Tuesday, March 07, 2006

To be Counted

I wasn't sure if I'd make this post.

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.


Ash said...

Very well said.

When I wrote my post, and thought back over all the many little, and not so little, humiliating incidents, I felt a little bit ashamed. Not ashamed of the incidents, since I know I am not to blame. But ashamed that I didn't do something. Didn't shout, didn't hit.

I'd like to think I was young and scared, and that if I was back in India, and facing such things again, I'd react. But I don't know how true that is. And that's what worries me.

But yeah, this is fenitely a worth initiative. Reading what so many women have written has been disturbing, but atleast we're talkin, sharing, bringing it out in the open...

Anonymous said...

dear one, thank you for sharing. it cannot have been easy. how many petty humiliations that i have lived through, and still cannot find a voice to articulate them? to cry out my outrage and pain? the time is not yet here when i can, but every raised voice helps to strip the curtain away from ths conspiracy of silence. you have helped me become a little bit stronger, feel a little less guilty. thank you, more than i can say.

Parth said...

I think it was brave of you to write up what you did. The repressed Indian male works on the assumption that it is the feeling of 'shame' that will prohibit any woman from raising her voice. It takes a few brave actions from a few brave women to turn that around. It is like our society is caught in a time warp. Till the hoi polloi supports a protest rather than looking at the protester as a 'guilty' party, things will continue the way they are. For standing by your principles in what must be difficult circumstances, hats off to you.

Casablanca said...

Glad to see people supporting this cause. Though I'm not in India now, and even while I was there, my horror stories have been few and far between, I know a lot of women suffer, and 'accept' it. I posted on it too, and I think even though this Blogathon is a small step, we need to start somewhere.

RTD2 said...

Hey, this was really well written. I am so glad you raised hell with the rickshaw-wallah. Next time he'll think about other ways to turn the meter. I know I have been a coward lots of times in such situations as well, and hats off to you for not being one!

Stormy Zephyr said...

I would like to apologise for the behaviour of such debased men.

SaidBack said...
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SaidBack said...
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educatedunemployed said...

I salute your courage to come out in the open and talk about it.It is indeed the first step.I think we need to realise that this is not accpetable and that we should do some thing about this.
I cannot say,I am untouched by eve-teasing,but my storries don't compare to anything to the worse that I have read and heard.I am sorry you had to go through what you did.And I am proud of the fact, that some one amongst us has the guts to stand up for themselves.

./w said...

Yes, be the revolution you seek.


Prat said...

Thankyou for talking about it.
I just realised through all the blogs that have participated in Blank noise that the scenario remains the same....its only the face of the woman that has changed...sad, but true.

Extempore said...

@Everyone: That's exactly why I took this up. That I can now do something about this, even if it is a post. By our silence, we are accomplices in the abuse and that has got to stop.

What makes it worse is that most people see me as this strong, opinionated (in a nice way!) woman who never hesitates to speak her mind. I felt a hundred times the hypocrite for keeping silent on so critical an issue.

When I thought about so many years of silence, it nearly made me sick. And you know, I am so glad that I wrote this. It's made the apathy about a lot of things inch away - slowly. This is my way forward, I believe.

My thanks, my dears, for your support and making me feel so much stronger. My thanks also to Ash for posting it about to begin with. :-)

KLN Prasanna said...

Carstrate the bastards...no seriously i mean it. No woman has to be treated in such a way. It is completely against human dignity. I am male, and I am so disgusted and shamed at what you underwent that I cannot even begin to form an apology.

Hysteria said...

u know it takes a lot of guts for one (ok... girls) to come out of the closet and talk about these things.

One that is done I think we are just a step away from wiping off the dregs from society!!