I was drinking tea one evening and my friend, Radhika came and sat beside me, keeping her bag on the table with a thud. She seemed to be in a bad mood as she sighed and went to get a cup of tea for herself.
‘I hate this!’ she said.
You hate everything, I commented mentally and gave out a silent chuckle.
‘What do you hate?’ I asked her.
‘Men are perverted everywhere!’ she gave a look of exasperation.
‘Tell me about it.’ I sipped tea.
‘I was coming back from the school and I took a bus home. It was the first time I was travelling alone because I usually never do that. There was a guy in the bus who continued to pester me non-stop. There was a lot of space in the bus and I asked him to move aside. He was adamant but it was on purpose. He was trying to stick to me and I could actually feel his body part. It was so repulsive I cannot tell!’
I frowned. ‘Tell me more. What was your self-defense?’
‘I asked him to move aside. There was a passenger who got down in a bus stop and I occupied her place. Soon after, this fellow sat beside me. I asked him to get up and leave. My temper was boiling by then. He got up to leave and after a while, I got ready to alight because my destination was nearing. I stood up and he stood close to me yet again! I wanted to cuss him harshly but I controlled my temper. I hate all this! Such things are disgusting! I could feel his body parts which was super repulsive! He seemed to be old, around 50 or something!’ She was gesticulating violently and her bangles chimed as they were striking one another.
‘I never travel alone but when I do, I am subjected to such kind of situations. This is terrible. Next time I travel alone, I will cover my face.’ Saying this, she brought her dupatta over her face to cover it.
‘You’ll need a thick, black cloth.’ I said as I sipped the last drop of tea.
‘Yes. I will get it soon. My male friends usually protect me whenever we go out together.’
‘Actually I though Pune was a better place.’
‘No! This perverse attitude is prevalent everywhere! Back in Chandigarh, you have people teasing you but I tell you they never dare to touch you. No matter where you go, be it rural or urban, such shit exists. Women used to be respected before but not anymore.’
I sighed as I looked at her grimacing. ‘Be safe from the next time.’ I added. After she left, I was thinking about the condition of the women folk. What Radhika stated was true. I was not wholly oblivious of what was happening with my friends and all these instances faded away until Radhika brought it up. A fresh worry started in my mind. I began to be worried again. My sister told me to keep a stern face least no one harms you. It does not work all the time. All of us, at least once in our lives have been subjected to such harassment. I was talking to boy from Philippines on Facebook and our conversation went like this-
‘I have a pretend daughter. A pretend daughter is when you consider someone a brother or a sister even when you’re not related. It is a custom here in the Philippines and I don’t even know why there’s such a thing… it’s just naming people you’re close with, as family members…
It is like she’s my daughter and I am her daddy, and I give her advice when it comes to young insecure college boys that ain’t worth her time.
Being the single dad of a loving but complicated teenager is good and she comforts me back.
Well, anyway, I think the source of all this is that we treat friends as family a lot…’
I replied, ‘Wish we had this in India. We could stop rape to an extent.’
He sent me back a “surprised” emoticon and he said that he had never heard of rape cases as such. He was shocked and sad.
This has become like a daily phenomenon but I am waiting for the day when “rape” will be labelled as a ‘serious criminal offence’…