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.
Posted 22nd March 2007