My earliest memories of childhood have been prominently marked with recitals of the list of restrictions. The list which only grew longer as I grew older. The list contained 'preventive measures' for lecherous groping, unasked stares and although it was never spoken openly, the most prominent reason was to make sure that go through my life without being raped. We've lived in constant fear...yes, all of us. Our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our uncles, our best friends, our teachers...all of them. They have all feared. They gave norms of female behaviour. Rules to follow if you want to continue being un-raped:
- Do not stay out till late in the night.
- If at all you have to stay out, stay in large groups. Never stay alone.
- Avoid travelling alone at all cost.
- Wear decent dresses.
- If you are eve-teased, do not respond. Ignore and move on.
I did not question any of them, they all made sense to me. A lot of sense. However, sometimes I do get a little annoyed when my mother would become completely paranoid when my phone went out of reach even for a minute when I was in a different city. How she started reciting the 'Crime Patrol' episodes to me and though she never directly said it, I know she silently feared that something similar happened to me! I remember feeling the need to urgently use the washroom at 1 AM in the train when I was travelling alone and the dilemma that I was caught in for twenty minutes because of a tragic episode of a girl which a friend shared with me a day back.
I remember putting my best friend's number on speed dial on my phone, clutching the umbrella with all my might, rehearsing mentally how I'll handle the situation because the auto driver seemed notorious and was passing obnoxious glances to a fellow on the bike. I was revising all the self-defence techniques I had read, seen or heard about. However, he was going through the right route. In five minutes, I reached my destination. I let out a sigh of relief. Not a rapist! I rebuked myself for over-analysing situations. This is how maniacal fear can turn anyone- it can make us label any man in a thinly populated area, beyond eight in the night as a potential rapist.
We all live with and through this fear every day...every single day. For our daughters, sisters, friends, students and sometimes for ourselves. We have lived in constant fear and we continue to live in it. The most painful part is that we do not find anything wrong about the fear any longer. We have accepted it as an essential part of our lives, an inseparable part!
What am I complaining about and why am I complaining you may ask! Have I had a very hard life? No. Have I been deprived of any opportunities because of my gender? No. Am I not happy with my life? No, I am. I have a very beautiful life, a great family, wonderful friends and a promising career ahead of me! So, what is wrong? Why I am cribbing. I am cribbing because of some UNNECESSARY(as you may call them) freedoms which I have been deprived of. Little cravings that I have of a solitary walk in the night having the breeze play with my hair. I wonder sometimes how it would be to travel all by myself to say, Pondicherry, to sit by the rocky beach at five in the morning and feel the waves splash over me as I think about the story of my first book. I have musings about dropping to my friend's place anytime of the night riding my bike without having someone to guard me. I wonder sometimes what it is like to be completely unguarded, I wonder what absolute freedom tastes like. I wonder what it's like to not ask my male friends to accompany me when it becomes late and to be completely independent. The thought of it seems very enticing, I visualise it and I fall in love with the idea of it over and over again.
I do not know how to go about making the change that I wish to see in the world around me but I know that I have to do something. I know for a fact that I cannot continue living with this fear forever. I know that I have to take steps, and I am unsure about what the first one will be but I know the solutions will come along. I need your help, of all of you, in stemming out the fear from each one of us.
I know the article sounds incomplete and the thoughts incoherent. This was a swell of emotions which had to come out. Pardon me, because I have no idea about what I have to do to make a difference. I just know that I have to do it and I will do it. I urge you all to help me and join me, we'll figure out a way. Trust me, we will!
Your thought process seems different from most of the girls of your age,and the emotions in your writings are quite powerful.A well developed country is one where a women could walk alone admist a crowd in midnight without any fear.To reach that laws should instill fear in criminals.May be one day we could walk in a beach in midnight without any fear.Looking forward for that day.ReplyDelete
-Someone who wants all good things to happen your way and to see you living up to your potential.
Stricter laws and more importantly stricter enforcement of those laws is necessary for things to change in India.Delete
Thank you for being my well-wisher. However, the mask is unnecessary. Please comment from your own profile.
This is the first writeup I have read line by line; word to word. Simply said, clear and precise thoughts put up in the best convincing way. When I was going through the latter, this reminded me of my college days when some boys of my college did use to stare at girls, some of them staring uncomfartably. By reading this I feel today that what would have been the situation of that girl being starred or followed by boy/s just for immature fun which may lead to some unwanted situation in an age of adolescence.ReplyDelete
Today what we need is free country in sense where women are really free from these constant fears. I am from Ahmedabad and people say Gujarat is a place where women are almost free of this constant fears. Not 100% true but comparaitively its true. The reason is simple. The answer was right with us but no one cared. Joint families and values of families which had senior generation within. The unwanted adolescence of guys and their hormonal changes are better controlled in such atmosphere. Still I recall some guys of such families who wish to stare at girls but are afraid to look in eyes of the girl or even talk fearing what would his family say if something goes wrong.
The whole idea is like the change starts from home. If we as parents are able to give better ideas and fear of doing wrong then we can start a process of building an India free of constant fears.
Hats off to your article again. Wonderfully written. Thoughts appreciated. Regards, Samir K.
Thank you for the appreciation Samir, it means a lot. It feels great when anything I write can invoke a strong thought in anyone. Indeed, the change does start from the upbringing itself. The values that are imbibed from childhood itself make us what we are. We have to work upon the root cause in order to improve the situation.Delete