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.

Posted 22nd March 2007 by J