Silence is not the answer

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Sanaya and I were walking on the streets of Lucknow. We were there to attend a
Kavya’s wedding ceremonies. We were all decked up for her Haldi ceremony. Sanaya
was wearing a white crop top and pink floral skirt. I was wearing a black monochrome
kurta with a heavy red Banarasi silk dupatta that I specially bought for this. Sanaya was
asking me about the intricate craftsmanship that my dupatta had when suddenly, we
heard someone whistling and hissing. Sanaya and I looked at each other in
apprehension.

In school, at home, mostly everywhere, we were taught to ignore if something like this
happened.
We felt someone was following us. We looked back and saw this man standing there
and Biting his lips, fondling his balls and walking towards us while constantly staring at
us. We reached the bus stop. Kavya said we had to catch a 48 number bus. So, we’re
waiting for our bus. Just then, Someone walked towards us and pulled my dupatta and
started singing a typical Bollywood song ”Lal dupatta Wali Tera Naam to bata” and his
Friend approached Sanaya singing choli ke peeche kya hai? Sanaya got very offended
and said yeh kya batameezi hai?
Just then the bus arrived and we got into it, though it was crowded we managed to find
a place to stand near the ladies seat. Also, getting in was better than standing at the
bus station getting harassed. Suddenly, somebody groped Sanaya, the lady sitting
nearby saw this. She removed a pin that she had fixed in her gold chain and she
pricked the man’s hand. He squawked out with pain.
To be honest this was not the first time this happened with us. Every time something
as this happened, I remember running home to hug my mom and cry to my heart's
content because of the helplessness that I felt.
I can’t forget my first encounter with flashing, I was 12 or 13, and was out with mom, at
a shop, buying cosmetics. There was this guy who stood at the dim-lit corner near the
staircase smiling. I was young did not understand why he was smiling, so I smiled back,
then he pointed his index finger indicating me to look down. I innocently looked down
only to see an unsightly vision that shook me. His parts were out of his pants. My God, I
wanted to puke. I told mom I wanted to go home. Seeing my uneasiness my mom
asked me what happened, I narrated the whole story, my mom told the shopkeeper
about this and the shopkeeper was kind enough to take care of it. But my point is that a
fear instilled in me and I couldn’t go to that particular shop for a long time.

Year’s passed and I learned that our voice mattered too. I volunteered in various help
groups that had people who suffered by keeping quiet. Their unsettled anger made me
want to change the world.
I was 21 or 22, when I took a train (Flying Rani) from a small town in Gujarat, along with
my friend Ridhima, to appear for CAT examination. We were sitting across each other. It
was cold and I had one shawl that covered me. Since it was an early morning train and
we had a long distance to travel, we thought we would doze off for a while. I was in
deep sleep when suddenly I felt something crawling on the thigh, gradually going
upwards. I instantly woke up an pushed aside my shawl only to find the hands of the
man sitting right next to me. I jumped up and shouted at him, he was embarrassed and
got down at the next station.
It took a lot of time for me to stand up for myself. To stand up against wrong. To clear
my vision and see that it was not just me but one out of every two women in this era has
been a victim to these kinds of abuses. It could be unwanted comments, gestures,
honking, wolf-whistling, catcalling, flashing, exposure, following and touching by
strangers in public areas.
And that it is not limited to female itself, few males also go through a lot but keep quiet
because it is hushed up by the society.
So I want to say this to you (abuser) that catcalling isn't flirting, it's sexual harassment.
You might feel macho, while whistling, teasing, flashing or even groping somebody.
Though you might feel you are complimenting us, you’re being itself is the worst
curse to your mother.
Also, the already Prevalent assumption that women’s worth is related to their ability to
please men is bullshit. I personally feel it won't be illogical to say ”Yeh Rahi aapki soch,
Mujhe Giri hui mili.”
My message to all who have gone through any of these, at a certain point of life is, learn
to stand for yourself. Because if you don’t, nobody would.
As a mental health advocate, I would like to mention that few measurable seconds of
what you consider a pleasure can ruin somebodies life forever.

-Pooja Pariath

 

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