I was 8 or 9, I don’t remember clearly, walking on the road in the friendly neighbourhood. Unaware that 2 guys who just drove past us had something in mind. They were teenagers on bike, they drove past us and took a you turn and came towards us, and groped me. I was shocked and stunned with their actions, I couldn’t move for few minutes. There action was so violent that it hurt my breast for days.
I went back home and told my cousin, who was older than me. She told me to ignore and be careful while walking on the road.
I was molested. Publically. I was asked to ignore.
The incident left a deep scar on my mind. As a result, every time I would see a biker or somebody coming on the scooter from the opposite side, I would fold my hands around my chest. Just to protect myself. It happened for years.
I was 10 or 12, reading in winter sun on our terrace. I suddenly noticed an old man appearing in the balcony of the house, which was in the back lane. Every time I was on the terrace, he was there. After few of these incidences I noticed he was doing something with his private part. I didn’t know what.
I told my cousin about it. She came to the terrace with me. I was told to avoid and not see in that direction.
I was molested on my own terrace. I was asked to ignore.
I was 14, travelling in the bus with my mother. It was crowded and we were standing with the crowd. Bus stopped, more people entered and I could feel somebody pushing his pelvis behind my back. I turned around to look, the guy pretended to look in all directions. It happened again and again during one hour of the trip.
I was molested in the bus. I ignored.
I was 17, travelling back from college to home in an auto. Few boys started following our auto. They were riding their bike matching with the speed of the auto, saying things I couldn’t understand. The auto driver parked the auto on the side, me still sitting on the back seat, pulled down the curtains. And started hurling abuses on the boys.
He came back, pulled the curtains up and told me in very authoritative tone to stay away from people like that. I didn’t even know who these guys were or what were they saying.
I was molested in the auto rickshaw by the bikers. Judged by the driver. I ignored both.
I was 22, in office. It was my first job, I was like any other peppy, bubbly, chirpy trainee. The head of the office would often ask me out for coffee, which I would politely refuse. On one of the occasions, when there was a big meeting being held, I was asked to call one of the senior most gentle man. As I went to call him, he held my hand and asked me to sit. I was offended and shocked. Despite of me showing displeasure, he didn’t let go off my hand for few minutes.
I was molested in my office. I ignored.
And many such incidences have happened over the years ,which I was asked to ignore or I just ignored.
Why?? Why was I asked to ignore??
Why was I not told that next time you see that guy, note the number of his bike / scooter / car and call the police.
Why was I not told to raise the voice when I was manhandled publicly.
Why didn’t I raise my voice in the bus ??? in the office?? Why did I kept mum, why didn’t I speak up.
I, who is vocal, assertive most of the time and at times even aggressive, chose to stay quite about something which was crucial. Which was haunting and unacceptable. Which disturbed me so much that I kept thinking about it for days.
Why didn’t I stand up for myself. Why didn’t I take the bull by the horns.
As a child there are times, you don’t even know what’s happening with you. What you are told, is what you learn. I was told to ignore. Adjust. Accept it as a fait of a women. It’s easier to stay quite and move on. ‘Forget it’, as you are told.
It’s much harder to rise and fight for yourself, for your integrity, for your self-respect. I was told to walk easier and safer path. My psyche changed over the period of time and I learned to live with molestation.
There are millions like me who have learned to live with molestation. But I am glad things are changing, girls / women are coming out and speaking about it.
Things will change, slowly. But it will.
When Amaira, my daughter, was born I didn’t think or hope for her to crack IIT or AIIMS one day, that’s path left for her to choose. What I am going to provide her is self-assurance and mental strength to fight the world. Nobody and absolutely nobody will be able to mess with her. Equip her with right education and training to take on the civilised and not so civilised world.
I am sharing this, as I hope for all girls in the world to grow up as brave women!