When Ash first posted about it, I thought I'd participate in the Blank Noise Project blogathon. Six days later, there was a test to get familiar with, bugs to fix and close in the module I am working on, an SOP to finish. "There'll be other voices giving this better articulation than I can ever dream of. I can read if not write, right?" I reasoned with the twinge of regret early this morning.
My rickshaw ride to work this morning changed that. Posting this is quite bloody important to me now.
Eleven a.m and I asked a rickshaw driver if he'd go to Powai. He agreed and I started into the rickshaw. Casually he leaned back, with his elbow extending out abnormally, to put the meter down, ensuring that he would brush my breasts while doing so. Having had this happen before, I didn't get into the rickshaw but instead completely lost it. I asked him what he was trying to do.
"Nothing, Madam. I was only putting the meter down." Right. The pitch of my voice began to rise as I called him a liar and launched into a rant, and the security guards of my building came closer to see what the noise was. The rickshaw driver looked distinctly cornered and started muttering that I was misunderstanding him. I turned around, disgusted. And violated.
This is only one of many times. How many times has some man I've not had the courage to look in the eye pressed an erection against me in a crowd or a bus? How many times has some old pervert tried to stroke the side of my breast in the two or three inches between the window and the seat of a bus? Or "bumped" into me at a train station or crowded lifestyle store?
Or shall I recount the time I was eight years old, in grade three and getting out of my classroom? Some guy, whose face I can't even remember, stepped in my path and grabbed my vagina through my uniform. I stumbled, fell, and started crying. He was gone before anyone else could see him. A teacher passing by heard me, came to help and made sure I got home. I did not know then why I felt so terrified. But I do now.
Perhaps I could tell you about the time a female friend and I were going to her house for tuitions. We could not have been more than ten or eleven years old. This young man, not more than eighteen, came up to us and asked for directions, holding a piece of paper and his erect penis in his hand. Or perhaps the middle-aged men, sitting in cars with the windows rolled down outside school and masturbating?
Do you know - this is the first time I've ever spoken about these things publicly. My family, not even my brother, still does not know they've happened to me.
When do I stop letting people do this to me? When do I stop being a victim? Every claim I've made to independence, dignity, and other "noble ideals" is worth nothing if I don't live it. I've just realised that I am not as empancipated as I've told myself I am. Time to change that, I think. Time to turn around and slap the guy in the next rick who, at a red light, thinks he can make all the comments he wants, watching me smoke. This post is the first step forward.
I have, for a long time, thought that what this country needs more than anything else is a large-scale sense of social awareness. It is not enough for, or the sole responsibilty of, too few people to say and do something about the abuse and injustice against too many, especially women - of all castes, creeds, and social strata - in India.
All too easy to complain about the state of this country. When do you start making a difference? It doesn't have to be something very big. Something as simple as a post on your blog will do. You live here. Stand up and be counted.
I intend to be.
The Blank Noise Project Blogathon 2006