A dusty evening, crowded metro, earphones blaring with loud music – a normal going-back-home scenario for Delhites. And that’s where I had my first ‘uncomfortable event’ on Delhi Metro.
I caught the metro from Noida Sector 16, a ‘general’ coach (questionable, why not the women’s coach, will be explained later). The train being extremely crowded, I sought refuge next to a pole to lean on for my ride till Rajiv Chowk. A man, probably in his 50s, stared at me for a while. I chose to ignore. Stares are quite common (as women, we have normalised this kind of behaviour). That’s when I noticed he was scanning me head to toe. Every time I looked at him, he turned away, only to look back.
He visibly hung onto the overhead-rails, drooping to look into my phone. Real close. A whisk of his breath, uncomfortable glares and posture made me certain he was drunk. I shut the movie I was watching, to look at him and let him know I was aware. Although he appeared to look away, he still bent down to catch a view of the clothes I was wearing and yes, tried to look inside my clothes.
Just for those who might have already judged the clothes I was wearing, I wore a long shirt with long sleeves and collars and ankle-length yoga pants. Whew, safe there, because, if I were to wear short clothes, I invited the stare.
I couldn’t move an inch. I tried shifting positions around the pole. Nothing helped. I could still smell his foul breath.
I thought of getting off the metro, but the arrival time of the next metro made me reluctant. So I stayed.
Every time the metro stopped at a station, I prayed for someone to just stand between the man and me. I looked at every other person around me with helpless eyes, crying internally of course, for help. I just wished somebody noticed. I just hoped that this man got off at some station, soon. As the crowd cleared, I moved away from his sight.
As the metro stopped at Rajiv Chowk, I was glad I was getting rid of him. But, he got off there too. I took a different route, so that he lost track of me, just in case. I stopped and checked around for a while. I skipped a metro.
And then, I reached home safely. Yay!
To all those who read through, and thought, that’s just a daily thing, you gotta go through if you’re on public transport. I refuse to go through it.
If you say, he just stared, and that’s not a big deal. I refuse to be stared at by random drunk men who make my commute uncomfortable.
The very act of being disturbed by just a stare brought in a realisation of the fear that has been instilled in our gender.
I have heard stories of men who brush against women’s bodies. I have heard stories of men leaning on women. Metros are crowded, you know.
Yesterday, I experienced a trailer of what my commute to work is going to be like for the rest of my life. Yesterday, I got my own little story to tell. Yesterday, I heard my heart pounding with fear, and also trying to gather the courage to shout at him if he took a step ahead, to touch me.
I still wonder why I did not speak up. I still wonder why, the otherwise ‘strong’ me felt weak. I still blame myself, I could have reacted. I could have told him to stand away. I regret it.
While I advice friends to stay strong and voice discomfort, I failed. Horribly.
Now back to your doubt. Why didn’t I go in the women’s coach?
Well, the last point must have triggered many.
Argument No. 1: It’s better to be in a crowded coach of women than of 90% men.
Ans. Well, yes. But women’s coach is more crowded. I can’t breath. Nobody can in fact.
Argument No. 2: If I chose to ride a mixed coach, I must bear with the stares and brushes. In short, I must bear with the molestation.
Ans. Dear people, it is not just the metro. The women’s coach shall protect me during my commute. But what happens after I get off? What happens when I stand in line to get my token, to swipe my card to exit, when I’m in a bus, when I’m in a rickshaw, when I’m out there. In the real world.
Will the DMRC, or anybody who questions my decision to take the mixed coach to build women-only facilities for me and other women, around the world? How long can you protect us by isolating us?
The problem is the mentality, ladies and gentlemen.
I recently saw a YouTube video, where staring men were confronted. One of them says, “Girls deserve to be raped if she is wearing shorts clothes, or those clinging to the body. because she provokes them.” and the other one, objectified women, comparing her to the Taj Mahal, and that he shall stare till his heart pleases.
Watch the video by Slang here:
This video creeped me out. Just like yesterday’s event.
The post was first published on my blog.