Is there any girl who lives who has not been harassed on the roads? I think not.Probably the first time ( which I am not ashamed to recount) I was harassed was when I was eleven years old. I can still recollect that day when an old man in a motorbike stopped me in the middle of the road, when I was walking back from school in the pretext of asking me for directions. No sooner had I given him directions ( not a word of which he heard), he told me," Don't you think you are too young to have breasts?" gesticulating towards mine. I was horrified.Before I could even scream out "Bastard" he had sped away. I remember going home that day, falling on my bed and crying all evening.I didn't have the courage to talk to anyone about it. For an entire week all I could think about was that horrid old man.You know what the worst part of being harassed when you are too young is ?
You are not indignant.
You are not outraged.
Instead, you feel ashamed.
Humiliated and ashamed of YOURSELF.
Like as if the sin was commited by the sinned not the sinner. It's like the attitude that some people carry towards rape. "She asked for it!".An oft heard remark.By the stupid narrow minded jerks in the world!
It was a couple of months later that my humiliation turned to outrage when a group of us girls gathered together and started speaking about it.The tales I heard were horrifying. We were all just eleven then and I guess the age where men know us to be vulnerable, innocent and unprotected. Too young for parents to worry about and too old to be protected by childish innocence.
One of my friends had been told to come to the back of a grocery shop to pick up what she had come for and when she went in, the grocer caught hold of her and started rubbing his hands up and down her chest.She had to bite him hard on his hand to escape and run away.I was onced offered a choclate by a shopkeeper if I came into his shop and saw the pictures he had.They were all pornographic and he did the same 'pinch on the chest trick'. Luckily there were four or five of us girls then.I wonder what would have happened if I had been alone? Another friend of mine had been stopped by a guy driving a car, again in the pretext of asking for directions. It was worse this time around.The guy had unzipped his pants and had semen coated on his hands and asked her " Do you know what this is? Shall I tell you what it is?".She cycled away as fast as she could from there.Another time when the same friend and me were skating in a skating rink at six in the morning alone, an old guy blocked our exit and removed his dhoti and started waving his penis at us.
Do you know what the one thing we all shared in common when we recounted these incidents was? We all of us blamed ourselves. Believed that the cardinal sin was comitted by us and not the perpetuator.Tell me one thing. Is it for this reason that children are targeted so much by these lechers? Because they know that we don't know how to react?
Pouring our hearts out was the best thing we ever did. I think we grew up overnight. Became wary and cynical.More watchful and distrustful of what every stranger said or did. Where previously we would smile winnningly at the stranger who patted our heads and butts, started to shie away and have that 'keep your distance' look in our eyes.Good. It atleast stopped us hurting.Kids do need to grow into adults.But incidents like this just help in hastening the transition.
The next year I joined Karate classes.Trained to defend myself.It helped that my Karate Sirs included kicks in the groin as a part of our lessons.They especially taught us girls how to defend ourselves and how to be watchful. It did help me.A couple of years later when a guy on a road reached out his hand to grab my breasts ( What is this obsession that guys have with breasts????? Is it that you don't have them??) ,I judged his intentions and knocked his hands off before he could succeed and walked away( I am yet to sum up the courage to walk THEM to the police station).Another time when my friend and I were going doubles on a very lonely stretch of road called Besant avenue, late in the evening, a guy in another cycle stopped us in the pretext of asking for directions. ( Is this the most successful approach till date??).When I pointed out the way he needed to go, he suddenly grabbed hold of my top. Before he could take two breaths I had punched him on his face ( I was still on the cycle) , opened my fingers and scored my nails down his face ( I bet it hurt like mad).My friend with equal presence of mind kicked his cycle and he toppled down. Before he got up we fled away. We didn't want to take the chances of him having any friends nearby. All this when we were fourteen.
These days a guy who flicks our hair and whistles saying," What is the reason for your beautiful hair?' , gets retorts of "Sabeena or Ujala". A guy who accidently pats you on the butt gets an equally accidental knock on his head by a wayward elbow or even better, an umbrella. The guys who look you up and down get look-ups and downs themselves. But that too is just by a select few girls. Most still cringe in fear.The girls who are yet to learn to defend themselves. And what about those incidents where you cannot defend yourself?Reminds of ( read my post 'A scary experience', when an auto driver asked me "Aren't you scared of going alone in the night?" during a late night trip. I replied "No. I know Karate". To which he says " What if there are six or seven men? Then what will you do,huh?". I was paralysed with fear then.
But really? What could even the braver ones do? Sit back, be raped and say "Thank you" ?
p.s. I hope the girls who read this post of mine gain the courage to be brave themselves and know they are not alone. I hope the guys who read this know to not just never harass but also spread the message and get the same attitude grilled into their friends.And I hope that everyone who reads it understands that even young children are susceptible to being harassed and get easily traumatised by it.So keep an eye on them for such signs of withdrawal and educate them when they are still very young about what they need to watch out for.
I would like to thank BlankNoise for the opportunity to represent myself in this blog-a-thon in a topic so close to my heart.
p.p.s I made the collage above as a true representation of what I felt.
Action Hero Deepti Ravi