At work today, every free moment I got, I spent reading the blogs participating in the Blank Noise blogathon. By the end of the day, I was physically sick. I had a pounding headache. I was nauseous and all I wanted to do, was to come home and puke my guts out. I could identify with most of what these bloggers had gone through and there’s nothing, I can say that has not been said before. I guess, I am still posting my blog to stand in solidarity with these people who spoke up. I am hoping that any one reading these posts, feels, the angst of those who have spoken up and the helplessness of those that continue to suffer in silence. I also hope that we can take steps towards a better tomorrow and a safer environment.
You can take a gal out of Delhi, but you can never take Delhi out of her. Delhi stays with her, in her mind, in her heart and in her psyche.
She remembers Jan path and the black oxidized jewelry. She remembers Aga Khan Hall and the silver filigree ear studs she had picked up. She remembers Dilli Haat and the momos she consumed there with so much relish, with her friends. How does she forget the lucknavi dupatta she picked up at Dilli haat at bargain price. That dupatta that still surrounds her with the warm memories of a cold night spent at Parthasarthy Rock, waiting for the sun to come up.
She also remembers the hand that grabbed her chest when she was barely 12. She hadn’t realized by then, that, she had breasts and those could be grabbed and pinched and stuff like that happens with an alarming regularity. Quite an eye opener for a young gal. She was suddenly in a strange new world. A world, where, uncles weren’t nice anymore. Where she never knew what would rub against her when and where. Older bhaiyyas couldn’t be trusted anymore. She could no longer walk anywhere and anytime. From passes made by rickshwallahs to weird noises, from groping and fingering to lewd gestures. All part and parcel of daily life in Delhi. Yes, one learns to dress to cover up, to walk without looking like an invitation (what is that supposed to mean anyways). Yet, in spite of how one dresses or how one acts, one cannot escape. The filth is not on a female body; it’s in the mind. If you are a female, you are a maal. And there will be comments. “Dekh, aisa lag raha hai, jaise nangi chali aa rahi hai.” (Look, it seems like she is walking naked) This comment loud enough to be heard, on an outfit that consisted of a salwar suit in peach, with the kurta buttoned to the neck, a sweator in almond color and a peach shawl wrapped on top of all this. In other words, dressed for a women’s convention in Saudi Arabia and yet a piece of naked flesh to those psychos on the road. Did she react? No. Although, if looks could kill, most of the Delhi men would be dead. Did she care? Yes. Because she still remembers after 7-8 yrs as she sits and types this out.
Take this Delhi gal out of Delhi,and, put her in streets of New York City. She still dresses conservatively. The scowl she picked up on Delhi streets is still in place and remains there. She does not know the people yet. She walks alone but does not smile. It takes a tall African American guy walking towards her to lean in and say, “smile for me, will ya?” In spite of herself, she smiles and has been smiling. This gal has walked alone in the night in Manhattan for 22 blocks before her friend could come and pick her up. She was not teased once. Yes, a gentleman offered her his cell phone to use. She did not fear being touched or cat called at that night. Yes, she feared being mugged.
Lets follow this Delhi Gal to Tokyo. You can see her on the roads, with her tiny earplugs. You can see her; She might see you, or she might not. She is lost in her own world, in her music and her thoughts. She is smiling to herself and humming some tune, occasionally breaking out in a song at full volume. So, If you ever hear piya teri bawari se raha jaye na on a Tokyo road, Smile at this Delhi gal. She is happy. She is safe. She no longer frowns and no longer carries sharpened pencils in her pockets. She is not in Delhi anymore. Of course, she still dresses conservatively. You can’t really take Delhi out of her.
I’ve mainly written about Delhi, as that's where I attended undergrad and masters and commuted and therefore suffered the most eve teasing. There have been incidents earlier and that brings one to the issue of sex Ed and protecting kids who are just too young to understand what’s happening to them. The very first incident I can think of happened when we were at Doha and I was around 11-12. This UNCLE who visited often enough did this funny thing every time he could get me alone. Then it felt funny, but still by the second time, it had become clear to me that something was not right and I simply should not be alone with him. Only much later did I realize that he was trying to feel me up.
And then the breast-grabbing incident in Delhi happened. At that time it was a one off thing, as I did not commute much.
Zoom forward to a few years later. We were at Abu Dhabi then. Mom, an aunt and I were in the souk. Mom and aunt were busy looking at something and I was just looking around when I caught site of this tall Arab guy. He had raised his gown and he had his member in his hand. That gave me nightmares for years to come.
And then we were back in Delhi. College came with its paraphernalia of commuting and guys high on hormones and not enough sense. Though, why just blame the hormone guys, it felt like every one was doing it. Every day was a different nightmare on the same theme.
That's why the contrast with New York and Tokyo. These places aren’t without their harrasment problems. But it isn’t as rampant as in Delhi. I am sure, things happen here too. Just that I have not experienced anything unsavory, except for one Japanese gentleman taking me for something else and asking if he could have a good time with me. He ambled away once I replied in the negative. This, despite the Tokyo subway, having the reputation of being the grope capital.
Makes me wonder about the cultural differences between different places and what one can do to make a positive difference.
Action Hero Bilbo