Whenever I feel the need to blog here, I have to find that perfect moment when I am angry but not absolutely overwhelmed by anger. But today, as we approach our Independence Day in a few hours, I am f***ing angry, just knowing how unbelievably false this day is. The one day when we paint our profile pictures with tricolours and finally come around to respect our country and celebrate it. This year, maybe we should all go out and find the first house party and beat everyone up. We should find a young girl on the road, strip her naked and try to grab every inch of her skin; for I am led to believe, that is what Indian culture is.
This year alone, I have had three experiences that have shattered my faith in the fact that I am safe on the roads of this country. Let me begin by the most common one. I was at a restaurant with some friends at about 12:30 am, buying dinner after attending a concert. As I walked towards the food counter, a middle-aged man in a lungi grabbed my crotch as he went past me. I turned around and yelled “Bastard!” and continued towards my friends. It then struck me that that wasn’t punishment enough and that this man would probably go grab some other woman again. So I went on to find him.
When I found him, I asked him “Why did you touch me?” His friend began to defend him as the man in the lungi stood sheepishly behind. I continued to explain that he had no right to touch me and demanded an apology if nothing more. At this point, two of my male friends had joined me and a crowd had gathered. My friends began to shout at them and I explained that I would like to deal with it by myself. Following the apology I received, as I walked away, another man in the crowd exclaimed, “Abey! She just wanted to make a scene!” So, I turned around and asked him if he would have made a scene had I been his sister. At this point, the man happened to push one of my male friends and the next thing I know they are about to get into a fist fight and I am being escorted to safety by a security guard. The man had a knife. While, my friends got away safe, he had absolutely no qualms about bringing the knife out to protect his ego. A knife for his ego and a sleazy comment for my dignity.
A few months ago, we parked our bike outside UB City at 10:15 pm. After returning in barely fifteen minutes, we found that the bike was punctured. We wheeled it down the road and walked back to UB City where our friends offered to take us back home in their car. As we waited for them, five men on three bikes went past us, made a few comments and parked ahead. We crossed over to the security cabin and waited for our friends, quickly realising that those men were going to follow us. As soon as our friends arrived and we got in to the car, the men got on their bikes and started them. They followed us for a while we slowed down to let one of them overtake us and noted down the number of the bike. A friend in the car couldn’t control her anger any longer and hit the man on the bike with the car door, yelling at him. He scooted and minutes later, so did we towards the closest police station, just in case.
If you ask a woman how many times she’s been felt up at all hours, wearing all kinds of clothes, the answer will be countless. We can’t even count the number of times we ‘have been subjected to street sexual harassment; it’s an experience that we have been “warming” ourselves up to since we were 12. I have been angry for years about being a target simply because I’m a woman. But recently, after watching the news, watching the Guwahati incident, watching the Hindu Activists thrash innocent men and women in a home stay, reading about the deaths of a number of women who are targeted simply because they live their lives differently, I am scared. And I don’t want to be scared because then they get the victory.
The reason I started this blog was to explore what Indian culture really is – the many deep trenches in our society that we hang on to for the sake of tradition? Or is it the way ahead? At this point, I don’t see a way ahead. Unless, everybody stands up against street sexual harassment and moral policing. Unless, women educate their sons and daughters that sexual harassment of ANY kind is an absolute wrong. Unless, the media stops running after the story and calls the police instead.
I mentioned three experiences and illustrated only two. My third experience is every day. Every day, I look at people on the streets and everybody looks like the Hindu Activist, like the moral police and I won’t deny that I am scared. But, I am not completely broken. I will NOT change my lifestyle, my choices and give up my freedom. I know today, that when I walk out of my house, my dignity is a target. My safety is compromised. While all of my posts on this blog end on a positive note, sadly today is not the case. How am I going to celebrate this special day? By going and buying myself a can of pepper spray. That, my friends, is how I am going to celebrate Indian Culture. Pepper spray. Who would’ve thought! Happy Independence Day.