It was difficult to find time to work out these days. Handling the new house along with the increasing pressure and responsibilities at work, it was impossible to find 1.5 hours to hit the gym daily. Still dedicated to give enough priority to her health, Tina bought a bicycle, a brand new Firefox to ride to her workplace daily which wasn’t more than 3.5 kms from her place. It looked like a perfect solution – workout while commuting to office. It took her close to 20 mins to reach office, which was ok because without the bicycle she would have to wait 10-15 mins for the public bus. And moreover, she has always loved cycling since her childhood.
A month passed and she loved her new way of commuting. “Burn Calories and not Fuel” is what she used to tell people around. Then one day something terrible happened. It was 8:10 pm, while she only 200 mts from her home. Riding happily, she saw 2 men coming from the opposite direction. She moved to her right to give them enough space to walk past, but they moved to the right too. She moved further right and they moved yet again to block her. She instantly knew she was in trouble. Before she could realize what was happening. Both the guys were on either side on her cycle, stopped her from moving on. She screamed at the top of her lungs. Busy road as it was supposed to be, suddenly was empty for a few seconds. One of them groped both her breasts and the other one held both her hands. Everything happened is such a split second.She managed to gather enough courage to kick the cycle on one of them and kept screaming. A couple of bikers stopped along with a Meru cab. Looking at the crowd, the men went away an easy walk. They did not even try to run away.
Tina begged with the crowd to help her catch them while fighting her tears. All she could think was, that she cannot let go off these ba***rds. Enough was enough. Nobody moved. They just looked her as if she was speaking Spanish.
At last, the passenger in Meru said, “You cannot catch them alone. If you want, I can drop you somewhere safe”.
He said it in a very matter of fact tone, there was no sympathy in his tone but blame blatantly pointed out to her. More than the abusers, she felt a pang of anger at that man. She gave him a disgusting look. Every cell in her body wanted to slap this man and ask him would he behave this way if one of the women in his own life was attacked this way.
She finally said, “Would you help me catch them and report them to police or not?”
No reply came from him. Another biker said, “Who asked you cycle at this time of the night?”
She understood that there was no way she could reason with these men who consider that she invited the trouble herself. She immediately cycled to her apartment and asked the security to help her. She told them the direction they went and what they looked like. They all looked at each other’s faces as if she had asked them for all their money. Hesitant as they were, none of them moved.
One of the guards said, “Ma’am if we go behind those guys, who will guard at this gate?”
Both disappointed and surprised, she wondered if these men even understand that there duty is to protect the residents and not just do an 8 hour duty on the gate. She called up her husband, he came to help her but it was too late. They went to the same place where the incident happened. Some laborers working in the field next to road had witnessed the incident. They told my husband that those men were roaming around this area for some time fearless and they tried to inquire about where Tina worked and lived. But they had gone away by then. The fact that those men did not even try to flee the area exhibited their confidence in doing such crimes. They very well knew that wouldn’t be caught, and they were not. Tina hated this fact.
That night she couldn’t sleep for a minute. How can a couple of strangers just decide to do whatever they wanted to do to her? How can they be so confident about not getting caught? How can they roam around freely thinking every girl on the road at night is their private property?
All those horrifying incidents came splashing back to her. She was a young girl and had just started to develop breasts. Her neighbor family was good family friends. The elder son of that family was studying in college then and Tina was very fond of him. He was her favorite “Bhaiya”. All her fondness disappeared that day, when he made her sit on his lap. She thought he simply wanted to play and that’s what he said – a new game. He kept massaging her breasts and rubbing himself against her till she felt disgusted and ran away. She had no idea what happened but she felt bad, guilty and dirty. She never wanted to see his face again and she still remembers that she kept staring at her naked body in the mirror that night and hated herself.
That one fine day when she was 14, she bunked her school with some her girlfriends to watch a movie. No tickets were available in the reserved section so they took the unreserved section. It was dark in the movie hall and there was a huge crowd. She felt somebody pinch on her waist and then her butt. She felt somebody’s hands moving all over her body. No idea what was happening, she turned around and the person disappeared. Again the same thing happened. She forgot all about the movie and ran for the exit, the hands were again somewhere on her breasts when she took the hand and bit it really hard. She heard the guy scream. She came to the exit and three of her friends followed. All of them experienced the same thing. Disgusted and disheartened, angry and ashamed, guilty and vulnerable, all of us went back home to never bunk the school again for some fun.
Few years back, in the local BMTC bus of Bangalore, she was coming back after a lot of shopping with her room-mate. The bus was crowded and she held the aisle seat. She felt something was hitting her shoulder again and again. She turned her head and almost vomited in disgust. Person standing next to her was rubbing his hard penis against her shoulders. They immediately got down the bus and took an auto back home. She had to take bath twice that night to get rid of the dirty feeling she felt on her body. Still, bathing did not help. She felt dirty and contaminated.
All these incidents kept running in her mind like a movie entire night. How many more incidents were supposed to happen? All these earlier incidents she never tried to punish the abuser, she quietly sat back, trying to hide her own screams for help and feeling of guilt. This time she did try. She tried to fight. She tried to ask for help. She at least thought of catching those ba**ards and taking them to the police. She did not feel guilty this time. She felt scared but confident. She always knew that she had to protect herself. But she never knew that it was not her fault. She never knew that she is not the one to be punished. She never knew that she was never guilty. She never knew that she could have asked for help all these years, she could have told her family. There was no need to blame her own self.
The first thing that needs a change is that victim has to stop feeling like a culprit. And this change is only possible if the attitude of the society changes towards the victims. Didn’t we have had enough already? Isn’t it the time we change the men in the society? Instead of asking our daughters to stay indoors, teach our sons to respect women as equals. How much more does a regular girl like Tina needs to suffer?