One of my friends, Sneha, called me up today and related to me how she and her boyfriend had a narrow escape while passing by the Birla Mandir area in Kolkata yesterday evening. There were a couple of guys, she said, who passed some comments on Sneha’s body hugging sweater and even tried to grope her up in front of her boyfriend. They had to run to prevent further molestation. The problem of eve-teasing is growing day by day in Kolkata, Sneha said, and I couldn’t agree more. A glimpse at any regular newspaper, and cases of eve-teasing and physical harassment of women are sure to appear at some corner or the other. It’s a little strange I feel, since people nowadays have greater access to all kinds of pornography which accounts for the release of much of their pent up sexual energy. Logically, this should lead to a decrease in the rate of sexual abuse of women by men in the streets. But reality tells us otherwise. In this age of open sexuality and independence, women still encounter unwanted trespassing on their bodies. But why?
This question reminded me of one such incident that I myself had faced about a year ago near the Jadavpur Police Station area, Kolkata. It was about five in the evening but already quite dark as winter was about to step into the city. Most of my friends had already left the University, but I was late since I had some library work to do for an upcoming exam. After collecting the necessary study material, I packed my bag and started walking towards the bus-stop which was just five minutes away. And then it happened. A group of young men, sitting on parts of a broken wall started approaching me. I was taken aback. They weren’t familiar faces and their motive seemed sinister. They exchanged dirty smiles among each other and stared at my bosom like wild dogs lusting for meat. I wore a normal kurti and jeans. So the crap that women ‘provoke’ men to launch into animalistic behavior was out of the question. I bent my head pretending to ignore them and walked a pace or two again. They followed. I began to feel helpless now. It was quite dark and very few people were around. Moreover, we were so well guarded by random trees that it was very difficult for me to draw attention to any passing vehicle from there. So there was no point shouting for help, I realized. The men had realized that too, I guess, because they gradually started cornering me. They were no longer quiet. Frequent references to my breasts and hips were being made in the crudest possible language.
“Maal tar mai dekhechhis? Puro dairy farm, mairi!”
(“Just look at her boobies! A whole dairy farm, eh?”)
Suddenly, anger struck me. A surge of rage engulfed my fear, my anxiety. For a moment, I became oblivious of the danger of it all and shouted back,
“Haramkhor shuorer bachha! Baray ato gorom to baap ke katiye nijer ma ke chod na giye!”
(“Bloody bastards, sons of a bitch! If your dick is so big, why don’t you dodge your father and then fuck your own mother instead?”)
I had barely realized what I had just said when the men started staring at me again, no not at my ‘assets’ this time, but at my face. I didn’t know what they thought or felt. They just kept standing dumbstruck, as if each of them had been actually rooted to that particular spot. I didn’t wait any more and walked straight away from the place with long steps.
When I had reached the bus-stop, I was still fuming. My throat felt dry and soar with all that unexpected shouting coming forth from within without a warning. But a sense of satisfaction slowly calmed me down. I did it!! My tongue did the trick. It was not merely an escape, but also a victory! It was the best feeling in this whole world. It was as if I had answered back the trespassers on behalf of the entire womankind. I felt proud of myself for being able to protect my own body without any external help. In fact, that experience taught me that it doesn’t take a phenomenal woman to raise a voice of protest, any Mina, Sneha or Rachita can do it. Those filthy eve teasers are so used to associating women with fear, helplessness and fleeing that it never occurs to them that we are as much alive as they are and can bite back if needed. I believe it’s high time that we make such sick men realize that any form of sexual abuse, be it raping or eve teasing, would no longer be shushed. We can, and we will pay them back in their own coins. No social role-playing can hold us back. It is sad but true that there are still some people, many of them women themselves, who claim that the responsibility for sexual violation ultimately rests with the woman herself. She must have provoked the men with her titillating mannerisms and revealing outfits. This double standard must be stopped. What nonsense is this? Do we women jump at men who walk around in shorts? Do we try to gang-rape men who swim in a one piece swim-suit?
When I told Sneha about that incident today, she was shocked as well. “Oh god! How could you use such language! It’s incredible!” she said. I didn’t answer her but in my heart I knew that if ever I be dragged to the moral court for using indecent language, I would plead “PROVOKED”.