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.

Posted 22nd March 2007 by J