I learnt very early in my life that it helps to be perceived as tough - or tougher than you actually are!
Women can rarely let their guard down. They aren’t safe when they step out of the house. Why is the onus on us to save ourselves from assault each time we step out? Being a sports person my athletics training begins at dawn and my days frequently end well past dusk. I wear shorts when I walk to the ground from my home. That one kilometer walk is an ordeal; dogged by comments that sicken me and stares that bore holes over my body. Regular flashers dot the route and it isn’t uncommon to have some man on a scooter come close enough to reach out and pat my bottom before zipping away. The bhelwallah on the corner invariably yells out “garam- garam kachori khaogi? chutni chat patti ke sath….?”It is a far from innocent remark……….mixed in that offer are centuries of put down.
My grandmother registers protest each time she visits and spots me in sports gear. “That daughter of yours is asking for trouble…. shameless…..look at her bare legs….”she’d tell my mother. I make no effort to convince her about my preference of dress and my mother too knows that it’s no use arguing with her. I think of my grandmother’s protected life and the startling knowledge that she’d never ever ventured out on her own. She had never ever walked on any street by herself in her entire life. Come to think of it, she had never left her home unescorted. Ever.
I think the only way to tackle these leachy men is to be bold and tough. Learning karate is a good option but I have no extra time for that in my crowded life. So I carry a javelin or hanging spiked shoes over my shoulder while going to the ground for practice have to be extra careful when I walk into a crowded zone. I reserve my punches and kicks to be delivered while walking in a crowded street or while traveling in a crowded bus. I don’t hesitate to deliver a slap or a punch when I feel a hand on my arm or waist or feel it further moving down. I whirl around and fling a stinging slap. The person gets startled and disappears in the crowd within seconds. If I don’t fight back I encourage more such men. I can’t tolerate groping. How can a stranger violate my dignity?
At times I feel why do I have to be watchful at all times? Why is a woman walking or traveling alone is an instant target? Why do I find a dozen eyes boring holes into me when I go out?