I grew up in the big and crowded city of Madras. But, relatively speaking, I led a sheltered life with respect to this whole phenomenon of eve teasing due to the following reasons. I went to school by the school bus and stayed on campus in the hostel when I was in college. My home in Madras is near a train station and trains in Madras have a ladies compartment where the worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be yelled at by some lady with a heavy basket for moving too slowly! In spite of these facts, I have had five or six experiences involving “groping” of some form that happened when I rode the city buses in Madras. That should give you a feeling for how frequent an occurrence this must be! I am usually non confrontational (“Dhushtanai kandaal doora vilagu” philosophy) and even perhaps forgiving. I am narrating below the only one of these times when I lost my temper and actually hit back at the guy in question, literally.

This is a little less than a decade ago. But, it disgusted me enough that I still remember. It was summer, the month of May. I was waiting in the fifth main road bus stand in Nanganallur for the bus numbered 18C to go to Thousand Lights on Mount Road in order to go to the British Consulate library. Those who know Madras will realize that this is a 45 minute stint on the bus, made worse at the time as they were constructing the Pazhavanthangal subway and the buses were taking a round about route into the city, enough time for the drama narrated here to unfold. It is 8:45 in the morning on a week day. I am dressed in what I have come to think of as my Madras street clothes as I now wear them only when I am on the streets of Madras, which these days is very rare. Modest cotton Salwar Kameez that covers everything and a big cotton Dupatta on top for extra measure. 18C comes. It is already pretty crowded. I get in. We are on our way. Now, for those who don’t know, nobody gets off the bus on this route until Guindy about 40 minutes away from now. But people keep getting in.

Fifteen uneventful minutes pass by and the bus gets progressively packed. There is hardly enough room to breath, let alone move. The drama starts. I feel something on my butt. I move what little I can to avoid what I think of as accidental contact. Then I feel it again. This time, I recognize definite and deliberate rubbing. I try to turn around to see who it is. I am only able to turn my head and shoulders. Contact withdraws. I only find innocent looking commuters. Five minutes pass. Contact again, definite deliberate rubbing of what I have by now recognized as somebody’s boner. Eee…w! I try to squirm away. No room. I try to turn around and contact withdraws and I can’t recognize the culprit. This goes on for another ten minutes and I am getting madder and more disgusted with every passing second. The bus comes to a halt at the race course bus stop. Some commotion ensues with the conductor yelling at some guy for not getting off fast enough or something. In this distraction, I lean into a girl standing next to me and tell her to watch my back and tell me which guy leans into me when the bus gets going. We wait for the commotion to subside and be on our way again. I am half hoping that this whole thing is finished with and I can ride the rest of the way in peace, but at the same time hoping he does try it again so I can confront him.

We are on our way. Five minutes pass, and nothing. So I am beginning to think it is over when…again, rubbing, slow, deliberate. I stay still for a minute then turn towards the girl, my ally. She nods, yes I saw that. I lean into her. Checked shirt, dhothi, puny guy with a mustache is the description I get. We are at the Chinna Malai bus stop. People begin to get off. I turn around and there he was. Looking innocent and apparently minding his own business. Bus gets on its way. Five minutes. Then it turns into the Saidapet bus stop. I know a lady behind me wants to get off here. Under normal circumstances, I would have leaned into the seat near me and would have let her pass between me and the guy. These being extraordinary circumstances, I do the opposite. I move towards the guy to allow the lady to pass between me and the seat. Just as she gets behind me I pretend to loose balance, lurch towards the guy, use his shoulders for leverage and knee him in his groin precisely the way my Karate master taught me. My master would have been proud of me had he seen the guy go down. I hastily but vaguely apologize to the people around, not meeting anybody’s eyes and hurry behind the lady and get off the bus. Only then do I look in and see two people staring at me. The girl who was my accomplice and another guy who must have seen what actually happened. The girl’s eyes convey approval. I feel vindicated and rush off into the crowd to wait for another bus to complete the rest of my journey.

Posted 21st March 2007