John P Matthew for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Street Harassment!

I write this at the risk of alienating, nay, losing all my women friends, of which I have a very few dear, dear ones.

Women consider me one of their own. No, I am not a tranvestite, or any of that tribe that women consider harmless enough to make friends. A colleague was bitching about men in general, turned to me and said, “No, not you, John.” I just quivered with gratitude and wanted to kiss her or something. But I didn’t.

But this must be said, and I guess, this has never been said by a man before. So am I assured of the TRPs, page views, and the links to this post, right? Ah, well, then let me go ahead and shake up women’s perception of men a bit.

Umm, oh, huh...

The subject is “Street Harassment” and I am supposed to write some gyan (wisdom, silly) about it.

Women, there is a revolution on, if you haven’t already noticed. These revolutionaries are everywhere, in offices, in trains, buses, wearing revealing clothes, displaying their attitudes and demolishing male bastions. Imagine all those cave women and kitchen-bound women down centuries breaking out into Latino dances today and you can sense a revolutionary casting away of centuries-old shackles. You will find a new generation waving the flag of liberation the way they walk, talk, and work.

In my school, girls excelled in all subjects, leaving us poor sods gritting our teeth and more than a little chastened. In college women were always on top. In literary fora, their voices are rational, learned and strident. In journalism they virtually overshadow the men with their deft handling of issues and words. In the Knowledge Process Outsourcing and Business Process Outsourcing units that I have worked they are the invisible movers and shakers. They seek and command attention. These are the revolutionaries.

With the revolution has come an insouciance, a feeling that they can do things better where men have managed to mess things up with their excesses. In this new confidence, a man feels inferior, threatened. Women are aggressively pursuing their dreams and leaving their boyfriends and husbands behind. A colleague screams into her cellphone, “It’s over, finished,” and disconnects. The husband calls back immediately and apologizes. Wimp!

Now how are men taking this revolution? Can’t say they are taking it in their strides. They have resorted to drinks, narcotics, endless cribs about women, dirty talk, etc. Any “men only” talk is peppered with the most lurid accounts of women. When men are bitter they bitch worse than women. And their bitching is malevolent, and can turn into violent acts, like rape for instance. Tradition, you know.

Too many rapes happening in this country? That’s why. The reason: Women have outwitted men, and men can’t take it gracefully.


If you are the harbinger of this revolution, if you have attitude, if you are blasé about a whistle, or, catcall, go ahead and do your thing. You should also know karate, be able to sock a man on the jaw. Dress in low-waist jeans, wear that see-through thingy. Well, go ahead, I won’t dare stop you. A colleague does that and men stay away.

When a man whispered, “Hi Sweetie” in her face, she assumed her sweet-girl disposition and said, “Hold on, let me keep this bag aside. And we can whisper sweet nothings.”

The macho dude salivatingly thought this was his big day and that she was giving “line,” “Yes of course,” he said.

She rubbed her hands to sharpen the sting and let him have it on both cheeks.

The macho-ness vanished. He fled for his life. The crowd wouldn’t have spared him.

Atta girl, if you can pull off such stunts.

The crowd would be willing participants if you raise a hand and your voice. I saw it happen. A man molested a woman and ran in the VT subway. She screamed “thief, thief” and a crowd gathered and beat him up, despite his protestations. Do something similar.

But if you are the sensitive, touch-me-not, thinks-too-much kind, a word of advice. Do not dress in any of the thingies mentioned above. Because if you do men are going to whistle, cat call, say “Chamak challo.” Confession: Men are many, many times more sexually excitable than women. Even a rotund shape can be suggestive of oodles of passion. And passion can lead crimes of passion. So, beware.

Dress in salwar-kameezes and saris and please do not show skin. Indian traditional dresses are so designed as to keep feminine-ness and men’s roving eyes in check and at
the same time lend grace and beauty. Wear sindoor in your hair. A former colleague said no one bothered her after she started using this strategy, i.e., wearing sindoor in her hair.

If you still feel you should show your feminine-ness then wear clothes that suit the occasion. That is, don’t wear the mini on a train journey, there will be all kinds of snide remarks and catalls. Imagine all those testosterones that would be released in a busy railway platform like Kurla when a girl in a mini walks past. And all they can manage is a tame wolf whistle, or a kiss sound or a “hey, chamiya.” So much for men’s macho-ness. Wear a mini only if you are in a car and the car would leave you at a party and pick you up after it. Or, better still, take the mini along and change at the party venue.

Agreed? Clear? Now let me have those chappals please! I am already ducking!

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