Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Blank Noise Project

Read about the Blank Noise project and wanted to support it by putting in my two cents. I know I am late, but they say "Better Late than Never". And after all it is never too late to do something good.

Street Harassment.
What can I say about street harassment that hasn't been said by hundreds and thousands of women all over the country? We've all been victims at some point in life and we've found our own ways of dealing with it. We've been jostled, prodded, groped....anytime the perpetrator felt the need to and was reassured of his getting away with it.....in a crowd.

I can't even remember any more when it first started. Or how I learnt defensive techniques of evading these men, by squirming or moving away at the last instant, or by holding my bag behind me so that it would form a barrier between my bottom and any unwanted visitors. I never gave it back to these creatures by calling out their bluff. Because I was embarrased that this was happening to me. Because I was nervous. Because I was the kind who hates drawing attention to herself. And yes, there are women like me. And year after year, these men get away with it. And women go on being victims.

The one incident I would like to share is something that happened on the streets of Calcutta. A city that has been touted as being safe for women. I was walking down the road to the bus stop near the Tollygunje Police Station. Now how much safer can you get, right? You have the P.S. bang in front of you. And it was around 4:30, so it wasn't even dark outside. There were people out on the street, taking a stroll, chatting with each other, children playing. You get the scene. And here I was walking down, trying to make it to the bus stop. I spot a group of young men coming towards me from the other side. Now my natural instinct put me on my guard. You adapt to these instincts if you are a girl growing up in a big city. Right when these guys came across me I could hear them passing comments and smiling at me. I kept on walking trying my best not to look at anyone and pretend like I didn't see them. And then one of the guys decided to get a little bolder. He reached out, touched me and grabbed my dupatta and bag. I tried jerking his grip off and fought to break free. Now there were atleast twenty people all around us on the street. Some even stopped what they were doing and stared. And while I was crying for help and fighting off this guy, not a single person intervened or came to my help. And all the while his friends just laughed and cheered him on. When I finally freed myself and got away I remember running the rest of the way with tears streaming down my face. When I reached home I wept. For myself for not being strong enough to hold my own. For every girl who has to face this kind of harassment. For the city that prides itself on being safe. For the myth that Calcutta is a city with a heart.

Eve-teasing has become a way of life in India. We live with it and grow up with it. And I truly believe none of the guys who read my blog have ever done anything so gross. Yet, there are hundreds and thousands of men who do harass and take advantage of women on the streets. The one time I saw anyone take a stand against eve-teasing was on a crowded bus where a man was trying to shove his hard-on into my backside and this young gentleman who saw what was happening started shouting at this man and made sure that he was forced to get off the bus. I salute men who stand up for the harassment women go through everyday on the streets. And I salute the people who are taking a stand against street harassment. And if getting on my computer and posting this prevents even a single incident of eve-teasing, then I will consider this my most significant post ever.

Labels:

31 Comments:

Blogger Casablanca said...

Great to see so many people posting on this, and supporting this cause! I posted too.
And I think however small a step it might be, but we have to start by taking a stand. By saying that its NOT okay.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Rapid I Movement said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:59 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ casa I agree with you. I doubt if any of these eve-teasing guys would be reading my blog but it's a way of standing up for what is so not right.

@ r.i.m. you know what, I believe there are people like you. Because I know someone else who also denies ever having seen or come across things like this. And sometimes I wonder if he was blind or so wrapped up in himself that he never cared to see. Well that makes two of you.
However had you been a girl and lived your growing years in Cal, trust me, you'd be here writing about your experiences.
"I bloody stayed in that city for 18 whole years...I ought to know better!" I really believe you should have. I think it is unfortunate you chose not to see or know. And may be this post was for you and the others who never saw. May be the next time you are in a crowded bus in Calcutta (which I doubt you'll be doing any more) keep your eyes peeled. Esp near the ladies seat, you know the ones to the right of the doorway in the "tin er bus". There will be some women standing there and there will be men plastered to their behinds too. And if you see a lady squirming or saying "shorey daran", you'll know.
And as far as " Cal's prolly the safest/nicest place" I want to believe that too. Honestly I wish it was.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Rapid I Movement said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Dreamcatcher said...

I do not know of any of my friends who have not been in a position that you described. I have many a tale to tell as I am sure, do you. I have had people saying things like ‘didi chere din’, I have had my kurta torn in a scuffle to get away. It happens all the time. as for Calcutta being a safe place, well my cousins tell me that Delhi is worse..but really a city where policemen wink at you….
Women tend to develop antennae don’t they from an early age to deal with these things.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Ashmi said...

oh! yes, i've faced it too a number of times, mostly when i was a kid, a teenager afraid or rather to shy to say when things like this happen to her and all she can do is cry for reasons she doesnt understand properly yet can feel it's no way right......travelling in public buses has always been a trauma,taking into consideraion these bastards(sorry for my abusive language)who make travelling almost a journey to hell by their disgusting acts....there is one incident when i acted brave(perhaos coz i was no more a school or college going kid)....a guy who was seemed to be in a rush to cross the street from the opposite side just bumped into my body and had his hands which would make any woman go wild....and that's eactly what he drove me to....i held on to his collar and gave him a tight slap, totally oblivious of the fact that who's gonna ask me what compelled me to act that way in the middle of the road.....yeah that was the only time i felt victorious and happy and above all content :)....yeah i truly pity those young women who have to face this every single day of their life....don't these disgusting creatures have a beter thing to do???it's drives me so mad.

2:08 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ r.i.m. agreed that it is there at every level. No one's arguing that. And I never said loafers or rock-baj fellas were responsible alone. Oh no. I've had the so called "bhodrolok" returning from office try to feel me up in a bus. I've had men pretending to be my father's friend sexually harass me. I've even had a cousin who went to a reputed school like DBPC try to take advantage of me. So there! It is not something to do with culture or education. It is a mindset.
And yes, may be Cal is more bhodro on a relative scale. But why are we talking relative here? Why can't the average girl growing up in cal be just that- a girl and not some sexual target every minute she's out on the street.
And for the record it has nothing to do with the way you look or the way you dress.
@ dreamcatcher isn't it sad that girls have to develop these skills when they should be busy playing with dolls? Cal might be relatively safer, but it has it's share of lewd, horny men who are trying every minute to take advantage of the unsuspecting 12 yr old, the scared 15 yr old, the defenseless 20 yr old. It's a shame.
@ ashmi good for you. Only when you deal with such incidents do you actually feel like you might have made a difference. may be that one guy will think twice about doing something similar to another unsuspecting young girl. It drives me mad too.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Seashells said...

It is so disturbing to read about these instances... No girl should have to face such harassment... A majority of them don't complain because of the embarassment but i do think most of em have seen the ugly face of cheapsters making their rounds...

I was at a rock concert in Hyd, just before new year 2002... About 10 feet from where i was standing, i saw a guy feeling a girl from behind and taking off in my direction... I tried to catch him, got a piece of his shirt and he fell... I turned to see if the girl was still there but she was gone, and by the time i turned back, this guy was slicing his way through the crowd... A li'l while later, i saw the same girl again and she along with a bunch of friends was passing by me, and just when she was right in front of me, i felt a fully intentional shove on my back and i couldnt help falling on her... I don't know who pushed me... I apologised and thankfully she didnt make a scene... but she probably thought i did it on purpose or even worse, that i was the same person...

5:14 PM  
Blogger Ratna said...

It sounds very familiar. I witnessed it personally and heard stories form family and relatives. It happens almost in every city in India. I was very fortunate (touch wood) not to witness that again here in US. There is no age restriction to these obscene, unthinkable events. I never board a bus, avoid busy shopping malls and even temples in India. I believe one needs to stand up for themselves then being embarrassed and ashamed or wait for an outsider's help.

10:10 PM  
Blogger True Blue Guy said...

Nice post ! - I remember a time when I was with my girlfriend and her brother and we were driving and someone shouted "hey sexy, you wanna come with me" or some crap like that and rode away on his bike.

We chased the dude, caught him, and whacked the daylights out of him - He for sure has never eve teased again !

On another note, I had really long hair before and when I used to ride by bike people used to whistle at me, only for me to turn back and for them to realize I'm a guy with long hair

2:24 AM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

I've said this on four-five blogs already and, I guess, it's starting to sound a bit repetitive. Be that as it may, I have only one way of looking at this and, I believe, there is a very simple solution to the problem.

If we're a mute witnesses to such harassment, in my book, we're guilty of a bigger crime than the perpetrator. How can we even come back home and look ourselves in the eye when we haven't stepped up to help someone in need? The very simple solution to this problem is to speak up - if it's happening in front of us, we must intervene.

I remember reading a long time ago, and if I'm not mistaken it was in 'Exodus' by Leon Uris, that it takes a slap in your brother's face to know that his problem concerns you too. So, before that happens, let's make it our business to stop this harassment. Let's make it our business to let these guys know that such behaviour is not acceptable.

3:54 AM  
Blogger Patient Portnoy said...

I think I know what you mean. We can't let our guard down, not even in the so-called City with a Heart...

Too many such incidents when I was growing up in Cal, and I agree with Ghost-ofTJ when he says that mute spectators are as criminal as the perpetrators

4:57 AM  
Blogger Sanity Starved said...

Nice to see the post.

Thank you,
Sudip

8:52 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ seashells I agree that no girl should have to go through this kind of hell. But it happens. And we all learn. And it scars you for life. What I mean is even now after all these years living in the US I still have the protective defense reflexes everytime i'm in a crowd. I've never been molested here. But I instinctively protect myself only to realize that I might not need to do it anymore.
@ ratna oh I completely forgot to mention my experience at temples. The things that happen under the cover of holy ground. I was so badly molested at the Puri temple when I was 14 that I never went to a temple in India after that till date.
@ t.b.g. couldn't help smiling when i read about you getting 'eve-teased' because of long hair. Wish I could see their faces when they realized they were whistling at another guy!
@ ghostoftomjoad that was a very nicely written comment. Thank you. I hope there are more men that think along the same lines.
@ patient portnoy we've seen it all, lived through it. Now we can stand up against it.
@ pidus ghosh thanks for stopping by. It was a hastily written post. But I just had to pen down something.

10:02 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

It does scar and sadly they just don't disappear, do they?
*hugs*
Happy Women's day and let's hope the next generation doesn't have to go through this same trauma.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Rapid I Movement said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Kumari said...

@ R.I.M : I really wanted to ignore your comments but this is irking me to no end. Pls, don't make this YOUR issue. We are not generalising menfolk but if you haven't had your non-existent breasts pinched, your crotch touched and your ears whispered into by strange men who have no right on your body, you would NEVER understand the trauma we are talking about.

How would you like it if your wife/girl screamed and shirked away eveytime you tried to touch her coz it made her relive painful memories? There are many women who are completely turned away from men and relationships becoz of such random acts of perverts. And trust me, we want to lead normal lives, have our men in our lives and we want them to respect us and treat us with the dignity we deserve. Irrespective of whether we are 8 or 80.

It doesn't matter whether you are lungi clad or not. Infact, it was a lungi clad man who stopped another tie-clad youth from grabbing my friend's breast on our way back from school. We want more such men.

If you can't understand or support, it's okay. But don't whine. And pls, whistling at women is NOT human nature.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Grafxgurl said...

Calcutta has never been safe.

not then and not now... every city tries to make an image for itself, ive never heard of Cal being safe.. people in Chennai say this sleepy place is safe coz people are conservative.. but thats not true either.. you get idiots everywhere... and in those minuscule shoebox buses in Cal... women have never been safe.. my aunts and cousins have dozens of stories they come home with....men doing this and that...every year when i would go to Cal for christmas hols... some wierdo or the other would try to grope me or my cousin or eveb my fat old aunt....i mean. these guys are all over the place.. and you know what.. men read blog posts like this.. and they feel good about themselves and then go on doing whatever it was that they did and forget about it... yeah there are some guys who have it in them to raise their voices like that guy who stood up for you...but Cal....that city is knows for hushing up things and not wanting to attract attention...i havent lived there beyond the age of 5...only been there once or twice every year... and i became aware of this fact...

its getting worse too... everywhere in India.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Ghetufool said...

m,
to tell frankly, i was an eve-teaser myself. but my eve-teasing was limited to eve-watching. i have always despised people who take advantage of helpless, powerless. i have also protested these incidents.

this is quite unfortunate that eve-teasing, catcalls should happen in kolkata. people forget that they have sisters, at least mothers at their home.

budhababu once took a stern stand against eve-teasing. he ordered the police to pick up all those philanders who stand near the school gate. why, because somebody teased his daughter while she was coming out from her school.

and for the rest, he didn't order any, because his daughter never travelled on bus.

1:28 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kumari here's to brave posts like yours and hopping that things are getting better.
@ comment deletor and I may be right in guessing it was r.i.m. (since all your other comments have gone too and kumari's response). I don't know for sure what you said and therefore cannot say much. But I guess kumari did voice what I would have said (and thanks to you kumari). But since you removed all your comments I guess you wanted to take it back and hence we shall let it rest.
@ kumari thanks and thanks again.
@ grafxgurl no place is safe or free of such incidents and reading the other blogs I have come to realize that almost every woman has a story to tell. I am hoping it is getting better. But you say it is worse now?
@ ghetufool I did read about your eve-watching post and know what you were doing. You say you are an admirer of beauty and were watching the beauty of the girls outside their school gates. Yet you never realized that may be somewhere some girl did not like that kind of attention and was afraid of going home on her own lest the roadside romeo accost her. I know what you are saying about a difference between watching someone and actual teasing with physical molestation. Yet if what you are doing irks the female it still is teasing, right?

4:01 PM  
Blogger Grafxgurl said...

yup...it is.. went to Cal in 2004 last and i was suprised at how protective my cousins were when we went out together,... and teh stuff that they told me about whats been happening in Cal right under people's noses was kinda..startling.

10:55 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ grafxgurl that is the problem. Most people see something and chose to ignore it thinking "that is not my problem". They don't want to get involved. I know these roadside romeos are not reading my blog but I hope the there are men reading it who will take a stand the next time they see a woman being violated, even if it does not involve them directly.

9:33 AM  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

Nice blog and post. I am sorry that you had to endure this. I did post my experience a witness to eveteasing, somethng that happened ages ago, but has still stayed with me.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Ekta said...

Hye M,
thats a scary incident and Guess most of us have gone through atleast one such incident in our life which stays with us and no matter how many years later it always is as disturbing!

But guess the biggest lesson for me on this has been to yes be alert but more than that to not get inhibited in responding to such activities by running away(unless its abso dangerous).

I actually slapped one such guy who tried to pinch me at the bus stop and then he ran for his life coz he never expected it and was more scared than me!

9:04 PM  
Blogger Ratna said...

Oh! forogt to add "Doctors". I am always apprehensive about them too.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Neets said...

i can understand women limiting the nature of their reactions in fear of some reprecussions but what about the crowd that just chooses to stand and stare? I feel sick. I was a part of the Blogothon to... here is what i had to share

2:49 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

No city is safe. That Calcutta is safe for women is a myth. I faced more street harassment in Calcutta than I did in Bangalore or Hyderabad (Wont say Bombay coz my worst experience was there). I can handle verbal abuse, most of the time I block out the sound, the physical attack is whats soooo terrifying. I sincerely hope blanknoiseproject will succeed in creating some awareness and maybe even changing things.

4:16 AM  
Blogger Ghetufool said...

right,
i realised it after a long time. sadly after a nasty incident. and i am sorry for it now.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

sorry for the incident but Kol takes a stronger stance compared to many other cities on thi isssue now. a few years ago they placed cops outside some very popular hang out spots to arrest eve-teasers and the likes. it did install a certain sense of fear in them.

p.s. needed to thank you for something - so here - thanks you :)

8:16 PM  
Blogger Siddharth said...

These are scary incidents...Even though I havent come across anything like this myself, reading all this makes me worry for my female friends...
But the only way out is to take a stand...and for the rest of the society to stand by the person who faces something like this...the least we can do is make one feel that it was not her fault and that nothing has changed...

5:21 AM  
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4:03 PM  

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