I moved into a flat. It was a nice and spacious house. Logistically, convenient too. The market was only a few yards away. But the landlord lived a floor below my flat. Warning bells started to ring when I realised that he was aware of every movement I made. Every time that a delivery guy was ringing my door bell, he knew. I was being watched, uncomfortably.
Since college started, I have lived my life on my own terms. I was an adult and capable of handling situations, mistakes too. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be my parents keeping a check on me, but my landlord. He maintained a distance from me, never speaking to me directly. He was Bengali, and I was Punjabi, you see. He hated me. But I was paying rent and it was easy money for him.
Men were ‘allowed’ to visit me during the day, but if anyone stayed the night, he made my flatmate’s life hell. She was Bengali, and for him, it was easier, convenient even, to torture her. She would get phone calls at work, at parties and at all other times when he thought he wanted to talk about how I had ‘misbehaved’.
After three months in that flat, my flatmate asked me if we should move out. I readily agreed. On the day of our moving, as I waited in my new home for our furniture, he paid my flatmate a visit. She was in my room. He noticed my covers strewn over the bed and told her in Bengali that he thought it was cute I covered myself up while I slept. All of our friends interpreted it as his attraction to me.
It all made sense. He hated it when my boyfriend stayed the night with me. Even though I was careful enough to not arouse his suspicion, his spying made him know every detail about my life. He was always out when I was, looking at me walking. I always had the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched. No matter what I did. However, since I had moved out, I decided to put this all behind me. Until, one day, in casual conversation, my flatmate mentioned, that he said, “I will get the police to raid your flat at night. I don’t understand what that girl (being me) is up to.”
I couldn’t understand what he meant. Surely, it wasn’t what I was thinking. But my flatmate (being older and definitely wiser) proved my fears correct. He thought I was engaged in sex work. He had legitimised his statement to her, when he said, “There is no idea what men can do these days. Today she (me) may be dating this man (my boyfriend) but tomorrow, if they break up, he could simply assault her.” Needless to say, he thought me incapable of taking care of myself. He had taken it upon himself to ‘take care’ of me. We later got to know from other tenants that he was absolutely incapable of talking straight-faced to a woman.
We thought of every recourse that we could take. Neither of us wanted him to be able to torture another person who moved into the house. We decided to inform the police.
Indian society is one where everybody thinks they are entitled to control a woman’s actions. Everyone thinks of themselves to be the protectors of the ‘integrity’ of women. That day is a long way ahead when people realise that what others (especially women in today’s scenario) do with their lives is none of their business. If an individual needs help, they will ask. If they want something from you, they will tell you. Just because a woman has ‘too many’ male friends doesn’t mean that she’s a sex worker. It’s time you thought about bursting your social bubble.