Papa called her bahadur beta. Mummy called her sher.
But when she stepped out, where did her Mummy's sher beta run off to? For she no longer felt like she was brave.
How could she? They never let her- no, not since she had started to grow up.
Intelligent,sensitive,shy,- read her report cards. But when she walked past them she felt like the figures in her Biology textbook.
She felt she was the girl in those pictures. Naked. Exposed. Her privates labelled out with large arrows so no one would miss them.
Nothing else was brought into focus. No one labelled her smile as sweet. Or her eyes as twinkles in the amavas night. Or how her broad forehead certainly betrayed her quiet intelligence. They didn't want to know what she liked. Who she was. They didn't even want to know her name.
She was nameless, just a pair of breasts and ass and that was enough for them.Clearly labelled for all to see. By Them.
Like the girl in those pictures. Ch-13- Reproductive System.
She showered each day, twice, like good Brahmin children. She still felt filthy.
Their roving eyes cast black over body. No not like soot, which came off with a slight wipe off a wet finger. Like artificial colours of Holi, unnatural, impure- clinging to the skin , that a few hard scrubs couldn't take off.
Neither could Lux nor Dove. Nor Nirma nor Surf.
Industrial detergents only burnt that offensive skin. But it would grow back, fresh for countless coats of humiliation brushed on with fervour by those who unclothed her daily.
Their glances suffocated her in a sea of black ink- like the voter's dot on the index finger, hard to see and hard to clean.
Surely Eve must have lived even if Mummy had said no. She thought she must have, for she was Eve every day. Impure, unclean.Damned until her flesh withered away.
So she removed herself from that body. The body that brings in so much pain, humiliation and shame. The body that was brushed by 'accidently'. That was felt on crowded buses. That was smacked in throngs of people in the bazaar.
"No this body can't be mine", she thought, "Which is unclothed by their eyes everytime I pass by. Unclothed against my will. Unclothed when I thought these layers, metres of cloth, without form or attraction, could hide this body of mine. This body that becomes part of public, to be seen, felt, used to suit whosoever wishes to. Will this body ever be only mine?"
She was Papa's bahadur beta and Mumma's sher.
But if she was brave, then why did she die everytime they saw her?
But if she was a sher, why did she feel hunted,why was she the prey?
Men are individuals with free will. Excercise it- control your actions.
A woman's body is hers and only hers alone- not one to be treated as part of public property.
Street harassment is a crime.
Update: While I avoided writing a personal account /testimony of street harassment, for those memories come with their share of pain, humiliation and helplessness, Annie didn't and I think those who questioned the 'purpose' of this blog-a-thon might want to read it.
If nothing else you'd see how women are made to depend on men, why we cannot be alone, why we need separate lines and compartments. And if nothing else, you can remind yourself to not brush away our pain, our humiliation. To not brush us off as weak.
Lastly, I'd like to add, this isn't restricted to India. I experienced it first-hand in the Middle East.
Afterall, geography doesn't limit a man's ability to be an asshole.
Action Hero Deepali