a PCR gypsy got into the bus and called my name. I didn’t have to say much, the cops were decent and pulled the guy out from the bus, signaled me to follow.

The uncle was too shocked to say, the only words that I cud hear were “didi kya baat ho gayi”. He was all red in face, partly with the knock and rest with embarrassment. Picture me standing there, right in the middle of some hundred people, many trying to just get a glimpse of the Beauty and the Beast. Some were even trying to play hero: “arey didi jaane do na inko, achhi family se lagte hain” (let him go, he looks to be from a decent family). Delhi Police was at its best that day, the cops were shooing away the tamasha loving janta. This was a situation hard enough on the strength that a woman usually wears, I don’t know where that extra dose came from and how I just didn’t break down. An FRI would have become tedious, so I decided to let the uncle go. The cops did make him touch my feet and say sorry…another deeply embarrassing situation. The crowd sure was making me feel naked, but I am happy I was able to fight out and stand tall. Did i inspire the women folk (I maintain that I am not a fanatic feminist). Hey prowling guys (am I sounding feminist?) watch out...the next Action Hero may just hit you on the face.

Action Hero Shweta Baxi

22nd March 2007

Many many years ago. A hot summer's day. First day of the academic year. I was walking back from school with a new friend. We reached an intersection, and she and I had to go different ways.
"Bye! It was good to meet you!" I called out to her.
There were a group of guys in a car parked close to us.
"Bye to her... now meet ussssss", they called out, with wolf-whistles.
I was being eve-teased. For the first time in my life. I was horrified, and nearly struck dumb. But I desperately wanted to impress my new friend.
"Mind your own business, Mister, or I will tell the police", I hollered, in true Bollywood style.
"Oye!" said one, and opened one door of the car.
That was it. All my bravado vanished and I ran home as fast as my skinny ten-year-old legs could carry me. I reached home and half-proud, half-scared, poured it all out to my mother. She listened, eyes widening.
"Where was that car parked?"
"In front of the bar!", said I, nonchalantly.
"Shruthi! Those guys could have been drunk! They could have done anything! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT answer back to them! Just ignore them!"

After this incident, I did ignore verbal harrassment for a long time. But many times, more in recent years when my confidence has grown, I respond with what I think is a withering look. I don't know if it cows them down or not... but I feel that I have fought back in my own little way.

But those eve-teasers who brush against me in crowded streets? I always answer with a jab of my elbow, or I lash out at them - it is an instinct. Else, if the street is not too crowded and if the guy in question has not got lost in the crowd, I even turn around and shout "Heeeeeyyyy!" People turn around, and look at him and he slinks away. I have no idea about eve-teaser mentality, but I like to think that he was embarrassed and will think twice before indulging in eve-teasing again. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I hope not.

I haven't needed to use public transport on a regular basis, but on those occasions that I have travelled in buses, and have observed a man with a propensity to stand or sit too close, I used my elbows to jab hard at him, or I have pressed down my foot very hard on his feet (this has been good fun - I can direct all my anger at his foot - but I don't wear heels, a pity)... or I have looked him in the eye and said sarcastically, "Yenu, jaaga saalada?" (What's the matter, don't have enough space?"). It works. They always move away. And sometimes, if a particularly garrulous lady is around and has viewed the entire episode, she does her bit by proclaiming loudly, "These men - they see a young girl and all they want to do is paw her"... and more in that vein. That is very satisfying indeed. It catches the attention of the whole bus, and its great to see the discomfort of the perpetrator.

I feel that any little act of fighting back or a defensive attitude, makes me feel that I have got the better of the eve-teaser. And that's what matters. The confidence to walk on the streets with my head held high.

Action Hero Shruthi

22nd March 2007

It started when I was six. I used to be the cherubic and friendly sort and was found more often at our neighbours home than my own. My friends there (boys-Tinku and Pinku)had an uncle. Its weird, while I have no recollection of my friends given names or their faces, I vividly recall every feature on the uncle's face, his droopy moustache, his salt and pepper hair, his loose pyjamas and his vest. This uncle was quite fond of me. Fonder than he should have been, the wrong kind of fond. He would trap me between his legs and press my little body against his while making banal conversations about school, homework and the like. Even at that tender age, I knew something was wrong. I knew I should be afraid. I knew I needed to avoid him. And I did, as much as I could without missing out on the fun with my friends. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't know what to tell. What I know for a fact now was then only an intuitive feeling. I only recently told my mom. She was shocked. Fortunately for me we moved to a different city before it got any worse. While this is not street harassment, it was a rude jolt which pushed me from the innocence of childhood into teenage and then adulthood where harassment became a way of like. A way of life which I never took lying down. My rage always boiled over and made itself known-loudly, clearly yet calmly. The uncle sitting next to me on the whiteline bus from Shivaji Stadium to Paschim Vihar who couldn't keep his hands to himself-Uncle, apne haath apne pass rakhiye. Koi takleef hai aapko ( Keep your ands to yourself, do you have a problem)? The guy in the seat in front of mine in the overnight coach from Mysore to Hubli who kept snaking his hands under the seat to grope my thighs got a bottle full of water emptied over his head. The Tibetan Monk who was sitting next to me on this ride sat stoically through my verbal protests but asked me to calm down after the water incident. The middle aged man apparently asleep on the upper berth next to mine in Karnataka Express who woke up to run his coarse hands through my hair and over my face got bitten. The youngish guy on the bike who tried to paw me as he cruised by on campus in broad daylight almost got his arm yanked off. While I have always refused to play the victim, there have been times when I have been left frothing at the mouth. There are those who take advantage of a crowd to try and hurt your dignity. A mad rush to get into a DTC bus at Punjabi Bagh terminus as a 12 year old. I kept staring at all the passengers until I alighted in the vain attempt to identify the violator. I didn't stop riding DTC buses, only avoided the really crowded ones.The stones and catcalls which rained upon us as we walked in front of the boys hostel to get to our own accommodation. We walked on the other side of the road to avoid them. And many many many more instances where I modified my behaviour to avoid the teasing/abuse. I have a perpetual frown on my face when I am out alone in the open.Today, I am a mother to a daughter. A daughter so beautiful, so tender and so innocent. She knows no fear. She whizzes on her walker into a dark room and stands there squealing with laughter. She hugs people she's never seen before. She smiles at all and sundry when she's out on a walk with me.
I am terrified of what the world will do to her.
I am terrified for my little girls safety.
I am a victim after all.

Action Hero SM

 22nd March 2007

The flight was delayed by not one but three-and-a-half hours. That took the arrival from a safe 8.30pm to the dangerous witching hour of midnight. We ought to laugh at these things, oughtn’t we? And we do. It’s absurd to suppose that we should be safe only indoors once the sun goes down.

I didn’t even think about it. My mother was returning from Chennai and needed to be picked up. I would do it. That’s all. As it happened, my father didn’t agree. He wanted to come to the airport with my son (who had school the next day).

“It’s not advisable to go alone this late at night,” he said. He was furious at the thought of
having to lose sleep, having to wait endlessly at the airport, and having a cranky six year old to deal with. He was angry with my mother for choosing this flight.

“So now you and your mother know not to take these cheap flights,” he said. “You should choose a flight that arrives before 4 pm. Anything later than that, and if it’s delayed, it is not safe. It’s not advisable to arrive early in the morning either. How will you get home, who will go to pick you up?”

I was getting dinner and fuming inwardly. If the plates clattered a little more than they usually did, or if I put down the dishes with a loud bang, it might not have been entirely unintended. I am in my thirties, and I don’t need to be told I need an escort at 11 at night. How did he know what I did in other cities and why the bleep did he want to cosset me like this?

It was then that I realised that at every stage, we allow ourselves to be restricted by the people who are concerned for us. We allow our movements, our clothes, our lives to be dictated to us by people who clearly have our interests at heart.

Nobody asks why the roads are not safe, why parking lots are ill lit or why men can’t seem to restrain themselves. Everybody is very ready, on the other hand, to tell women why they should not do a long list of things for their own good.

I’d come home late from parties several times, later even than the time of the flight’s arrival. I couldn’t remember the last time someone came to pick me up or drop me home because I was a woman. Was I going to keep my son awake and drag my father to the airport just so that he could feel I would be safe?

I could feel my ears getting hot. This was not funny. If I allowed this to happen once, I would allow it to happen every time, all in the name of keeping the peace, not rocking the boat of domestic happiness.

“I’ve come back home later than that many times,” I said. I thought that was quite a mild opening, though I wanted to yell and be immoderate in my speech. You are in your thirties, I said to myself. Nobody will take you seriously if you throw a tantrum. Be calm. Be reasonable.

As it happened, I didn’t have to say anything more. My father said, “Do what you want” in an I-give-up-on-you voice. I suspect he was secretly relieved.

It was clearly not harassment. But it was an unconscious attempt to curb my freedom. No one who met my father would say he was an unreasonable man, or that he was not progressive about women and their rights. Yet he wanted me to stay home because nights were unsafe. If I had submitted, what would I have done next? Seen the point of someone who said I ought to wear ‘decent’ clothes when I went out? Allowed someone else concern for my well-being to dictate my movements, my speech, my clothing?

I don’t like to think of it in terms of battles fought and won. It was a small thing I did that night, but it was important for me, because we submit most easily to those we love and respect.

Action Hero Space Bar

22nd March 2007

When have you given back? When have you been an Action Hero?
I have had various incidences when I "gave back", and I am extremely proud of myself for doing so. Like most phenomena associated with women, from motherhood to rape to unwanted hair, street harassment is convoluted to give the woman guilt over what has happened. Its somehow "YOUR" fault that you got cat-called and whistled at on the street. It has to definitely be somthing with your dress, or how you looked at them, or your walk... or the fact that you are breathing. I went through a small part of adolescense actually believeing this and doing what every GOOD girl is asked to do, to save herself from the indignity. Don't walk alone, dress modeslty and keep your eyes on the floor. Do not talk or laugh loudly. But at some stage all girls snap. And realize that its my freedom you are encroaching when I am required to not behave naturally, and follow a code, so that U don't insult MY dignity. Wearing a burkha never saved anyone from harrasment. 

"tumhare koi ma, behan, nahi hain kya?" 

I was travelling alone by train. Second class compartment. window seat. My co-passengers were a family of mom/son/daughter. the mom was a loud lady who immediately started asking me questions. I responded back and she expressed joy at knowing that I speak telugu too. 

They play cards, Iread my novel, come 9 oclock the berths are up. I am woken up when I sense someone touching the side of my body.I see that the son is trying to open some bag on the floor, squatting in between the berths and poking me with his elbow and hand. I move away, sticking my back to the wall of the compartment, and he is still nudging and poking. Now I can see that he actually does not want anything from the bag. He is just acting. I tell him to stop and he says he needs somthing from the bag and I ask him to take his bag away from me. I try to do that loudly, but don't manage to wake anyone up. After sometime I try to pull the window down and he gets down from his berth in a jiffy and sits on mine and starts fiddling with it. This time again I ask him loudly - excuse me, wat r u trying to do? -mumble mumble- no thank you, can u get off my berth now.

I am more watchful now and tense up each time I see him get up from his berth. At about 4, I get up to use the bathroom. I am in there 10 seconds and the door is banged in. The doorknob is shaking vigorously and more bangs on the door. I finish my job thanking God for the strong latch, and step out. He is there and says "oh,sorry" and smiles leeringly. I start scolding him and give him a piece of my mind waking up some people at this end of the compartment. I am not sure exactly how long I did that, but I think it was close to a full minute. I don't remember exacly what I said, but I remember using "asshole and bastard" quite a bit.

Then I went back in and lay down on my birth. To this day I regret not having woken up his sister, who was on the berth above mine, and his mother, berth opposite mine and telling them about this. His footwear was lying on the floor of the train and I had to struggle to control my urges to pick them up and throw them out of the window. He did'nt come back to his berth (diagonally opposite mine) after this. About 7 the next morning, the family had to get down. I slept for the remaining 3 hrs of my journey.

The One In which she is a Whore

This happened when I was living in Chennai. My house was a 10 minute walk away from the local train station, which we used quite frequently on our weekends out. One sunday, I was returning late and alone (11-ish). There was a small, crowded road next to the station which leads to the highway. A few yards on the highway and my house was in a little street perpendicular to it.

I was a minute into this crowded street when I hear a man on a motorbike calling out to me from the other side of the road. He keeps saying "business, business". I hear some ppl around me smirking. I don't understand whats going on and continue walking. He goes ahead on his bikes and a couple of yards away stops and waits for me to pass by and does that again. Now I undertand. He thinks I am a prostitute and is offering me "business". I feel a little relieved thinking that when he realizes I am not one, he'll go away. I am still a little puzzled that I am not mortified about being assumed to be a prostitute. May be I don't understand the insult. May be i think there is no scope for such a mistake. I am wearing jeans and a plain cotton kurta and have no make-up on my face, nowhere near a prostitute out to get "business".

I get on the highway and it happens a third time. I wait till he moves a little ahead and then cross to the other side. I see he has stopped again and is looking back, waiting. Though I feel a little safer my heart is still pounding hard. My hands reach into my pocket and take my mobile out. I debate whether it is more useful to call my female flatmate or a male friend/colleague who lives nearby. Its quite late and I pray that either of them is awake. And then I snap. I know, I can't describe it as anything else. Somthing inside me snapped. I should not have to wake up my friends because YOU are being an asshole. I started walking towards him not knowing what I actually want to do. He sees I am coming and smiles at first. But as I come closer he starts fidgeting and starts his bike and makes a run for it. I am still surprised at how much of a coward he turned out to be. I yell somthing after him and some people around me join in. I recognize some of them as the same people who smirked when he first did this. Its bad enough when you are a passive spectator. Its simply worse when you take turns between being a voyeur and a hypocrite.

Action Hero Sudha

22nd March 2007

Last Monday, a week ago, in fact, I got to work early. Early, and fuming.

I'd taken the scooter to work that day. Regular (leave me my timid fantasies, dears) readers of the blog may remember the aforementioned as a rather elderly Kinetic Honda, scene to King stories. I'd remembered that there was no petrol in the scooter, so I left extra early to fill some at the petrol pump near home.

And there, at half-past eight in the morning, I was ignominiously cheated. Well, an attempt was made. I still, at first pass, ended up paying Rs. 102 for something approaching one-third a litre of petrol. Of course it was partly my fault for not instantly screaming about the failure of the attendant to show me the zero mark. But I was in a hurry, I hadn't been paying attention, and I was wary of creating a scene. (this is how these people always end up getting away with this kind of behaviour in the first place.)
So I stood there, like a silly little cuckoo, and (horrors) decided that, despite my immediate feeling that I had been made gull of (oh, and believe me, it was immediate. the attendant had been pouring the petrol into the tank for no more than a few seconds, and the tank looked startlingly empty, and i thought "fuck, i've been cheated"), I would wait to make sure that I was before I began yelling. (i am rather wary of open-foot-insert-mouth. it makes for too much embarrassment.)

So I drove along for a while, and watched the tank indicator. It didn't move past the quarter mark. And then I knew. To confirm, and to gain some more courage, I drove home to check with the father. The father confirmed my fears, but, to my horror, seemed to think I would let the matter slide.
Do you want some more money to fill petrol, he said. Go somewhere else and do it, he added. Shock! Aghastness! Other similar feelings!
I refused to stand for such tame acceptance, so I scorned his kindly attempts at consolation, picked up my jacket from the house (one of T's little life lessons: never pass up an opportunity to pick up things you have forgotten.) and drove back to the petrol pump.

There, I proceeded to throw a right royal tantrum (which I enjoyed very much), and gave the attendants a piece of my mind - demanding to know whether they thought I was an idiot, whether they thought they could fool me just because I was a woman, showing them the petrol level in the tank and asking them in what planet that looked like two litres, threatening to call the cops...
It was a short, but powerful, performance. I wish I could have seen it from the outside.

"Put one and a half litres of petrol in this tank right now, or I'm calling the cops!", I screamed, hair on end and spit flying everywhere.
After five sentences, one of the attendants filled the tank with thirty rupees worth of petrol. I drove away feeling distinctly that I had been cheated again
I'm going back there this evening to get a litre's worth., I told myself.

The end of the tale is rather tame in comparison, though. Anticlimactic, even. I returned to vent the rest of her anger, and found that the morning attendants were off duty.
I then went in and complained, in an exceedingly boring and dignified manner, to the supervisor. He then put a litre of petrol in my vehicle, gave me a bill for the morning's two litres into the bargain, and sent me on my way.
Either I'm very persuasive, or this thing happens often enough that a litre makes no earthly difference.

Action Hero Tangled

22nd March 2007

HIT hard at the hideous face of harassment

Everybody needs an Action Hero and mine is from the other Land of the Rising Sun.

No place is safe and no person is trustworthy – for a woman. It isn't just the faceless man on a nameless street that is a threat, even a classmate in the confines of her own high school could be a harasser. It is at times like this that solutions like building a (physical and emotional) cocoon around women to protect themselves lose all meaning. There has to be a place where one can be free and open to new experiences – for that is where life unfolds and people grow.

This is the story of Sunanda, my Action Hero. Sunanda was a year ahead of me in high school (I was in 10th grade then). She was a tall, intelligent, beautiful girl with an infectious smile. I had bumped into her quite a few times in school. But it was fighting that brought us together. :) We went to the same Karate Dojo, twice a week. And over a year we had been sparring partners a lot of times and had gone through many a grueling (to us, then) long run, frog jump or pushup session. Those were times when I could only envy her toughness, and her ability to always leave me with more welts than I could ever manage to inflict on her.

The incident that made her my hero however occurred not at an evening session at the Dojo, but one sunny morning, about quarter to nine, at school. There were still 15 minutes before the entire school met in the quadrangle for the morning assembly. I was at my desk, wrapping up some homework problems (perhaps) or maybe chatting with friends. Since my seat was next to the window, I looked out and saw Sunanda standing at the far end of the corridor on the first floor [1], where both our classrooms were. She was looking over the playground, with kids running around, playing etc. Suddenly Rakesh (her classmate, who rode the same airforce shuttle – a school bus of sorts) appeared and tried to smooch her [2]. I am still in awe of her amazing reflex – she immediately swung her arm and gave him one tight slap – one so hard – that I could see blood splatter from his mouth though I was about 10 meters away. He was in so much pain and such shock, that all he could do was stand there stunned and unable to move.

There were very few witnesses to this event, a few of her classmates and a stray audience, liek me, who happened to be looking out the window, at that exact moment. But this did end pretty badly for the boy (suspension from the school etc). There were speculations as to why he did something this stupid and it turned out to be a dare, some petty bet with his friends, who had egged him on to go kiss her. This is in my mind a more serious problem - how women, even your own classmates are so easily objectified.)

She was an instant hero in our school, and to say the least - our Dojo [3]. But the rest of the world did not think so (or so we were told). We were asked to maintain her anonymity, for knowing who she was would (supposedly) only encourage other (hooligans) from trying to harass her on the streets!

She might not be Rosa Parks, but to all of us who saw her that day, she showed us the power of standing up and hitting hard at the hideous face of harassment wherever it loomed.

[1] The 2nd floor in the US

[2] Well, I need to explain that this was not a standard occurrence at our school. People might have held hands or kissed each other in some remote corner, where such “dark deeds” did take place, but there was no room in our school campus that allowed such behaviour,...

[3]All that our Sensei had to say was, “Why didn’t you use your perfect roundhouse kick, while you were at it?”

[4] On a slight tangent, here is David Unger's hilarious, informative (but ouch) report on a Krav Maga school in LA.

Action Hero Da Blank Mamba

 22nd March 2007

Help in Need

Last year, Blank Noise asked us for testimonials witnessing street sexual harassment. This year, they asked for testimonials of our action against harassment, and I joined the blogathon on the other blog. And I decided to join it on this one too; but not just cross post from there.

So, I thought I’d make this post about some other action heroes: the men who fought for me when I couldn’t fight for myself, when I asked them for help and when I couldn’t.

A long time ago, a cousin who yelled at someone who ‘passed a comment’; do you even remember, anna?

Not as long ago, but long enough. The first floor of the academic block, outside the corridor of teachers’ offices. Waiting for a viva, I think. A friendly argument over something (I don’t even remember what) ends with me standing with my back pressed against a railing, and the guy I was arguing with standing in front of me, his arms on either side of me gripping the top if the railing, barking in my face. I am scared but determined not to show it; how dare he think he can intimidate me?! He moves away when N touches him on the shoulder, and as he goes away, N asks with a look, “why do you let him get away with it?”

Forward a few years, but still a few years ago. A bus trip in Rajasthan on a rickety old bus. Sitting in the aisle seat, a guy standing next to me starts pressing against me. I look up and ask him to stand properly. He pretends not to understand, as do the men around him. I look to my companions, N and S; S switches seats with me, and the man backs off.

Action Hero Tipsy

22nd March 2007


My Blank Noise Project Action Hero is a former colleague. Let's call her Xena coz she chooses to remain anonymous.

On her way back home from work last month, journalist Xena was walking down a deserted street in central Delhi when two men tried to grab her. It took her a few seconds to react to the sudden assault and then Xena fought for her life.

She bit, she screamed, she elbowed, she kicked and sure enough - the two men left her and ran away. She hadn't even seen their faces in the dark.

Knowing there was little she could do about the incident, Xena enrolled for a martial arts programme the next morning.

It's only been a couple of days since she began the course but now Xena is confident she can handle any attacker (and kick him where it really hurts).

There had been a pepper spray in Xena's handbag but the sudden attack had rendered it useless as she had no time to take it out. Does that mean picking up karate skills is the only way to combat street sexual harassment?

Action Hero Tony 

22nd March 2007

STARE It down

Last year on Women's day I had written about my experiences which formed a part of the blank noise project blogathon. This year the blogathon is back. The theme this time is "Action heroes" where bloggers are expected to blog about the times when they fought back sexual harassment. Though I had already written those instances last time, I am reproducing them here in this post as well.

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). One sure shot way to ward of a starer is to stare back. It's not so easy. Staring back. One feels disgusted merely by glancing at the eyes which seem to be ripping your clothes apart. But DO stare back and very piercingly at that. One'll instantly feel the urge to cast ones glance in some other direction quickly but DON'T. KEEP at it. However obstinate a starer may be, his testosterone still does not surpass his selfconsciousnness (in almost all cases). He'll instantly look down, beyond, or back whereever he's supposed to be looking. 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 around holi 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. A confrontational attitude is certainly better than an escapist one. 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 Twilight Fairy

2nd March 2007

Karma Feels good

One summer afternoon in 2004, a friend and I played God. We were walking down the stretch of isolated road between Architecture block and The Times of India building on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, more or less satisfied with our day’s work. We’d gotten up really early, after a late night of making a model to explain our concept for an urban design scheme, and even managed to finish colouring our plans and sections before class. We’d defended the scheme, well enough, and convinced the old farts, well enough, that we were on our way to a passing degree in architecture. We thought we deserved a day of fun (Silly Singh and Gross Bose’s day of fun!!!) and were on our sunshiny way to catch a bus to Priya Cinema, when it happened.

It wasn’t a unique occurrence, we’d been cat-called at many a time, and in this very place. Especially when it used to be a regular slum – Real India, It was called for some obscure reason - to buy pencils and cigarettes from in times of need. SS had once been loudly admonished for wearing sleeveless clothes to college by some drunken reprobate (aise aise kapde pehenke lehrati hai, phir chedo to accha nahin lagta); RM’s left boob was hastily fondled by a 14 year old with braces, after which she CHASED him till he was trapped between the gate and a mob of her classmates who soundly thrashed him; SB’s trousers were much appreciated one morning, whereupon she told her admirer – teri maa ki hai, tere padosi ne diye – and RAN. Ours, on that happy sunny day wasn’t an exceptional experience at all.

‘Mere saamne do gulab jamun ja rahi hain….’ he said to his cohort on the phone, loudly, lasciviciously. ‘Ek ne tight si kameez pehni hai… ohooo… bahut saaman hai, madat kar doon? Tujhe lagta hai thanks bolengi?’ We did the usual thing... ignored for the first two minutes then turned to glare. ‘Hai, wo mudhi! Mujhe bula raheen hain! Jaoon?’ By now we were livid, and yelling. He revved up his macho TVS scooty and swished by us, helpless in our fury, laden with pieces of a model, huge rolled up sheets, bound up breasts, stiffening buttocks, vaginas completely hidden, and tingling smarting flesh. I always knew my foul mouth would amount to something one day. As he went by I peaked, saying ‘Ruk ---------!’ I suppose his victory felt incomplete, having had to hear that, so he stopped. The moron actually stopped.

Well, that had never happened before, so we kind of just went with the momentum of our tempers and strode up to him, cursing all the way. ‘Kyaaaa… mujhe gaali kyun di? Mujhse badtameezi!’ he blustered. collectively, I suppose we must have been loud. Gaonwaalle jama ho gaye the. As we had an increasing audience, his accusations turned to defence. ‘Main apne phone pe baat kar raha tha, inse kyun bolunga. Main to inhey jaanta bhi nahiin, main kyun bolunga!’ One wise old gaonwalla had taken out the key from his ignition by now and handed it to Silly Singh.

We’d dreamt of this moment many a time. When we would march an ‘eve-teaser’ to the police. When he’d be at OUR mercy. When he would really really repent. And really really learn something, and really honestly change. And stop doing this, this terrible sick thing. We marched away, leaving him in the hands of the audience. Soon though, he was following us at a safe distance. ‘Kya hai? Aise kaise? Kya kar rahe ho? Meri chaabi waapis karo! Chor!!’ he bleated now and again. We were gleeful, victorious. Plans for a movie thrown to the winds, we were on our way to make the world a better place.

By the time we got to the closest thana, the guy had figured that we were in earnest and he was probably in some shit now. But he hadn’t apologized even once. Hadn’t thought of it, even. It was only when the policemen told him that he was facing 7 non-bailable days in jail, and he should start being very sorry, now, that he turned into a whimpering mass of ‘Maaf kar do didi. Aap to meri maa ho. Behen jaisi ho.’ The policemen were enjoying it, make no mistake, rattling their chains, and asking for his personal possessions at very precise moments in the drama. An hour later, it seemed we had a choice. We could forgive him and let him off the hook, or we could tell the truth, in writing, and condemn him to a life with a police record, a possible estrangement from his fiancée (yes, he blubbered his life history out to us in an attempt to make us empathise) and a very very sad mother.

I dunno who decided really. Or maybe it was indecision that simply made us sign stuff put before us and say ok to everything we were told. I kept thinking - does this guy, for this one incident, deserve to have all these things happen to him? After all, I had been molested way worse than this, on the bus, in an auto, at college, in the market. There were many other men who deserved phaansi even, but did this guy’s crime today deserve the punishment he was getting?

But this was the one chance I was getting to ‘get my own back’, to ‘teach them a lesson’, to ‘be heard’, and by God I would bloody well take it. I don’t think I came out a better person that day than I was before. It didn’t feel good to try and ignore the quivering sobbing heap in the corner, who was there just because another man had given us the reigns to his life and his TVS Scooty, and just because his ego made him stupid enough to stop and fight after making a comment he probably makes twice a week anyway. I don’t think the guy really learnt anything. He was ready to enact fright, pitiful sorrow, dysentry, anything, just for us to let him off this one hook. If anything he would come out with a vendetta against the two women who were so snooty and so self obsessed that they sent him to jail.

The law simply allowed us to play God, just as our sick tradition of blind patriarchy allowed our harasser to play with us. We felt avenged for maybe 2 hours, after which we were back in the real world, where men are the keepers, appropriators, jailers, tradesmen and abusers of women’s bodies.

Action Hero Wendigo

22nd March 2007

PRIDE replaced SHAME

I am now 21 years old.

A citizen of Beautiful Bombay.

I came across the concept of eve teasing when I was around 11 years old. I saw it happen to a friend when I was maybe around 12. All of us were too scared and shaken by the incident, and none of us spoke about it. It was only later that we “children” decided to call the incident what the world calls, “eve-teasing”.

We hated it. We hated the fact that we grew up so soon.
One of the incidents I clearly remember was when I was 18. I was on my way to college. I had some exam that day and I had a writing pad in my hand to which were clipped sheets of paper, which I was studying from. It was a desperate situation I am sure. Who studies while walking on the road?
The street was crowded with office goers, hawkers, vehicles jostling for space. As a voice in my head was memorizing the notes, I heard another voice. I do not remember what the voice was telling me, but I know I heard a few words that I was not “supposed” to hear. I was enraged and I was terrified. I slowed down and made him over take me. He was looking at me from the corner of his eye as he was over taking me. I knew he was guilty of a crime, which I had not noticed until then. He began speeding up. Literally trying to run. However, I did not give up. I continued walking after him. I wanted to ram his head with my writing pad.
But I didn’t.
I just walked.
I let him go.
I don’t know what happened to the voice memorizing answers, but now there was another voice in my head.
I shouldn’t have let him get away with it. I tried to justify saying that I was too scared to function.
I just could not forgive myself.
If I could not stand up for myself, what more could I expect from myself?
I wanted to see him once again. I knew it was impossible, I knew that life does not really give anyone a second chance.
But there is an exception to every rule.
I saw him on the railway platform. He walked behind me doing to another woman what he did to me. I heard the words. I was enraged.
After he finished his daily dose of harassing I guess, he decided to take the train.
He stood at the edge of the platform waiting for the train to arrive among numerous other men. I walked up to him and I asked him in a loud voice to jump off the platform. He looked at me bewildered.
All the men around looked at the two of us.
This person looked around and just went away.
I felt foolish about having waited for so long. I should have done something on the road itself not waited.
But i still feel glad when i think about what i did.
Not necessarily as oppressive or heroic, I know there was something more that I could do and at the right time. 
However, pride has replaced shame. 

Action Hero White Diary

Posted 22nd March 2007 by J

Strength in the air

Over the years, all my harassers have been nameless, faceless men who did what they wanted to do and slowly melted in to the crowd, made themselves invisible in a flash, or even continued to stand and stare lecherously, defiantly, feeling brave in the company of their cronies. But this guy, the one I am going to write about, takes the cake. Every slice of it!

He tried to grope me on a near empty plane in mid-flight, while sitting in the window seat behind mine. Buses, empty streets, crowded and encloses spaces… I'd been through it all, till this happened...

I was on my way home - from Bombay to Bangalore - and was down with a flu or something. I was tried, drowsy from the medication and was trying to lean back and sleep. It was a late evening Air Deccan flight and it was flying half empty. Just when I was dozing off, I felt a hand caress my upper arm from behind – through the gap between the window seat and the wall of the plane. My middle and aisle seats were empty and I remember I was wearing a sleeveless top. I didn't react immediately; it was a plane for god's sake and I was half drugged… was I imagining things? I waited for a few seconds and sure enough, there it was again, only less reluctant this time.

I whipped around in my seat and let our a string of expletives asking Mr. Window Seat (WS) what in *bleeps* name was he doing. And the guy just sat there, looking perfectly calm… even his protests were not very forceful – he said something about trying to shut the window. (On a late evening flight? To keep out the sun? The wind? The mosquitoes? Btw, even his middle and aisle seats were empty)

One of the flight attendants came running to check, and still furious, I asked her to change his seat pronto. (As an aside, through all of this, NO ONE on the plane even breathed a word of support or help or concern). The attendant must've been a junior and she was easily intimidated by WS who asked her to ask me to change my seat since I was the one with a problem while he was *just shutting the window*. She started to mumble and looked at me helplessly… just then, her supervisor arrived though I don't remember whether I asked for her or whether she came on her own accord.

Though I didn't expect much to happen, she simply looked at the guy and said "If the lady has a problem and wants you to change seats, you will have to do it, sir." She was pretty emphatic I think; he didn't whine much and vacated.

I thought that would be the end of it. I though public humiliation (albeit in front of a mute public) was as much as I could do for WS and that was that. Just as I was recovering, the flight supervisor came to my seat and sat next to me, offered me water and asked if I was ok. And then she apologised on behalf of the airline and asked me if I wished to do something about the incident. Like file a complaint. Of course, I said, I bloody well would like to!

As an aside, despite my numerous complaints about low cost as well as full fare airlines with poorly trained executives in customer facing roles, I must say this lady was very professional and showed a great deal of calm and maturity in dealing with something as sticky and embarrassing as this.

So this lady told me that she would radio the ground security folks just before the flight lands and she would move me to a front row seat, so that I could disembark first and identify WS. But by then, his face was already a blank. I told her as much and she agreed to come along and identify him.

The ground security guys (yes, in plural… there were about three or more I think) "escorted" WS and me in a separate coach. His protests didn't amount to much. And once we reached the carousel, it was high drama; more policemen arrived though there were still pretty clueless about why they were taking in WS. They asked me, they asked him, they talked among themselves and there was much excitement about the guy who had "misbehaved" with the lady over there. And then a guy started taking official notes and asked for both our coordinates.

And with that, unlike my previous harassers, WS suddenly had an identity. He was 29 years old, was married, was a software engineer, was a non-Kannadiga, was from some place up north. It turned out that he worked and lived close to my family home in Bangalore. And with that bit of info, the cop taking notes perked up even more; he wanted to know if WS had been stalking me for some time now!

Done with the formalities, the airport security folks asked me to accompany them to the nearest police station to file a formal complaint. By then, WS looked like a mess and was mumbling apologies (I think) to no one in particular. It didn't help that he didn't speak the local language either; the cops had one more reason to be peeved about the "outsider" who was also a pervert. WS's broken English smugness had dissolved by now; he even said something like "ma'am I think you are taking this too far" or something to that effect.

I drove in a friend's car and WS came with the cops. I filed the complaint at the HAL police station.

And by now, with the adrenaline receding and the flu getting worse, I was beginning to feel drained and WS was reduced to feeble mumbles. As part of my last retort, I said something about getting in touch with the HR folks at his work place. And there came my retribution, suddenly. WS said, "I'm sorry ma'am, I got carried away" and trailed off.

I didn't much care what happened to him after that; at best the cops would follow up the case, at worst, they would fleece him of a few hundred rupees and let him go. I turned to leave and told the Sub Inspector just one thing; inform his wife. She should know about this.

I don't know what happened to WS, whether anything happened. But I had never felt better.

I think about it often though… what was he thinking?! On a plane with people in it?! Did he think I would bite my lip and let it pass? Did he think I would invite him to sit in the vacant seat next to mine or hop across to the one next to him? Did he think I would actually enjoy it and jot it down in my list of kinky plane journeys and fantasise about it at night? Just WHAT was he thinking?

We all know that perversion can wear starched white collars too. But till his happened, I had somehow thought that other than in extreme cases (where the perpetrator has strong alibi and a good chance of going free), the garb of civilization keeps depravity in check. At least just enough to stay out of serious trouble.

But I am glad I met WS; it's somewhat easier to yell at or slap the tapori who hangs out near the paanwala at the street corner or the half-drunk, pot-bellied man who is falling all over you in a crowded bus. Till this happened, I would have been hesitant about exposing "someone like us." Some urban, someone who has a corporate job, someone "respectable", someone who looks like a colleague, someone who lives in the same world that we do. But not any more… Not any more.

Action Hero Hema

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer."

I have not been quiet all the time. I tried not to be a victim all the time. After being harassed a dozen times, you learn. You grow up from a child to an adult pretty fast. It jolts you awake from the sweet innocence of childhood to become a confused adult. I think I learnt to read the signs and be more weary only when I was around 17 and entered college. Every time I caught a bus to go to college, I looked at faces, judged them and hugged my backpack close to my chest. This one time, I was surrounded by men and this one guy kept staring at me. I stared at his hands all the time. As soon as he brought his hand close to me, I shifted and looked straight into his eyes and said in Tamil, "Don't even think about it! You wont know what hit you!" I could see fear and shame in his face and he got down at the next stop. For once, I felt powerful. But of course, for every situation like this one, there were dozens more where I was the victim with fear and shame in my face and tears in my eyes. But I grew stronger. I started looking out for young girls and tried to protect them as much as I could. I swore at the perverts, complained to the bus conductor, called them names but I have nt hit them. I regret it now. I should have slapped at least one of those perverts. It would have made me a little more happier person today and respect myself more.

Today when my 22 months old daughter told me shes afraid to walk on the dark corridor, all I could think about was how was she going to survive the bad, bad world out there if shes afraid to walk in the dark in our own home. I asked her to be brave, held her hand and walked with her. I told her to be strong like me, her mother. I knew I have to be an action hero so that she can be one too. I don't think I was a hero before but I am one now. Like the title quote* of this post, being a mother is my 5 minutes.

Thanks to the Blank Noise Project for reminding me to stop being a victim. 

- Action Hero Boo

Face it , Fight It

Today evening as I left work, I was in a good mood. It was drizzling slightly and I simply love the rains. I usually take an auto back home but I saw the bus approaching which goes to my home, I decided to hop in. Happy that it was mostly empty, I got a window seat in the left aisle and sat down.

Sitting behind me were two men, one who seemed half asleep and the other just sitting nonchalantly. As soon as I kept my rucksack (yes I carry a rucksack to work!) on my lap, I felt a hand move, trying to touch my back. Now living in a city like Delhi, you always feel that you are about to be groped, especially in a bus. I got a little wary though giving benefit of doubt to the men behind me. I mentally chided myself for imagining things as I continued to enjoy the scenery outside, lush green trees and a beautiful evening sky. Suddenly I felt a hand groping my back. Not a hand carelessly brushing past my back, a hand which purposely touched me. I turned back to address the culprit. One man was sitting with his hands folded and the other was asleep. I couldn't figure out who did that to me.

I turned towards my right now, almost facing the right aisle and in the corner of my eye I could see the movement of hands of both men. I was fuming from inside, feeling humiliated and treated like an object of someone's pleasure. Ten minutes later, the supposedly sleeping man did the same thing again.

Unable to control my fury, I got and up pulled his hair, so he could face me and slapped him. I told him to keep his hands to himself and after his protest that he was not doing anything wrong, I slapped him again. Everyone in the bus was looking at me, this was like a free ka tamasha for all and not a single person stood up to support me. Not that I expected anyone to.

After the fury subsided, I felt scared. What if he would have whipped out a knife or a pistol? What he comes tomorrow with four other men and tries to take 'revenge'? My pepper spray or karate moves will be of no help at all. Police inaction is well known too. It is this fear that mostly stops women from speaking out.

And even though incidents like this cannot break my spirit, as a woman living in this country I wonder how many will I feel violated and agonized? How many times will I retaliate and how many times will I fight? How many times will I keep quiet? Will I ever be able to use the public transport without feeling wary, without being on guard? Will I be able to walk on the streets without prying eyes looking at me? Will I ever be free?

P.S : I hope he learnt his lesson well and will never try to grope another woman ever. If he hasn't... there is no hope for this country.


Posted 22nd March 2007