We all remember this particularly funny scene from Jab We Met. The main lead, a big mouth, tells random people about how her parents always insist on her travelling in A.C. class in trains cause of her gender, and how that logic never made sense to her. Hence the dialogue, “Ab A.C. se ladki ka kya connection?” Connection hai bhaisaab!Â there is a connection. At least it was for me, a naive little free spirit, when after a particular incident all connections, thought processes, sense of security went out of the window of a speeding train.
I clearly remember that night. Heck, fresh wounds take time to heal. I was travelling alone in a 2nd A.C. class, heading towards home, for my holidays had just begun. The two berths above me were occupied by snoring men. Everything seemed normal, old people gossiping (and complaining) about random things like the weather and the government. I was totally immersed in my laptop. Young people, you see, the same everywhere. As the night dawned on us everyone dispersed, having exhausted themselves from talking so much. The seat by my side, no.9 was occupied temporarily by a bearded man, whose clothes were similar to sadhu and saints. Falling asleep in a train is near impossible for me, with all the moving and shaking, but being bored I had no option.
In the middle of the night, I started getting this weird feeling that something was creeping into my blanket, creating a light wave, trying to touch my neck. I looked sideways. A hand was swiftly pulled back by someone lying on seat no.9. Being a bit sleepy, I thought I was hallucinating. Also, someone’s hands couldn’t be that long, could it? I kept my eyes open for a minute, nothing happened. It was a fly, I decided. Still, closing my eyes I pretended to sleep. Within a minute (!) that weird sensation was back. My eyes flew open. The hand retired into the blanket. What the fuck. Hastily I opened the lights, and stared at the seat for 5 seconds. I half expected him to suddenly jump at me. No motion.
I ran to my left, trying to find someone. There is always someone awake in the alleys near the toilets, doing some work or puffing a cigarette. If I could find someone really fast, we could nab that bastard before he could escape. No one. On the right side I found a guy sleeping near the toilets. Please wake up before he runs away, I prayed.
As I spoke my twisted sentences, we ran to my berth. But alas, he was gone. We checked the toilets, quickly called the T.T., woke some people up. There was no trace. I hadn’t seen him as he was covered head to toe in blankets. All of my stuff was intact. The T.T. checked his papers and found that the occupier, a Mr. Gupta hadn’t boarded the train. The sadhu baba wasn’t the culprit either. We had seen him getting off the train. It was someone from this very coach, who had noticed my being alone, who came on the berth solely for perverted purposes. A loser, who had no identity and no morals either.
When misfortune strikes, people have their own ways of helping you deal with it. Some empathise with you. Some genuinely help you. Some abuse the one causing trouble. And the rest keep giving you advices on how you should have handled it in a different way than you did.
But all that they said sounded pure “what ifs” to me. Yes aunty you are right, I should have screamed and woken you people up. But in a moment of panic, hearing you all snoring, I momentarily lost my speech. Yes I should have pulled the blankets and given him a slap. But I feared he would drug me into silence. I feared things much worse. Having no weapon and fighting skills, I did what I thought best. Run. Find someone already awake. It’s a different thing my logic saved me but couldn’t catch him. I know they meant well. But a shaken up soul needs healing, not dealing. I was too lost to comprehend what they were saying. The whole night, what was left of it anyway, I couldn’t sleep. Any slight movement, even the whooshing of curtains would wake me up. I knew that it wouldn’t happen again this night, but some part of me permanently refused to believe it.
Who would have expected such things to happen in an A.C. coach? Don’t we all say to our daughters, “nahi beta, sleeper mei nahi. Agar A.C. seat nahi mili toh tum ni ja rhi ho. Bas!”? I have travelled in sleepers, 3A.C., chair cars, even local trains in U.P. and never in my life has anything Â happened. People with class, who have enough means to travel in an A.C. coach, one wouldn’t think they would resort to such lowly stuff, would they? Forget the A.C. – non A.C. debate, why do people have to even do this to women? Life shocks you out of your camaraderie right when you least expect it.
In today’s world, there is no place safe for women. International companies, malls, roads, colleges, public places (yes, CROWDED public places) everywhere women have to face harassment, eve teasing or indecent touching. Call up any woman, and you will hear at least one such incident from her. Such things do nothing but scar our minds and induce fear. It seems that people have lost a sense of respect of a woman’s privacy, and feel a compelling need to pervade it. Stricter actions need to be taken. Society needs to be educated on how to treat the other half of their population. Things need to happen, NOW.
I am sharing this incident (I refrain to call it an ‘experience’) cause I was overconfident. I was foolish enough to think that not travelling alone and looking out for signals would be enough. That such stuff happens to other women, not me. I thought I was smart enough to save myself. What I didn’t realise was that even a smart mind needs preparation.
I am not advising you to stay closed in your homes, scared. Please, that’s not a way to live your life. And neither am I writing this to make people aware of mistreatment. That’s what you already know. I write this to urge you women out there, to take measures. To always be prepared. I insist (yes I literally am hell bent on insisting) that you NEVER EVER leave your homes without some sort of weapon, like a pepper spray or a sharp object. To take self defence classes. To smart-up your mind with all sort of stuff on how to protect yourselves. The society (especially the ‘educated’ idiots) says, “Women are not physically strong (read weak)”. But remember ladies, nothing beats a sharp mind, and a high heeled kick in the balls.