Delhi says, welcome back!

It’s been almost a month now since I’m back home. I have been hogging on all those missed food items like crazy and my Punjabi family is just contributing to it with their extensive breakfasts and dinners. I re-visited all my favorite places in Delhi which I missed much. But life back home also means I have to reluctantly bring some changes in my lifestyle. Things that I could care about least are now top priority.

The first and most important change that I made as soon as I was back was to put some “extra” things in my bag. These “extra” things are my self-defense weapons whom I also fondly call “mere do anmol ratan” (okay, I’m just humoring myself). These are: one, a pepper spray which I have since December last year for obvious reasons. Second, a Swiss knife that I recently bought which is pretty handy. I occasionally also carry a scarf with me because I don’t drive (read: I can’t drive) and therefore travel a lot via public transport. I have the scarf because you see, exposing your neck, arms and shoulders can be too provocative for some and after all as we have recently learned “It’s our fault”, it is better to be safe than sorry (Fyi, heavy sarcasm involved here).

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There are two incidences which happened shortly after I came back. One was of street harassment and the other moral policing. I would like to describe these two in detail, I hope you will bear with me.

As mentioned above I usually carry my defense weapons in my bag whenever I go out, but this time as I was only walking in my own locality, I didn’t bother to take my bag and neither my weapons. But, you see, as soon as you step out of your Laksham Rekha, danger hovers over you like a fly hovers over a box of Haldiram’s sweets. So it was daytime, I was walking in my locality and there came this big white car (sorry, don’t know which one, it can be a City or an Accent, I’m really bad at this and I hardly care) with three young guys and drove past me. They were really young must be between 18-21. At least they looked younger than me. The driver slowed down the car and ogled at me through his side-view mirror. I ignored for the first time. I walked further peacefully. As I was on foot and they in a car, they drove past me twice and repeated the entire procedure again. I ignored them again.  But this didn’t deter their high spirit of scoring and they tried their luck for the third time. They drove past me again and stopped their car nearly a meter ahead of me. I lost my cool and showed the driver the “middle finger” through his side-view mirror. As expected his big inflated hot air balloon male ego deflated as if someone has pinched it with a pin. He stopped the car, got out and waited for me. By this time, even I was very furious and decided to take on the rage. The conversation went on something like this:

  • He: Why did you show me the “middle finger”?
  • I: Why the fuck were you ogling at me and driving your car past me after every two minutes?
  • He: I did not stare at you and I was waiting for my friend.
  • I: In that case, I did not abuse you. I was motioning to some stranger on the street.

Before he could conjure up any other accusations on me, I walked away and the entire drama ended there and then. Also, I guess because it was day time, there were people on the streets, the guys didn’t dare to take any action against their recently hurt ego. Now imagine the same incident at night. A woman walking down the street, three young guys in a car, dark, and fewer people around. They would have very easily pushed me into the car, silenced my wails and took me away. Further what would have happened, I will not dwell into as we all very well know. Next morning newspapers would have flashy headlines and my family would supposedly go into shame. I would be blamed for walking alone at night and ruining those young boys’ future.

The other incident which is on a more lighter note left me both angry as well as in laughter.  So I was in mall wearing a top which had a deep cut at the back. I was looking for some stuff in the woman’s section when this middle-age woman comes up to me from behind and touches me right at the open slit of my top (creepy).

  • Woman: Ye aapka top yaha se fata hua hai kya? (Is your top torn form here?)
  • I (with a stern face): Nahi, ye aisa hi hai. (No, it is like that.)
  • Woman (shocked and amused): Aisa hai? Par isme to peeche se dikh raha hai.. (Like that? But your back is visible.)
  • I (furious): Aapka bhi to pet dikha raha hai saree mein se (Even your tummy is visible from the saree.)

The woman is highly offended and is about to say something but her friend interrupts her, shushes her down and asks to get away. Fortunately for her, she is saved from my wrath because I sure had some more very interesting and offensive things to say. I look around, there are a few witnesses to the incident who are just staring back at me, in awe or in disgust, I couldn’t tell. With a cold face, I find my mom who is in some other section and narrate her the entire incident. She laughs it off and as compensation I get treated.

I don’t understand why people can’t mind their own business and how can one just come and touch a random stranger that too from behind. One can’t give the excuse that you belong to the same gender or that it was for your own well being. I mean, if somebody touches me from behind, the first thought that will come to my mind is that the person is eve teasing me and my instant reaction would be to turn around and slap the person black and blue in the face.

It is very interesting to know how the keepers of culture have taken their own eccentricities for granted and normalized it. So when it comes to a saree, a lehenga-choli and other such traditional Indian dresses, it is totally normal to expose your tummy, back, cleavage and what not. But if you’re wearing a “western”  top with a slit at the back, you automatically become “carrier” of western culture which is infiltrating our very pure and pious Indian culture. Now I think I should have also poked her tummy. It would have been more fun!

What did I learn from these incidents?

  1. Carry your self-defense weapons whenever and wherever you go. It doesn’t matter even if you are standing right outside your house.
  2. People who don’t mind their own business need a taste of their own medicine.
  3. When walking on the street, don’t look down, walk confident, shoulders out. Don’t give the impression that you are scared. Better, if possible, walk with a pissed off expression on your face especially when walking past a group of rogues.
  4. No matter what you do, what you wear, how you walk, talk, etc, people are going to say something because that’s their work. So don’t give a fuck about “log kya kahenge” and continue to stay amazing!

Walking at night- a fantasy?

Before I start with my own story, I would first like to marvel at this very simple yet powerful and effective comic strip. This comic strip is a part of Sinfest, a web comic written and drawn by American comic strip artist Tatsuya Ishida (a pseudonym, I guess). He’s an invisible web comic artist and one of the interesting things you can see as he matured is that he’s gone from drawing pimp ninjas and geisha sluts to developing a very feminist sensibility. I have posted, liked, circulated his comic strips on social media and on my page on feminism, but this by far has been my favourite. Four pictures and three lines: that’s what it takes to speak a million words, words which are so strong that they pierce you from within. It is like he has hit not one but many bull’s eyes with one single dart. It is a shame for this world in this century that walking at night is a feminist utopia fantasy story.

Now let’s get back to my own fantasy story…

The other day I was coming back home after having dinner with a couple of friends. (A note to those who don’t know: I am an Indian woman who is currently living in Munich, Germany). It was about 11 pm, not very late and I was peacefully walking back home without carrying a pepper spray or any kind of weapon to defend myself. The act was very simple I had dinner with some friends, after biding them farewell, I took the underground and from my station I walked till my home. When home, I changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep. Now you may ask what is so special about this simple act of going home after an evening engagement that I had to write an entire blog post about it.

While I was still doing this simple act, i.e.,  walking back home (I know I am stressing on it and it looks repetitive, but it is important to mention the act) I realised how this simple act was unimaginable for me a couple of months back while I was still in India, how I always needed the company of a trusted male friend who owned a car and about whom I was very sure that he would drop me home safely. I remembered how for many many women this is still a utopia, a fantasy and they might not be able to do this simple act their entire lives. They will go to their graves without taking a walk at night.

Living in Germany since the past four months this act had become a part of my daily routine, my life where I would walk back everyday in the evening either after university or from other prior engagements. I got so used to it that I didn’t realise that it is something special that I should treasure because it is a privilege that I am receiving right now from this country.

And then the hard reality hit me. I am going back to India in a month’s time. I am going back home after five months. I will meet my family, see my friends and loved ones. But was I happy? Yes and No. I was dreading this moment and now it is slowly coming to me. I would never be able to do this simple act of walking back home at night again. I would again require my trusted male friends who would drop me home safely. I would never again be able to smell the night’s air or watch the moon walking quietly behind me.

All this happened while I was still walking and by the time I reached my home and unlocked the door, I was sad, very sad. Only the thought that this is soon coming to an end, that I will have to bid farewell to this freedom spoiled my joyful happy meeting friends night and made me cry, cry not just for myself. not just for my own freedom, but for every woman who lives shackled and oppressed. I was sad and depressed till sleep took a better hold of me. That night I quietly went into my room, changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep.