By Supriya Sharma:
As I write this, I am neither proud nor happy, I am just disappointed. Disappointed in me, disappointed with the people around me! Delhi has taught me a lot of things ever since I moved here about an year back. It almost turned me into a hard-core feminist. I was told, this is Delhi, get used to the stares and the stalking. It outraged me, often to an extent that I felt like hitting people who would stare at me. I might have been told not to react and to ignore the comments, but not reacting angers me and leaves me frustrated from within.
It has been two months since I shifted in a new apartment that I share with my friend. It was often that we were being watched by a few desperate Romeos in the opposite apartment when we came out in the balcony. We both shared a good laugh about how frustrated guys in Rajinder Nagar are, and how they do not have a life. We never bothered and often conveniently ignored when these three guys in the opposite apartment stared at us or giggled when we came out. Perhaps, that’s where we go wrong!
It happened time and again, the giggling, the singing songs, standing in the balcony and staring. But then, we have been conditioned to be so tolerant that we think that as long as they aren’t directly harming us in any way, why should we react?
One day the power went off and it was way past midnight that my flat-mate heard a sound, of something hitting the door. She was too scared to open the door as it was dark outside, the next day when I got up I saw a tennis ball. We sort of guessed who would have thrown it, but again, giving those guys a benefit of doubt we did not act, as we did not have any solid evidence. Our inaction may have further boosted their confidence. That’s what I realized, when last night again when I came from my balcony and locked the door from inside, I heard something hit the door. I came outside to see what it was, it was a paper-roll and the guys who threw it hid as they saw me come out. After some time, it happened again, another paper roll was thrown, it was at 3 AM this time. These guys were no kids, they were students in their mid 20s.
I was agitated, but my flat-mate and her sister were both fast asleep, so I could not do anything about it then. As soon as I woke up this morning, I told them what had happened and how it is important for us to act upon it. They seemed reluctant and asked me to ignore what had happened. I was still annoyed and rushed to class. I shared this incident with a friend who tried taking a mid-way out of it and asked me to go via the landlord and complain or confront them. Again, I was not convinced because confronting them would give them another opportunity to talk and giggle. I tried asking for opinion from another friend who visited us this afternoon. A very pessimistic view again, he told me there is not much that could be done here and this is how boys are. Again, I told him, I just had to file a complaint because I could not take it anymore.
After talking to 5 odd people about this, all I heard was I would be over-stepping if I call the police, will put myself into trouble and I should let it go. It was late at night after dinner, I told this to a friend I met who was disturbed by this very incident and encouraged me to take the right action, calling the police that is. Influenced by the pessimistic opinions which were thrown at me all day, I tried telling him how calling police might not be a good idea since I have dealt with police before and a lot goes into lodging a formal complaint. I also tried arguing that these guys could probably be kids of some government officials since they were non-serious civils aspirants and could easily buy the police. But then, as I heard myself talk all of that, I felt ashamed of myself. Because it showed how little I trust the system. I felt ashamed of the fact that I let other people’s trivial opinion and cowardice influence me. I immediately got back home, and as I went out to dial 100 (again from my balcony this time), those three guys immediately popped out of their rooms. But then, it was the last time they could do that.
My faith in Delhi police was reassured (to an extent, as there are many angles to this story too), the patrolling police reported within 20 minutes of my call. They heard me out and immediately went to those guys’s apartment and arrested them. The Rajinder Nagar ASI followed in another 10 minutes and registered a complaint. The police made us feel secure and assured us that we would be safe. (Yes! We need assurance that we would be safe in our own homes!)
I had a word with the police as to what action would be taken, and he gave me his number saying I could call him anytime/anyday if I was suspicious about anyone. And that I need not worry, the guilty would not escape easily.
I wanted to thank my friend, who was the only one who believed in the system and supported me when I decided to call the police. As I spoke to him on phone, while I was in my balcony, I felt at home. I felt secure, in my own balcony. I realized how I had forgotten that it was my right to use my house-space the way I want to, and how easily we take abuse for granted in this country and fail to stand up for ourselves, for the right that is our very own!