Telling Tales

I could tell you a thousand tales. And round it up with an account of how the autowalla nudged his elbow into my breasts and stared at my chest as he took the money from my outstretched palm. Or that someone rammed into me last week on a crowded bus where there was a mishmash of sweaty legs, arms, thighs, breasts and backs. Aunties and children with drooping bags and office going men. It might have been a mistake, an involuntary slamming of the brakes maybe causing someone to grab me instead of the handle for support… but a hand snaking around my chest to feel me up, and not just one a tangle of hands – all going for the kill? How can someone – respectable, my father’s age… Maybe I should recount how we saw a man leering as he masturbated away on the metro.Or perhaps the most traumatic – middle bunk on the train to Rourkela and the man above flailing long arms to squeeze my breasts. That was no accident ..just my introduction to the big bad world . I was twelve.

I have had my moments of triumph though. Stamping on feet. Thank god for high heels. Nudging a safety pin against someone’s prying palms till they yelped. The people were nice; the conductor hauled the man off the bus. I was lucky. It helped that my sister was with me, that I knew I could get down from the bus and walk away. But far and few in between.

I often wonder about the song “Hungry eyes” from “Dancing” and how true it is in a different context. Have you ever been mentally undressed by someone, had them appraise your body? Have you had someone follow you home? And all the while on a deserted street you agonized over what if? Cant run , cant let them catch up. Rapid steps, bag clutched to chest as armour. And the smell of fear in the air. Everytime I go out.
Because you see I was inviting trouble by wearing something sleeveless, I asked for it. I am just an assimilation of breasts and a vagina and a butt. I am not thinking of the lewd comments and the silly songs – that’s just routine and I manage to laugh it off. I wish though I didn’t live in this constant state of watching my back every time I go out. As a friend once said – it’s enough to be a female to evoke such reactions.A male friend once got propositioned on a Mumbai local train . And developed a profound sympathy. And really how humiliating it is for men to be told that they have no control over themselves. Just because a girl is showing her bare arms.. There are exceptions of course - men who have supported me on buses, friends who have got into fist fights because I was harrassed,policemen who were kind.

I could tell you about clothes I haven’t worn because I was so ashamed that they had provoked the nudges and shoves. The guilt, the shame, the anger. The conspiracy of silence and the acceptance that this will happen, what can we do about it..chod do.
There are so many tales to tell. She (1 dec post)could tell you what it is like in Bangalore, so does she.My friend Sangeeta would have tales to tell I am sure if she visited.I don’t know any woman exempt from this forced sisterhood.
I hope something constructive comes out of this. Thank you for trying. Maybe something will come out of these myriad tales.

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