Something horrible happened today. I don’t know if you are going to judge me after reading this or are going to derive pleasure out of my traumatic experience but I don’t care. I will share this anyway. It was a fine day and I returned home from college in the afternoon. The exam sucked as usual and I spent the rest of the afternoon sprawled on the bed. As a daily ritual, I accompanied my roomie to have juice at 6 p.m. (evening still, not night let me remind you) and then went on to meet a friend from our locality. Her home is in front of a park and it’s one of Delhi’s “safe” colonies. We sat at our friend’s place for about ten minutes and then took leave. While we were coming back home, laughing and talking, a man sped up on his bike from behind, reduced the speed the speed of his bike suddenly, groped my breast and before I could react, sped away again.
I shouted so hard that people on the road turned to look at us. The felon had by now driven away in full speed. I was in shock, I just couldn’t understand what happened to me in this minuscule span of time. For those who say clothes are to blame, let me point out that I was wearing a t-shirt and full-length pyjama. Clearly it’s not about clothes. I’ve so often advocated women’s empowerment but today I experienced the trauma myself. I couldn’t stop him, I shouted but he was gone before anyone could get to him. I couldn’t run and grab him from behind as he was on a bike. He was free after affecting my emotional balance to such an extent. How can someone touch me without my permission? How come people even think of doing something so immature, insensible and unethical? What if he would have come in a car instead of bike and taken me along? Could anyone have done anything in that case? Probably not.
The feeling of being unsafe struck me hard and straight on my face. I realised this was no place to breathe freely. I realised how heightened the emotions of a rape victim must be, how helpless they would feel when they aren’t able to fight back as I found myself in only a partially similar sport. The fact that he touched me didn’t affect me as much as the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it. I can’t tell my parents because they’ll call me back home if I do (but my hometown isn’t safe either!). This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Back in my hometown, I had experienced something similar during Ganpati Visarjan when I was in class 9. I felt as helpless then as I did now. I couldn’t shout that time because I was too young to realise what had happened, but this time, I did, and still nothing had really changed. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout because no one is bothered about you. It doesn’t matter if you are in Delhi or a small Indian town, disgusting men will be disgusting, irrespective of location, time, clothes, circumstances, etc. What pleasure do such people derive from touching someone without their choice and by violating someone’s personal space? And I wonder why we never come across cases where a woman ran after grabbing a man’s penis!
I felt so helpless that I couldn’t tell my parents about any of this because they’ll be worried about me more than anything else after hearing this. For them, all that would matter is that their daughter isn’t safe in the capital city, despite being only 300 kms from them. I don’t want my young siblings to be afraid of studying in an outstation location. I don’t want anyone to cage them because of what I experienced. One call at home and my mom and dad will be worried about my safety so much that they will not let me go anywhere on my own. Dad will want to make me pack my bags telling me that no daughter should be sent outstation, especially to Delhi to study. Mother would ask me not to tell anyone something like this happened to me because there are people who enjoy listening to such ‘stories’ of molestation.
So I couldn’t call home when all I wanted was to hear them say ‘It is not your fault, you don’t have to feel embarrassed about it’. When I returned to my room, I cried a lot and the girls gathered around me. My roomie told them what happened but they wanted to hear it from me so I told them, and I was shocked to see how people kept coming back, again and again, asking questions that made no sense. For instance, a girl who already knew the entire episode came to me and asked (again) “So how did it all happen, where did he touch you? Did he just touch you or grope you? On the left side or the right?” Another one told me I am too well endowed and that’s why something like that happened to me.
So I am a female and that’s my fault! What are these people thinking in their heads? It’s not just about men; it’s about the whole mentality of disrespecting women; first by touching and then by mocking. I shifted from a small town to a metro city just to come out of the cocoon of narrow thinking and live a good life, now should I build a city just for women to be safe and free there? Or learn self-defence to such extent that I can stop a moving bike? Or carry a revolver every time I go out? (I am sure if all the girls started carrying one, there might be thousands of deaths daily) Or should I walk with a knife or pepper spray in my colony at evening? Or every time I step out? Or should I stop going out altogether? Tell me what to do for God’s sake, please do. I want answers and I want them soon.