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.



Posted 22nd March 2007