Stranger that wasn’t

25 Oct

“Oh shit! Its past 8 pm. Damn the government. Where are the streetlights? God knows what do they do with all the money we pay as tax. I should be hurrying home. I am so used to walking down this road every day from school to home. But things look so different and eerily weird in the twilight hours. Even the movement of the trees in the breeze feels creepy. Why did I choose to wear heels today? They make so much noise clicking away against the road. What if someone follows me? I can’t even run in these godforsaken heels. I should have taken up karate instead of dance at school. It would have taught me some moves of self-defence instead of moulding me into this shapely woman. Haaaiya!! Hee!! Haw! To top it all, I ate an extra slice of that large pizza at the birthday party. So much for not wanting to waste food. Now I have to waddle instead of walking. And mum is going to be angry because I am late.”

This is how my thoughts strayed that evening, till I saw him.

A man. Fairly young. Shirtless. Dirty baggy pants. I would have ignored him as a beggar had he been lying slumped somewhere along the periphery of the road. Or probably a day labourer judging from his clothes. I would have given him a cursory glance and not bothered about his presence had he simply been walking in my general direction, instead of walking directly towards me. Staggering and swaying as he came closer. It crossed my mind that he was probably drunk and I should let him pass by. I halted and moved to the left. So did he. I moved to the right. And he followed pattern. He stopped short just a couple of feet away from me. A greedy glean in his eyes and a wicked degrading smile on his face. He was mouthing words that I could hardly make sense of. I froze on spot.

I felt like a cornered animal.

It was a chilly January evening and yet I had beads of perspiration beginning to show on my forehead and my kurta was wet at the armpits.

The man had managed to pull his trousers half way down, when someone from somewhere behind me sensed my predicament and let out a roaring shout “Hey you, what are you up to? Leave the girl alone.”

A watchman and another chap appeared as though magically, upon hearing the shout.

The guy pulled up his pants, dropped his drunken stance, registered the scene and fled.

I looked back, saw the Sardarji uncle who had kept out an eye for me, shouted back a hasty thank you and ran all the way home – heels and all.

 

Did the story sound familiar? Would you say it was along the same lines of another such incident that has been recounted to you? This story is mine. True one at that. One of the dozens.

 

That one shout from a stranger helped me. Let your’s help someone else.

Just saying things are bad isn’t going to solve anything. Don’t sit and wonder why someone isn’t doing something. Be that someone. Raise your voice. Be the whistle blower. Keep a lookout for your fellow beings; even the ones you don’t know. Be a SOCIAL COP.

Written for Social Cops : SAFE and published on Youth Ki Awaaz

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4 Responses to “Stranger that wasn’t”

  1. Jignesh Makwana October 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM #

    Some observations, please don’t consider them to be negative. I agree to some extent that learning self defense tactics might help a person at some stage in time. But I think most of the time it is luck which is more important in such situations. Let us assume that one learns karate and so one feels a bit courageous, but at the same time what would happen if the opponent is also trained in some form of marshal art? At this time, Darwin’s principle of survival of fittest would work. This means that luck will decide who will win and overcome. Sardarji uncle coming to your rescue, this is also luck. What if there was no-one around.

    Such incidents are becoming common everywhere and it is not just women who fear because of facing them, sometimes men also are not spared.

    I agree to your point that “be that someone”. Anyone can raise one’s voice for any immoral/illegal/indecent activity, be it helping someone in life threatening situation, preventing someone not to employ child labor, preventing not to throw garbage on road, spitting in public, reason could be many. Just a question: Did you get a chance to help any stranger who has met with such situation as yours?

    • Shivani October 27, 2013 at 2:15 PM #

      I agree Jignesh. Survival of the fittest is how things work. And simply based on that premise, it would mean that 90% times a man would be able to outdo a woman in strength. Self-defence and presence of mind may not always be able to save you. It does sometimes become a question of help or support that you may receive.

      But really, using the word luck or fate is really being unfair to the person who has been victimized. It just undermines the trauma that a person has been through. Man or woman is immaterial.

      Just imagine saying this to me “Atleast you were not raped.”

      Or saying this to a rape victim “You were lucky they didn’t kill you.”

      Does this justify what happened?

      I have been leered at, felt, brushed against, groped, flashed at and what not. And many a times in full public view, in broad daylight. Do you think that makes me any more prepared for “worse”? I know men who have been violated too. This particular incident happened 8 years back. I still remember it. Does that not mean that the impact of such things is beyond just the physical?

      We do not live in fear of death or war on a day to day basis. Not even of natural calamities. But all of us, men and women, live in constant fear of personal safety and safety of dear ones, from other men. Does that not make you paranoid?

      I have stood up for people I know – friends and sisters. Not because they are people I care for. Simply because being with them at that time makes me vigilant and on the guard for them as well as for myself. To do that for a stranger, you need to be more alert.

      One must give up the attitude of nonchalance and see the wrong as wrong, to start with. There is no solution to these kind of things till we adapt the ‘broken window’ solution, where every single crime is punishable. Big or small. Eve teasing must be punishable, just like rape should be. Jumping signals, littering on the roads, child labour… these must become punishable too. Bigger problems can be solved only when you start with the smaller ones. Law and order need to be stricter. Till we reach that stage, we must keep a lookout; even for the strangers.

      • celestialrays November 19, 2013 at 4:43 PM #

        WOW. Just wow. First the post and now your reply.

        • Shivani November 19, 2013 at 5:36 PM #

          Thanks CR. That’s lovely to hear from someone who writes so beautifully herself. 🙂

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