This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment and was originally published on Feminism In India here. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.
I still vividly remember that day. It was summer 2010. I was 20. I had just graduated and gone to North Campus to collect my mark-sheet. I was wearing a black and white sleeveless shirt and a knee-length black shorts and had tied my hair in a pony tail. (Yes, it is necessary to describe my clothes).
My metro ride back and forth to North Campus was divided into two parts: metro journey from Vishwavidyalaya Station to Rajiv Chowk and the second one from Rajiv Chowk to Shadipur. The second part was the easier one as the journey consisted of mere five stations. This incident happened shortly before Sheila Dikshit announced the first compartment of the Delhi metro reserved for women. I boarded the metro from Rajiv Chowk metro station and like every other college kid plugged in my earphones. The metro was full to the brim. I pushed my way inside and found a spot near the back doors with a few other men standing around me. Being a small built woman, I have always felt like a kid standing among taller men. The metro was unusually crowded for afternoon and there was no space to move. Every person’s body, bag and belongings were in contact with every other person.
A couple of stations into the journey, I felt something on my butt, something that was constantly touching and pinching me. It was sharp and rigorous. Given how crowded the metro was I assumed it was somebody’s bag’s buckle or zip as I felt it was sharp. I ignored it because there wasn’t any space to even turn around leave alone asking people to move their bag. I kept ignoring the pinch and was lost to the music in my ears. For a second I contemplated if somebody was groping me but ignored the thought because I feared it. As it is my station was close-by and I was just counting back how many more minutes I have to stand squeezed in the crowd.
Shadipur was next and I started to move towards the door. Whilst I was moving, I noticed that the touch was still present on my butt. I was almost at the door, far away from the group of men I was standing with. This was weird. I decided to turn around and see for myself what’s cooking. I saw a middle-aged man, somebody whom I would call ‘Uncle’ if I have to address him, standing very close to me, actually right behind me with his hand near his pants.
What I saw next horrified me so much that I never talked about it with anyone and this is actually the first time I’m publicly talking and writing about it. The man had his penis out and was rubbing it against my butt. He had been doing this since past 10-15 mins and didn’t even stop when I moved from my original place to reach the door. He kept sticking it against me and moved along. He didn’t fear that others might see it. His lust was so strong that it overcame all other inhibitions that he might have had before committing the act. All of this happened in a matter of 5-10 seconds. I was so shocked and disturbed that I froze and quickly exited the metro when my station arrived.
For days, months and years I was angry, very angry. I was not angry at that man, call me a pessimist or a feminazi but I expect this from most of the men around. I was not a feminist activist (something that I associate with and call myself today) back then, but I had always been a rebellious kid and a strong-headed girl. The fact that I endured this quietly and didn’t do anything haunted me for years. I kept thinking of various ways how I could have acted at that time, how I could have raised my voice, how I could have broken the silence. But I didn’t. I was harsh on myself, I programmed myself not to talk to strangers ever, be on a constant alert, make a pissed off expression whilst walking past a group of men on the street, not to trust men, always expect the worst and many other similar defensive and protective measures. I didn’t forgive myself.
Today, four years later, I look at it differently. I have risen above the incident and alienated myself from it. I am not ashamed anymore to tell people, that I was molested in the Delhi metro and I didn’t do anything because I was scared to speak up. I run a feminist website whose tagline is चुप्पी तोड़ आवाज़ उठा. I do advocacy on every occasion possible be it among my family, relatives, friends, colleagues or even strangers. I have embraced feminism. I broke my silence, not just for myself but for all of those who suffer because of patriarchy. I raised my voice to get heard, because your rights will never be served on a golden platter. I am, because#itwasnevermyfault.