I was returning from a pooja at a family friend's place and I was wearing saree for the first time and hence a very big day. It was two in the afternoon on a Saturday. The street that I was walking down was not crowded but not deserted either. I had walked down that street for years so I was not thinking anything but about the day. Suddenly an auto pulled up next to me, three men were inside apart from the driver, they tapped on my shoulder and I turned around assuming they were looking for some address. One of the men inside asked me "barteeya" as in "will you come?" It made no sense to me. What does he mean "will you come?" then he pulled out some money from his pocket and grinned. I was so ashamed, scared and shocked all at once. Somehow managed to shout at him and they sped off. My home was a good half kilometer form that place and I was shivering with fear and was doddering along and the auto reappears at the next curve and the guy tries to grab me inside. I use all my strength and try to slap the guy. He laughs and auto goes away. All the while the other two men in the auto are looking away and the auto driver is looking ahead as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. This happened in front of a shop where I went to buy groceries every single day since I was 6 or 7. Not one guy there budged even as I walked on with my hand bleeding (I had a cut when I my glass bangles broke trying to slap the guy).
The story doesn't end there. I go home and mom freaks at the site of me. Entire neighbourhood gathers around and my dad's called from office and I tell him lets go to the police station because I had noted the auto number plate. But that never happened because everyone convinces my parents that going to the police will spell doom on my future(!!!). Nobody would listen to me. Everyone talks how bad the city is getting and goes back home.
I came down with fever didn't dare to go out for the next week and jumped every time an auto slowed down near me for a long time after that. I also convinced myself that I had somehow managed to look inviting that day and brought it on myself. I dreaded wearing sarees for a very long time after that and thought ten times before I wore anything else.
Then may be about two years later when the incident didn't hurt as much to think about I realised that it was not my fault, I didn't ask for it. It was a big moment and since then I have not taken such things lying down. I carry a paper knife / screwdriver with me all the time and haven't hesitated to pull it out when just shouting hasn't helped. And at times just Bisleri water bottles have come in handy.
I have even stepped into police stations and lodged complaints without male company. (It's a different matter that nothing has come off it)
It was a big lesson learnt that people don't have the time to help other people and it is up to you to take care of yourself!
Posted 9th March 2007