Recent news reports of molestation of women are nothing short of horror stories that singe into our souls leaving us wonder just what barbaric age we live in. The incident in Guwahati, where a mob molested a woman in full view of the media, is deeply disturbing. A few days later, on a train to Mysore, a girl was pushed out of the moving train for threatening her abusers that she would report them to the cops.
In another news story tucked away in the inside pages of the newspaper, a college student from Hubli decided to stop going to college because she was fed up of her eve-teasers. They even beat up her brother and parents who came to her rescue. She now studies at home and goes to college only to write exams.
Just ask her and every woman in India will tell you of everyday stories that challenge her modesty. She has to keep fighting back to survive in this harsh male world, where public spaces are still perceived to be meant for men, and men only. I don’t have to think too hard to list the times when men made attempts to make me uncomfortable for being in a public place. In a shopping complex in Bangalore, I was done paying the phone bill and was heading to the stairs to get out of the building. In that narrow passageway, a teenage boy kept coming in my way, preventing me from going ahead. He tried to touch me. Then, suddenly he unzipped his pants. I screamed, and he ran away.
A few years ago, I was in Pushkar, Rajasthan, to report on the annual camel fair. The number of tourists was so high that the crowds had to navigate its way very slowly through the fair. A group of boys walking behind me started passing comments. I couldn’t even walk faster. They tugged at my shirt and a couple of boys even fell on me and said sorry, pretending that someone pushed them from behind. I couldn’t do a thing till I got to a curve on the pathway, where I could get off the crowd and wait till they had gone away. I was once walking out of a swanky mall in Bangalore. I don’t usually wear t-shirts with text on them. This time, I was wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon that read: “Who cares?” The tone of the cartoon was that of being disinterested but an eve-teaser pounced on the opportunity and came close to me and said: “I can care you”.
In Mumbai, although my daily commute gave me the much-needed time to unwind and catch up on reading, I have sort of regretted the few times that I missed the ladies compartment and boarded the general one. The men were like they owned the train and I an intruder. The rule to do away with dark glass for vehicles may or may not be helping the cops solve crime better. But it makes women who drive home late at night after work or socializing, most uncomfortable. It strips us of the little privacy that the glass gives. At traffic signals, for example, now passerby can peer into the car and know that a single woman is in it. There are many men who stare away like it’s their right to do so. In public places, they behave like vultures waiting to pounce. This has led to a lot of pent-up anger in women. When that explodes, then God help the men!