Lessons learnt on 29C

dedicated to the blank noise (the more i roll that name around in my head the more i like it!).

the harassment of women is our sexist culture is an old problem thats sadly still in existence. in india, its all the more open and violent with so many of us packed tightly together. all of us women are given The Talk after the first time we are groped : "no, i know you didn't do anything, that's how some men are. forget it. and from now on, hug your file to your chest to shield it, and dont make eye contact with any man on the road".

i for one, hate being helpless, so im simply focussing on what we women can do for ourselves - basic self defence to use against harassment.

(NB: please understand that im not advocating general violence and a free-for-all. you will have to use your discretion and make situational judgements about what you're comfortable doing.)

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29c was my daily bus ride in college days. its one of those ultra crowded routes (like 1) which really brings out the flavour of the term "over populated"! after getting pinched, squeezed, felt up, having my kurta ripped (that was a new one - didnt know theyd get that violent), i figured it was time to do some serious thinking.

id learnt martial arts in school for 8 years, and so i figured that i was pretty safe on the bus - that i could protect my person if needed. i got a rude shock when i realised that fighting in a bus was something i was totally unprepared for - for one thing, nice civilised tournament rules are crippling in street fighting, and for another (especially in buses), youre talking a serious lack of space. all those graceful sweeping chops and soaring kicks are out of the question when youre more or less on tiptoe because the place is so packed.

so my sister and i sat down and chatted one day about these bus encounters (ah. female bonding...!) and these are the things we thought of. im extremely pleased with this bunch of ideas because

a). it doesnt matter how strong your opponent is

b). it works in those cramped buses

c). you neednt be a weight lifter to pull this stuff ofF.
so here's presenting:

lessons learnt on 29c
1. if you dont like violence, swearing is good. the more fluent and artistic (/ anatomical) it is, the more attention it gets. yell. stop the bus. ask the conductor to make the guy get off the bus.

being made to get off a bus between two bus stops is bloody irritating, that too during the morning rush to work/college. so for sheer pestilence value if nothing else, i think this would dampen these guys interest in harassing women as a way to pass time.

also, even in an actual fight, if youre close to your opponent, coming right up to the face and screaming at the top of your lungs momentarily stuns and (understandably) unnerves the person. feel free to then kick opponent, one numbers, duly stunned.

2. use those heels. several of us kill ourselves tottering around in heels, lets give those wretched things at least a moments justification for existence. bend knee, lift foot and place very, very hard on his foot. the nice thing about this one is that you neednt even bother wriggling and turning around to face the slime. (if you like subtleties, dont let that smile of pleasure cross your face: be as wooden faced as these sods generally are.)

3. alright, so youre unfashionably sensible, or a 6 footer - no heels. use the elbow. clench your fist (i find it helps call up more power quickly) and drive your elbow backwards into the guys ribs, stomach, groin, throat, wherever. it will seldom hurt your elbow, and quite often will leave the other person winded and in some pain, though not serious. again, you dont need to be able to turn around for this one.

4. bite. i can understand this option being distasteful to many because come on, who wants to touch a guy like that, let alone put some of him in your mouth?! but if you can bring yourself to do it.... bite chunks out of offending hand.

5. do carry a safety pin - or better yet, that pronged thing that tailors use to remove stitches. its horrendously sharp. jab, puncture, poke. a pen, a sharp pencil and other simple objects can also be really handy.

we hear a lot of tripe about the weak soft female body and the Invulnerable Strong Male body: now the following ideas are more militant –

6. the adams apple is so beautifully framed in the throat. make use of it. punch, rather than jab. jabbing looks more classy, but is actually trickier business. when punching, if youre aiming for a more widespread impact, make contact with the flat, finger part of your fist. if its the more localised, more painful effect: use the knuckles. beware though, if you really ram the throat, you could get the wind pipe.

7. it doesnt matter what sort of a beefcake the guy is, the pinky is very easy to break. hes putting his hand well within your reach when hes feeling you up - take hand, keep bending the little finger back - it will snap. this is bloody painful and should quench his thirst for further encounters with women. it will also bruise the brutes ego : imagine having come off so badly in an encounter with a Mere Female. sheesh, the ignominy!

8. poke the eyes - easy to do and it hurts like hell.

9. if you have the space to move enough for a punch, punch the nose. it breaks quite easily, and even if youve not broken it, you can cause blinding pain without doing a serious injury. and you dont need phenomenal arm power to be able to do this.

10. this needs space, but it definitely features on my list: a solid sweeping kick between the legs. note: sweeping kick - dont bend your knee, cos if you do, you need to get much closer, plus it needs better aim - something that may be difficult given our potholes. depending on the power used, a kick like this could leave him doubled up clutching his crotch, unconscious, or sometimes - it does happen - dead from shock of acute pain. so you want to be really careful with the use of this one.

now. that sounds like a very happy list i know, but theres also more stuff to consider...

1. are you a person capable of violence? i wouldnt bank in blind faith on being able to kick, punch or fight dirty. the sad truth is that most of us women arent (we're too strongly conditioned to be "nice"). so if you just arbit assume you can do these things and then find at the critical moment that you cant, it will let you down big time. please consider very carefully how violent you are, how much you can bring yourself to do, if you can handle the consequences of violence.

2. please consider the unpleasant but very possible situation of there being a gang of men. you may be able to topple one guy. do you have the fighting skill to take on many? in such a scenario, many times if its not a really big issue, it may be better to stay non-physical but use the legal option, or verbal option, or vocal optional (ie, scream like hell)

3. i do not recommend weapons. anything that is capable of being used as a weapon (except your own body), can be grabbed from you and used against you. i know some people carry penknives and jazz, but i really dont think its a good idea at all. guys on the street are seldom armed, so why introduce a dangerous, potentially lethal element?

4. when you do these things, and especially act in control, the other men around who were simply shooting you knowing, lewd looks when they saw what was happening, will get hostile and try to intimidate you. they will start yelling and telling you how you had no right to do whatever it was that you did.

stay cool. most men find it extremely unnerving to be confronted with a woman who can keep her voice low and stare into their eyes returning look for look. this i will swear by. explain calmly that the moment they stood by watching what was happening to you without raising a finger to help, they lost the right to interfere. now they can just take a hike (and no, you neednt be that polite about it either! :D)

so there it is - self defence for the streets. i hope that helped :)

blog-a-thon 2006

ps: thank you j. , for being an encouragingly bloodthirsty sounding board and reminding me of the stuff i had left out! :))

Action Hero M.