Dhruva Ghosh

Eve-teasing, per se, and street sexual harassment are not identical, as we have agreed, in the past. I think, of all the various axes the subject can be dissected along, one of the most important issues was, and continues to remain, the degree and nature of engagement of two individuals, on the street, against a social backdrop. Fact remains that sexual instinct is a powerful one. In the average human being where roughly 90% of all sensory stimulus is visual, sight (and therefore 'checking out' ) plays a strong role in reproductive behaviour. Therefore it makes it very difficult for one to draw a line where looking crosses the margin of the acceptable and becomes a menace. I have known men to ogle at women with or without their knowledge in several ways, and mean no harm. Yet I have also seen otherwise. The point of this monologue is this. Perhaps there is no uniform prescription. Only a certain awareness of the situation and an emergent resolution of the issue is the way out. No one really wants the trouble, more or less. The gap is merely one of communication. And this gap is widened by closed minds, differing currencies of sensibility, and misperception, amongst other things.


John P Matthew for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Comments on my blog post on "Street Harassment"
No, John, No chappals from me. I agree with your tongue-in-cheek analysis of street harassment. To survive, you need to be tough, blasé, and tell yourself, men are dogs. No, not you. And actually, not quite a few men I know. But like one negotiates potholes, shit, stray dogs, beggars, BEST buses, rickshaws, etc, etc on our big, bad roads, the same with eve teasers.
Batul Mukhtiar

Well, you do have a point, John, but let me tell you my perspective...

Women are harassed on the streets even if dresses are not so revealing, and despite sindoor. They have always been.

Sometimes ignoring works. But yes, knowing self defence is a good idea. I have used the good old safety pin quite often. And I hope the men who have been at the receiving end of my "weapon" have not dared to repeat their acts.

I remember once Bhopal police ran a unique anti-harassment drive near my all-girls' college. The head of any man found guilty was shaved!

I am raising my son to respect women. Hope his children will respect women even more. And gradually, change should happen.
Smita Rajan

Batul: "To survive, you need to be tough, blase, and tell yourself, men are dogs. "

Please do not take this extreme view. They are only misguided. As Smita says we have to work towards a change in attitude.

Smita: "Women are harassed on the streets even if dresses are not so revealing, and despite sindoor. They have always been."

I had forgotten one vital point. Kamayani has stated on her Ryze page that "portrayal of women in the media is one of the major causes of violence towards women," something to that effect. In the same vein I would say "portrayal of women in films and serials is one of the major reasons for eve teasing and street harassment."

In films women are shown to playfully enjoy being called "Chamak Challo," so men assume in real life too they love being called that. Wrong assumption. In films they are following the dream merchants' tricks to get more people to watch the movie and in real life it hurts to be called "Chamak Challo."

so the portrayal of women in the media also has to change with the change of attitude we are aiming towards.

Confession time: Even I used to have a "teaser's mentality" (no not an outright teaser, as I was shy of girls, but I still do "look" [the "that woman is stunningly beautiful" sort of look, and i have been amply rewarded by a smile for my efforts] if that amounts to harassment, please enlighten) at one time and I changed when I had enough wonderful women friends. If I can change then all men can, I am sure.

No, John. I don't really believe men are dogs. I meant it in the same tone as was your article. For that moment of time, when one is being teased, like a bit of a whiplash, actually, one just reacts. That's it. I don't believe in generalizations. Nor do I enjoy being a "Chammak Challo". But I do like being looked at appreciatevely as I am sure, do men

My reaction to a post on Anita's blog.

We, as a society aren't ready enough for our women to wear g-strings, as yet. If they do, it's at their own risk.

I hint at a feminine revolution, but the harbingers have to go by the status quo before changing attitudes and perception.

As I also said elsewhere, the provocation happens in a song video, but the rape happens in a lonely spot to an innocent girl who least expects it, by a man who hasn't learnt to be nonchalant (as it happened to a girl in a police chowky in Bombay).

Whatever made you think you'd have chappals thrown at you?

I enjoyed every bit of this post. And I'm taking the advice about the martial art. :)

nice post. and no , am not aiming any of my footwear at you. Though I must say, just being a female is enough to get cat calls. I grew up being called ugly by my family so was really aghast when I still got lewd passes made at me. And, no I havent worn a mini in my life :P

What gave you the idea that salwar-kameez's and sari's can shield you from being groped?!! That's just a fantasy! And you don't think married women with sindoor and mangalsutra's get molested everyday?! Ask around. You'll be surprised. It's not about g-strings and revealing clothes. It rarely is.

John I dunno what to say! I personally don't like telling people what to do. I'd rather advise men to keep off. If its ain't your business then its ain't your business. Just keep off!

Why advise women as to how should they dress? Anyways, an engaging piece. :-)
Dan Hussein

"Dress in salwar-kameezes and saris and please do not show skin." even i thought that worked... but trust me it doesnt.

All of you are agreed that saris and salwar-kameezes aren't a deterrent to eve teasing. May be, I was wrong. But women friends who suggested this said this works. At least, the sindoor in hair parting bit as the man is aware that there is a man in her life and he doesn't stand a chance.

Dan, dost, I had to write something as I had already enlisted as a blogger. So why not offer a piece of advice? After all, it is my blog I am writing and my personal space.

"At least, the sindoor in hair parting bit as the man is aware that there is a man in her life and he doesn't stand a chance."

But John! The point here is that the eve-teaser does not care if the woman has a man in her life or not! All he needs to do is to grope and grope he will despite any marital status.
Smita Rajan

A serial rape, two molestations and a gang rape!

A serial rape and two molestations and a gang rape

Seems this blog is being converted (thought of using the word perverted) into a rape blog. I couldn't post this yesterday, and when I open the papers today there's another rape spashed across the pages.

We need to do some deep meditation before the nation degenerates, yes, degenerates, into a nation of rapists, molesters, lechers, and perverts.

I guess rape is about power. The power to confer sex is in the hands of the female of the species. But power of administration, business and comerce are with men. Men use women as tools to advance their power, administration, business and commerce. In the process women are forced to expose, pose in the nude, talk loftily about a lifestyle they crave, give the "come hither" looks.

Unmoderated, unregulated show of sexuality on screen can pervert men into thinking women are "available" when they are not. That leads to frustration, and rap happens.

Please comment. I would like to know what you think.

First the serial rape

A rich industrialist’s son, who drives a Mercedes, no less seems to be a serial rapist. He picked up a 52-year old woman from Colaba some place, took her to the textile mill he owns and raped her. I see your jaws dropping. Yes, she is 52 years old and he is the scion of one of the richest mill-owners in Bombay, and he raped her in the mill he owns. Whoa, what happening? As the Ripley’s Believe it or not presenter say, “Believe it.”

Seems he is a serial rapist and a sex maniac on the loose. A homosexual then came forward and testified that he had assaulted and raped him also. Then a call center employee came forth with another allegation that the same industrialist’s son had raped her on the Bombay-Pune expressway.

A Riot Over a Molestation on Holi

Ghansoli is a small village near Turbhe where I work. In this village two groups clashed with iron rods, swords, and sickles over a molestation of a girl on Holi. For those who came late, I mean those from foreign climes, Holi is the festival of springs when colored water and powder is thrown on each other in celebration of the coming of spring. It is an Indian custom and a festival of sorts.

Seems a girl was molested when throwing water, or powder on her. It is a common occurrence and many women have complained of men groping them on the pretext of applying colored water and powder. But a riot ensued and three people are dead. The police fired their weapons and many are injured and in hospital.

Masseur-ji in molestation case

Then this one tops this list. A masseur, a member of the Indian team that went to participate in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, groped and attempted “to fondle” an attendant in the games village in that city.

Tut, tut, not done dear masseur-ji. Those white-skin “memsahibs” are not as forgiving as our local “madam-ji’s” when they are groped. You are used to groping cute young things in buses and in public places in India. Right? But those white-skinned “memsahibs” can slap you, drag you to court, humiliate you if you do the sort of stuff you do in DTC and BEST buses.

So be very careful when you are in a “phoren” country. Okay?

The gang rape
Today, there is news of a gang rape in Mira road. A teenager invited a girl of his age to his flat apparently for a birthday party. The girl innocently turns up and finds only the boy and his friends. She is given fruit juice laced with sleeping pills. She is taken into the bedroom shown porono films and gang raped.

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!

Great Bong for the Blank Noise Blogathon

Leaving aside my objections to BNP and its branch of militant feminism, the cause is worthwhile and some posts, which transcend street harassment and talk about sexual harassment in general are worth reading— making you uneasy and at the same time stunning you into silence by their explosive nature.

There is not much for me to say about this topic that has not been said more eloquently and more fervently elsewhere. However one wonders—do blogathons really help the harassed woman on the streets? Do roadside Romeos read my blog? And would reading this change them in any way?

Jai Arjun Singh for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

The divorced woman as easy prey
(Originally wrote this for the Blank Noise Project blogathon – I’d been told the post didn’t necessarily have to be on street harassment. Oh well, it can sit here now.)

I was nine when my parents separated and my mother and I moved into a new flat. My relationship with my mom had always been very candid, and so it was that even at that early age I developed an understanding of the perceptions many men had about divorced women: that they were available, desperate for any form of companionship – and even fundamentally loose-charactered (it being a major step in our society for a woman to leave her husband’s home, and therefore indicative that she was unconventional in her thinking = not a sweet, submissive Bharatiya naari = Westernised = unprincipled).

One of the first friends my mother made in the new colony was this slightly sad-faced lady (I’m not sure if she was like that from the very beginning or if I’ve ascribed those qualities to her retrospectively) who I’ll call Ritika aunty. She would often visit, sometimes with her husband Rajiv, and mum and I would occasionally go across to their place as well. I can’t recall what I thought of him back then – my memory is so clouded by what happened later – but I probably thought he was an okay sort: the adult male figures in my life up to that point hadn’t exactly been paragons of normalcy, and compared to them most uncles would have seemed okay-sorts.

Ritika and Rajiv seemed the picture of a “normal” couple – well-settled, living in a decent-sized house with two small children and one large dog. Which is why it’s easy to imagine how shaken my mother was when one day – a year or so into our acquaintance with them – Rajiv called her up late one evening and, after initially asking if his wife was around, started making overtures. The kind of talk that begins with “What do you do all day, it must get very dull” and progresses with surprising swiftness to “Is the kid asleep? Should I come over?”

The first thing mum did was to tell me about it. The second thing (and this is something not many women would have had the courage to do) was to call Ritika aunty over and give her the whole story as calmly and straightforwardly as possible. I think it’s equally creditable (given how women in Indian society are conditioned to be fiercely loyal to their husbands just to maintain appearances, “family honour” etc) that Ritika accepted the story without fuss, admitting that she had long suspected Rajiv was up to all sorts of things behind her back, but had resigned herself to it. I imagine she confronted him about it later, and of course that was the end of any contact between him and us. They’re still very much together, though I don’t know what sort of a relationship it must be.

The incident had a major effect on my mother. She no longer felt as free or as comfortable talking with her friends’ husbands as she had before – even with the ones she had known for many years and genuinely believed to be decent men. This most relaxed, unselfconscious of women started feeling the need to measure everything she said at get-togethers. She told me once that she didn’t know anymore whether to laugh at a risqué joke told by a male friend, even if it was in his wife’s presence – because if another such incident ever occurred she might be accused of having brought it on herself by being over-familiar. As tactfully as possible, she made it clear to her closest friends that she was more comfortable when they visited alone rather than with their husbands. Inevitably, the strings of some of those friendships were loosened as a result. And all because of one stupid episode.

I’d like to think things have changed since those days in terms of how men look at a divorced/separated woman – or in terms of people being more accepting of independent women in general. But every once in a while I’m reminded they haven’t. A friend who recently got divorced told me about how she’d been getting strange, scarily persistent phone calls and SMSes from male acquaintances: come-ons based on the assumption that she must now be lonely or insecure. These included guys who were themselves married or in relationships, and who had never been anything more than pleasantly cordial to her when she was married. And I’m talking here about a woman with a thriving career, financial security and parents who were supportive of her all the way through. I can only imagine what it must be like for others who aren’t as lucky. It makes it easier to understand why thousands of women in this country persist in sticking on in bad marriages.

P.S. I still see Ritika aunty around the colony sometimes, looking tired and careworn, usually leading a big dog listlessly around. (It’s almost always a different dog – none of their pets lives very long because this isn’t a family of animal-lovers, they just keep getting dogs to fill the empty spaces in their lives.) She even drops in briefly once every few months but the friendship between her and my mum has never been the same since

Ventilatorblues for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Mr. H.
[Thank you, Blank Noise Project]

I went to a Protestant school in Kolkata, where I had many Anglo-Indian teachers. One of them was Mr. H, who was an old boy, and taught us English literature. Now, Mr. H. was one of my favorite teachers in school. Full of personality and attitude, and a huge physical frame to go with them, he was the one teacher all of us loved as well as feared. At a school like mine, grades mattered, and Mr. H. was very generous with his grading. Surely this had something to do with the fact that he did not think class tests to be very important, but also, he was an alcoholic, and so, often, very amenable to all kinds of pressure tactics from students post-test. Mr. H. was also heavily into sports, having earned school colors in boxing, swimming, rugby and athletics in his day, and he was also the school swimming instructor. So I knew him outside the class as well, by virtue of being in the school swim team, which every year would participate in an inter-school competition. Now, at the swimming pool, unlike in class, Mr. H. was a strict disciplinarian. He was a passionate taskmaster, and not averse to physically "setting right" anyone that was not pulling their weight. Looking back, those hours in the swimming pool, and the times I spent with Mr. H. outside the pool, traveling to swim competitions, are some of my happiest memories of school.

One day, I think it was in Class VII, Mr. H. and an old boy, SS, walked into our class in the middle of another teacher's class and hauled out one of my classmates. Lets call him K. Before going any further, let me add that this was totally unprecedented. Teachers did not just walk into others' classes and pull students out unless the matter was serious - leave alone teachers accompanied by old boys (SS had been in the swim team too, in his day). As it turns out, the matter was serious. K had been eve-teasing women outside Victoria Memorial after school hours. Yes, K was in Class VII and apparently, these things start early. But he had made the mistake the day before, of directing his advances towards a lady who turned out to have been SS's sister. Mr. H. and SS marched K into the Round Chapel in school, closed all the doors, and ...................... well, let me just say that we did not see K in school for a few days thereafter. And when he did return, his body was still hurting. The whole incident created a huge stir in school, but as far I can recall, the school authorities did not interfere at all, and matters died down very quickly.

Like many other bloggers who have been writing about sexual harrassment, I too have never experienced it first-hand. And like my friend Tabula Rasa, who asks how we can change the status quo, I too have no stock answers. Lust is a primal human drive, and if Hindu scripture is to be believed, it has the same physical origins as the will to create. As such, there is no easy way of cleansing the human mind of this vicious drive, except to greet it with the strongest reproach every time it arises. Mr. H. understood this, and his approach to this problem was, in my opinion, bang on target.

I should add that about two years after I finished school, Mr. H. died at the age of 40, from liver complications. I had gone away to Delhi for college, but I was lucky to be in Kolkata when the school decided to host a commemoration ceremony for him. At the ceremony, I met all my swim team buddies, and we all remembered Mr. H. and thanked our stars that we had had the good fortune to pass through school while he had been around.

I hope that all my classmates from that day will carry the memory of that incident just as vividly as I do. Most of all, K.

Hawkeye for Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Blank Noise Dedication

So blank noise project is a team of energetic people who want to protest against sexual harrassment. Sometimes they even photograph offenders and put the photos on the web. Good work! Noble idea. Their message is actually different. They feel the word "eve teasing" is actually an euphemism which dignifies what is actually sexual harrasment. The web page was interesting because women all over India have basically poured in incidents from - all over India. Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi Madras - every place seems to try and better each other in hurting its women.

Unfortunately male bloggers have taken upon themselves to play the "i didn't steal his pencil teacher". Men reacting to women complain about eve teasing is funny. They suddenly become the voice of the world females population and say "how dare he? how can anybody do this?". And we'll see them talk and act like they lived through and know what the women's perspective is. Suddenly they'll get all moral and say "It happens like that in Mumbai. No way! I never knew about it" ( He'd say this after he personally laughed at 2 guys making fun of a girl in the morning train journey). The other popular routine is "I didnt know it affected you so much". The point is men do pass obscene comments at women. They is no point in pretending that this never happens. The issue is what should one do about it. What did I personally do about it? If the offending male is old/small or someone whom I can beat up, I'll probably try and do something. But if there are a group of boys who are thugs, I'll cooly walk the other way. I never pretended to be a courageous person and dont want to play that game either. I know that I'll certainly get beaten up if I raise my voice. I have had my share of stupidy standing up for justice (incident narrated below) and I know better than indulging in more of it. The only person who can save the girl from that point onwards is some undercover female police or the bus conductor.

I have some advice for Blank Noise. The point of the blank noise thing is that it should be more focussed on how to systematically internalize values in the society that such things do not happen. How do you knock sense into a boy who is 3rd year mechanical engineering but is so sexually repressed that he has to make comments at a girl who happens like wearing pants? I personally prefer violence to knock some sense into him - but then that is not realistic. If the blank noise team can come up with a clear implementable idea then they can consider themselves to have done a god job. And dont ask men not to ogle. That is not realistic. I ogle. Ogling is known to be the chief cause of love marriages. So that cant be a bad thing. It is the intrusion of personal space that seems
to be the offending element there. If a thug passes a comment on a girl or pinches her breast, there is no accountability, no way for the girl to prove it happened. So in effect creating a deterrent for doing this is difficult. So this team needs to mull over what an effective deterrent could be? If punishment 9after the fact) route is ineffective how do you prevent? I am not sure how you can go to a village in Gujarat (which in my opinion is worse than any other place mentioned in blank noise) and teach somebody to behave well with girls. Can somebody contribute a bright idea to this cause? The point is instead of narrating personal incidents (which I am pretty sure some men will read it just for the sexual kick) or useless rhetorical threats (Some men do this - "kabardaar! if you do it I will come and protect my sister and rip your throat off" ) - people should come up with solutions that are realistic.

The other "things to think about in the future" for people like blank noise is - (1) To systematically act against "Vice-Chancellors" of institutions who design taliban like dress code for women (and men). This is the chief cause of many men being the idiots they are. And according to me these dress codes amount to sexual harrassment. (ii) Educating village men on marriage. In situations where the groom and the bride have never seen each other before marriage- having sex on the wedding night is tantamount to rape. Any non-profit group should teach such categories of people to encourage bride & groom to talk to each other before marriage (or) postpone having 'the sex' until they know each other very well. Without touching upon these two topics groups such as blank Noise would leave things half-done. They can start by catering to middle-class, rich girls who can already speak for themselves. But they should complete by helping women who dont even know what their rights are. Thats really stopping sexual harrasment.

I had written old piece on "sex and india". I will provide an excerpt from that as my contribution to blank noise project.

I think 99% of people in India are "pattikaadu" (country bumpkins). For example Madras has its share of pattikaadu but the more south of Madras (and into south TN) you go the more pattikaadus you see. Seriously! While I have appreciated south-of-Madras folks for a lot of things, I have to say that they are pretty shitty when it comes to this topic. Madras isn't much different. Some 3 months before I went to Ooty with my family. In Pykara falls, there was a reasonably good looking girl (who had come with her parents) dressed in western outfit. It was nothing great. She wore a short-sleeve T-Shirt and jeans. Students from Sun College of Engineering & Technology ( Address Sun Nagar, Erachakulam Post Nagercoil, KanyaKumari District, Tamilnadu. Phone: 91-04652-26335 Chairman: C.Thayaparan, M.E. Trust: ACP Educational Trust, 10 Kalaimagal Street, Nagercoil - 629 0001: Call the college and curse the chairman for enrolling shameless students - these were students who visited Ooty in July 2005) had come for their class tour to Ooty. From the way they behaved on seeing this girl made me feel that these people had never seen good looking females before, leave alone females in jeans. They called her "thambi" ( which means 'brother' because in their retarded minds only men wear jeans) etc. They made funny noises until the girl and her family left in embarassment. They literally ganged up and harassed the girl. Even the most impotent tiny balls bastard in that group began to see an opportunity to show his manliness. In my view 99% of males from 15-25 in Tamil Nadu falls in this category. I went looking for a female police station so that they could book these people for "eve teasing". I shouted and called a couple of guys "bastards". I kept calling them that until it diverted the undersexed assoles and made them look at me. Two of those students got offended because I revealed their birth history to the general public and tried to pick a fight with me But alas! my father dragged me out of that place.

Hey! I drool at girls. Every man who walks abviously does. But there is a difference. "Looking" is different but commenting loudly is something else. It is bad, invasion of privacy, abuse, and should never be allowed. I think people down south TN are complete "pattikaadu". And this fact has been largely ignored because we feel some desparate urge to show support for people from villages and small towns. Now I can already see comments like "how can you say such things.. villages are the heart of India etc". Nobody has travelled around TN like I have. This topic is different from engineering entrance exams topic. So I suggest such people keep their patriotism to themselves and shut up their asses. People south of Madras are backward, primitive and barbaric. You disgaree? do this experiment. Send a very good looking girl(dressed in western outfits) out for a walk on the roads of madurai, trichy or thirunelveli. In less than 2 minutes you would notice everybody in the road staring at her, talking and smiling among themselves. In 10 minutes there will be 2 derogatory comments and a whistle. This is 100% true. Go to anywhere in TN you will get a 100 on 100 success. Even better make a boy & girl walk on the road holding hands you will almost see a riot. A girl wearing sleeveless, jeans or slightly western dress is a "sole" (prostitute). A girl who talks too much with guys is named "despo". I hope people from these parts are reading this. I desparately want to insult them.

zigzackly for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Our apologies in advance. This is a long, rambly post. Sorry, an even more rambly post than we produce in those rare moments when we stir ourselves to actually write at length. And yes, we'll have to abandon our beloved first person plural for the nonce. We beg your pardon.

When one of the people behind the Blank Noise Project blog-a-thon got in touch a few days ago and invited me to participate, I hesitated. I'll gladly help spread the word, I said, but I don't know if I'll post.

You see, there are parts of this whole thing that leave me uncomfortable.

There's the matter of the road-side romeos, as we like to refer to them. The ones who whistle and sing film songs at girls. Scum, right? Shouldn't be allowed, right?

To answer that, I'll have to digress a bit. I was talking to a friend last night. She mentioned a girl we both know who was being harassed. I sat up. All concern. What happened, I asked. Well, some chap who'd taken a fancy to her had been emailing and SMSing a lot, had asked her out several times, that kinda thing. I snorted. That's not harassment, I said, that's a dumbf*** who doesn't get the message. And then I had this flash: the road-side romeos, they're doing just the same thing – they don't do the flowers and asking-out-to-a-date thing, but it's really only because they haven't been grown up learning that kind of courtship ritual. It's just a different culture thing. Take away the, um, "sophistication" levels, and we're still talking unwanted attention here.

And that's where I'm stuck; I fancy a woman, I ask her out, is that harassment? I think not.

When a guy looking at a woman with admiration – or trying to strike up a conversation, or asking her out – is labelled "harassment," a line is crossed. I'm quite likely to do some of that (well, okay, just the leching part, I lack nerve to do more than that, usually), and I don't see myself as a predator by any stretch of the imagination. And as I long as I have hormones and eyesight – alas, one is aging, so that may not be long – I will continue to say a mental hubba-hubba-va-va-voom whenever I happen to spot a woman who meets my particular standards of attractiveness.

Anyway. Let's leave my dilemmas out of this for the moment. Where was I? Yes.

Over the last few days, reading the posts that have begun coming up , I have been feeling .. shell-shocked. Not at the content – female friends have told me more and worse – but at the sheer numbers. And the pent-up rage that one sees coming to the surface. And I have begun to think that while I still don't agree that ogling is harassment, I can understand why so many women think so.

What, aside from that, pushed me to finally post? Several things.

I think it was reading, somewhere on some news site during my insomniac wanderings, which one I can't remember, that ridiculous euphemism once more: eve teasing. Jeeze. Teasing. Therein lies a problem. The media needs to stop using that antiquated term that makes it sound like a boys-will-be-boys lark and tell it like it is. If some creep paws a woman, say he pawed her, for god's sake.

I think it was several memories coming to the surface.

Like this once, way back when I was fresh-faced youth (yes, there was such a time), I had an elderly perve groping my crotch in a crowded train. Crowded or not, I reached down, got hold of his little finger and bent it backwards. Crowded or not, he managed to wiggle his way quickly to the other side of the train.

That was just once. I cannot begin to imagine what my life would be like if I had to go through this every day.

Like this other time, years later, in a train with a female friend, as we were getting off at a crowded station, she whispered to me, that guy behind me is pinching me. The rush of people getting on and off was a bit of a hindrance, but as we got out, I reached out and caught his neck, and slammed him against a pillar. His friends came to his rescue, trying to pick a fight. Ask this b*********d what he was doing I yelled in my tattered Hindi. A crowd, as crowds do, quickly formed. Beat the m**********d up someone suggested helpfully. The pals quickly changed their tune. Let him go, he's young or something to that effect. I lose my temper rarely, when I do, I see red. My friend pulled me away. Let it go, she said, probably concerned that I would burst a blood vessel. I wish I hadn't. Maybe I scared him enough. Somehow, I think not.

Partly, it was the memory of, over the years, female friends telling me of walking hunched, with a file held across the chest; of carrying knives in their purses; of being felt, groped, touched, pinched every day for years. Some have retaliated, hit out, made a scene. Most haven't. They've been told to let it go, don't make a scene, it happens all over, there's nothing you can do.

I also remembered a prize-winning essay by Meenakshi Shedde (Outlook's rejecting my password, so I can't point you to the link or remember her exact words, but it was either the 2000 or 2001 Outlook Picador contest.) which said something about "boyfriend clothes"; clothes you could only wear when you were with a man.

I also remember an essay by Meenakshi Shedde, one that was short-listed in the Outlook Picador contest in 2001 [Thanks to Dilip, who, incidentally, won second prize that year, I can now quote the relevant passage]:
Besides, my dress sense is relatively conservative, covering most of my body. Minis and plunging necklines are mostly in the realm of what I call `boyfriend clothes' -- clothes best worn with a boyfriend attached: a single woman wearing them draws so much unpleasant attention from the men in the streets, it is simply not worth the bother.
Is there a point to all this? Kind of. Here it is. If a woman is physically assaulted every day to the point where she carries a constant kernel of suspicion and rage around with her; if a woman within reach of a man's hands in situations where he thinks he won't get caught is touched inappropriately more times than not; if a woman can't wear what she wants to when she wants to (and don't give me that lame-arsed twaddle about respecting culture – if paunchy men can wander around in public in striped chuddies, shirtless, scratching their privates, it is hypocritical to want women to cover up), then something's very, very wrong.

So, will this blog-a-thon matter a solitary damn? I'm sceptical. It will, by and large, preach to the converted. Such trolls and plain weirdos as may happen by will not see reason. But, hey who knows. It will bring some attention to the matter. Maybe get some media coverage. At the very least, if some women speak of their rage for the first time, and find some release in it, if some woman can walk proud and erect, if some angry women stops tarring all men with the same brush .. and if even one man looks at this problem differently after this blog-a-thon, perhaps a beginning will have been made.

After I wrote this, and was agonising about whether to post it, I happened to be chatting with a friend. And in my usual decisive way, I dumped this post on her, asked her for an opinion. Post, she said. Yes, it rambles, she said, kindly not going on to say, hey, who expects anything else from you? We discussed a few other blog-a-thon posts we'd both read. And she said something that summed it up for me better than I could have. So, with Megha's permission, here we go:
Who are Roadside Romeos? Are they some separate branch of society different from us? We, blog readers = respectable. They, RRs = scum of the earth? I think that line that some of us have in our mind is what this blog-a-thon somewhat blurs. Perhaps, in reading the testimonies of women everywhere, there may be men who sit up and realize that what they think is harmless is perhaps not so harmless. Perhaps, in reading the testimonies of innocent men who have unfairly been subject to angry glares, there will be women who will sit up and realize that not all men are scum. Perhaps we will come away on the whole realizing that things are a lot more nuanced than we see them as.

And another thing too - when a malaise is as commonplace as 'street harassment / eve teasing' is, we become somewhat indifferent to it. A problem that we are at most times, content to ignore, until and unless it directly affects us. Shy away from uncomfortable truths or live in blissful denial of it. But perhaps, on reading the posts written on this topic, some of us will, at least in our heads, stop pretending that the problem is the rest-of-the-world's alone. It is very much ours as well. And isn't that an essential part of solving any problem - to start by acknowledging that it exists?

Ranjit Warrier for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Given the recent blogathon to raise awareness of 'eve-teasing', or harassment (both verbal and physical) that women in Indian cities are exposed to while going about their daily lives, I decided to write something about self-defense. I'm very interested in defence affairs, both of nations as well as individuals, and it's been a long-standing arguement of mine that women have to be given self-defense lessons in school. For too long we have kept our women actively away from sports and physical disciplines for no good reason. I would like a revival of our ancient martial arts (heh heh of course I pick the mallu one), taught compulsarily to girls in school, and any guys who would like to learn. This would go a long way in ensuring a population that has the confidence to take care of itself. No more of nobody will marry a girl who has bruises on her knees and stuff like that. If our roadside romeos know that the girl can fight back, I'm sure they will think a few times before commenting. Or maybe not, and they get bashed up for it. Either way, the streets/buses will be a safer place. I want to commend the blogathon organizers because as long as people don't talk about it, it will remain a problem. After all, the Rani of Jhansi wasn't that far back in history.

थोडे दिनों पहले २०० भारतीय महिलाओं ने अपने संकट बताए ईव-टीसिंग से। मुझे भी नहीं पता था कि यह इतनी बड़ी समस्या है, उनके कहने से पता लगा कि महिलाऐं जब बाहर जातीं हैं तो उनहें बड़ी धिक्कत होती है लोगों के बातें सुनकर और उनपर हमला भी होता है। लड़का होने के कारण मैंने कभी यह महसूस नहीं किया लेकिन अगर मैं उनके जगह होता तो मुझे बहुत गुस्सा आता और ज़रूर मारा-मारी हो जाती। मेरे पास इस समस्या का हल है, जो मैं बहुत से लोगों को बता चुका हूँ और अब इन्टर्नेट पर कह रहा हूँ। हमें अपने लड़कियों को पाठशाला में लड़ाई कैसे करते हैं यह सिखाना होगा। लड़के तो यह वैसे भी पढ़ जाते हैं, लेकिन लड़कियों को पढाना बहुत ज़रूरी है। इससे अपने गली वाले शेर चूहे बन जाएंगे, अगर नहीं बने तो लड़कीयों के हाथों पिटेंगे। अगर लड़कियाँ अपनी सुरक्षा करना जान जाऐं तो शायद शहरें उनके लिए कम भयानक जगह होंगी। लेकन इस विशय पर चरचा होने से अच्छा ही होगा, अगर उन लोगों को पता चले कि उनके वाक्य और कर्म कितने हानिकारक होते हैं। अपने मर्दों को भी पता चले कि झान्सी की राणी अभी भी भारत मे मौजूद हैं।

mish-mish aka Raghu for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Line Hodiadhu

I don't want to give the impression that my social life revolves around this Free Speech conference a fortnight ago, but that seems to be the case.

On the first day, VS and I skipped the movie because the Blank Noise meeting was at my place later that evening, and I needed to shove my clothes under the bed. I'd spent all day in the vicinity of Lawrence Liang, so I was quite tipsy on the idea that any restraints on speech or expression tend towards tyranny. We were swaggering up Kasturba Gandhi Marg looking for an auto, and a woman, slimly attractive in that Delhi-Delhi way, was walking past us, and I was hardly aware of it before a "KWAAAAWOO..." began to squeeze out of my throat. VS gave me an incredibly violent pout, though, and the catcall receded before it could make too much of a racket. Then VS took me by the arm and shepherded me home before I could damage my self-opinion any further.

There is absolutely no moral to this story, although I spent a while trying to derive one. The closest I got was
(1) damn, she was hot, I wish she'd looked at me, and
(2) don't be such a dick, Rags.

There is a deep-set paradox in trying to be an ally (and by an ally I mean the Swarthmore connotation, someone offering support and solidarity to the members of a group who face a kind of disadvantage that he or she does not), particularly in trying to be a straight male ally to women's fronts against sexism. The paradox is nothing complicated: in trying to combat sexism, you're trying to strip yourself of an archaic right that you're usually aware of still wanting. Some people, the pessimistic type, would say its an attempt to take arms against your biological hardwiring. I dont know about any of that, but I'm calling myself RAM until proven ROM (sorry, people who know what those mean).

Still, this paradox lends itself to a certain type of misbehaviour: the temptation to use progressive politics as a foil against examining your own attitude, or worse, to collect feminist cred without making much effort to put your own chauvinist impulses in order. Its quite likely that I'm as much a perpetrator as I am an ally. Do I just want everyone else to change? "Look," says Anand, in his prudent, politically-weathered manner, "I don't think it's hypocrisy if you put it that way. Obviously as men we're all mysogynist and there's no conquering our mysogyny once and for all. As I see it, thinking we've got the answer to mysogyny is accepting it, in a way. Remaining self-critical is the only way to be a male ally."

* * *

A good place to go to get it all in perspective is Cairo. Cairo is an extraordinarily woman-unfriendly place, although I dont know what the city is like to anyone behind a niqab. Probably quite uneventful. But anyway, Cairo is not like Riyadh is, by all reports, that honestly dystopian way. Gender relations on the streets of Cairo have the kind of passive-aggressive nature that overlies a deep schizophrenia.

I spent seven months there, okay? So I know everything about Cairo.

It starts with politics: colonialism, which is always self-explanatory. Then economics: a country, and a regime, that is heavily reliant on tourism, the second largest source of revenue after textiles. Then civic dynamics: gaggles of Italian tourists drifting through Islamic Cairo in tubetops and Daisy Dukes, while their guides pointedly feign laissez faire attitudes to clothing. A couple of reductivist steps down the ladder: a culture of street harassment like nothing I have ever seen.

Unless my memory is hyperbolizing to me, visiting the Khan el Khaleeli with girls could be overwhelming - hands, hands, everywhere, hands, incomprehensible voices, more hands - with a thoughtless rapidity that leaves you looking more like a baffled spectator than a heroic protector (another problematic point). Most frighteningly, a lot of those hands and comments belong to boys too young to know what they're reaching for, picked up like any bad habit from older brothers.

One afternoon, after class, a friend of mine walked home across the bridge and through Gezira. Our hostel was in the diplomatic area, so every street junction had a pair of bored national guardsmen fiddling with their rifles and kicking dust at each other. This afternoon she was wearing a long brown skirt, right down to her feet, and a loose collared shirt, I remember the outfit quite clearly. She passed a policeman who was tilting his head back, drinking water from a Baraka bottle. Then he straightened up, and spat a mouthful of water all over her.

She was exquisitely graceful under fire. She walked back to our hostel, calmly told us what had happened and retired to her room to be upset in peace. I went out with the receptionist and caught an officer, demanded to know what he was going to do about it. He winced and smiled and shrugged, this is ordinary stuff, ya basha, you indignant foreigners are such pests. We bullied him for a while. "Tell me what you want me to do," he offered, rhetorically.
"Scalp him!" I screamed, in English. Then in Arabic, the correct response, "You are his officer. Cannot him keep doing this. I said what happened. You do what is appropriate."
"Taaban!" he exclaimed, "Very good, sir. I will do that!" And, nodding to me, he stormed off vengeantly in the opposite direction.

* * *

My point is not to absolve India of its transgressions - of course not. I'm trying to situate harassing behaviour, very clearly, at an intersection of social determination, institutional sanction and individual choice. That helps me understand the three fronts on which it can be combatted, and it helps me understand my own position as both the subject and the object of that struggle. Each one of those fronts is a point of opportunity as well as of resistance, and they do not necessarily move in concert, which can disguise true progress as it occurs. The paradox I described earlier is the sight of these opportunities and resistances knocking against each other.

Each front is one in which something can be seized - the editing of a popular magazine, a penal code, an autodriver's collar - and made to contemplate the simplicity of something better, and how that simplicity flies in the face of its resistance. I doubt that, in my lifetime, the streets around my home will become a place where no one feels uncomfortable, demeaned or violated because of their sex or sexuality. We'll never fix society, or the police or the judiciary, or people.

I'm pretty sure, though, that each of them has an unrealized capacity to want to be an agent of fairness while also being a beneficiary of unfairness. To seed the streets with that paradox - to make them a place where people enter with the desire to respect each other, even if they do have bad habits or wild hormones - that doesnt seem like as much of a fantasy. It seems quite doable, really. What a petite ambition. But what a place to be proud of.

* * *

Today is International Women's Day. I wrote this as part of the Blank Noise Project blogathon. Keep on keepin' on.

You think I dont know the word for 'appropriate' in Arabic, but its munasib, sucka.

Raghu + made the Blank Noise blogathon happen. He was part of the team that planned it and gave it shape. Thank you Raghu. Smita ( for proposing the idea), Harneet +

Sportolysis for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

More than 150 Indian Bloggers have joined The Blank Noise Project to highlight the harassment of women on Indian streets. Why should any one have to bear indignity because of the gender?

I have had my women friends speak on harassment, leering they have to go through. Not being a woman, I am not the right person to speak from personal experience on the issue. Only a woman can truly express how she feels on the issue.

I am all for equality though and in that vein, am strongly behind the intentions of the cause. I would like to highlight on the state of equality in sport in general taking this opportunity. Most sports have a far less following for the women’s game compared to the men’s game. Tennis, athletics apart how many games can you think of where you can recount names of women sports people? Do they try less or are the games less interesting to watch?

Why is there hardly a following for Women’s football, cricket, basketball, et all? Apart from the lack of general interest of people, the participation of women is also far behind because of society at large. Indian, Pakistani women are discouraged to play in the sun as it is apparently going to cause their skin to become darker, hence ugly. People don’t want to marry dark women. White skin is supposedly more beautiful. India does not have the WNBA but the Women’s Railways Basketball team has just as dedicated and sincere players.

Most of those who do manage to play the game have to retire way before they reach their prime. Pressure from parents and society to marry is too much to resist beyond a point. These problems are specifically worse in the subcontinent. When sports people sacrifice marriage, kids in many countries, in the subcontinent such bold decisions are looked down upon rather than being applauded.

I was watching a small segment on television which highlighted how young the current Pakistani Women’s cricket team is. A former captain might still have been captain if she had not married. If some one represents the country in sport, I would imagine that should be reason to be of. The husband should be supportive after marriage rather than rule out the woman following her passion.

If some one is able to defeat the social barriers, or is lucky not to encounter them, there is the financial barrier. There is hardly any money in most men’s sports. The situation is far worse where the women are concerned. Despite all this, an India has managed P.T.Usha, Sania Mirza. It is ironic that most women athletes in India come from poor back grounds. The higher the social strata, the bigger the taboo of a woman sports person.

The problem is global though much more in various countries and societies. The Aussie Women’s Football team got a lot of attention when they bared all for a nude calendar. An American woman’s footballer got attention when she opened her jersey in joy after scoring a goal. A Sharapova can gain attention for her grunts but not her game.

An Anna Kournikova will earn more than an Amelie Muaresmo just because Mauresmo a lesbian and not as attractive to the consumers and hence not as much in demand. Mauresmo will be number 1 in one of the follow two weeks with Clijsters likely to remain injured for the near future. But the market will not chase her. It tells more about the mind set of the consumers, the general sports fan than any thing else. Martina Navratilova (also a lesbian) has been a pioneer for the women’s tennis game in more ways than just in the tennis court but obviously, seeing as things stand, there is a long way to go still.

Sexual harassment does not even come into the picture when the women’s sports are hardly highlighted. It exists. There is hardly a doubt regading the same. Olympic 200 metre Bronze medalist in the 2000 Sydney games, Susantha Jayasinghe, tested positive for drugs in 1998. A drug test which Jayasinghe accused of being rigged because of her political beliefs. She even accused a Sri Lankan politician of sexual harassment. Jayasinghe was cleared of charges and was due to participate in Athens, 2004 before a leg injury.

Was Jayasinghe guilty? I do not and cannot know. What I do know is that there are far more barriers a woman has to over come than just those in the sporting arena. Sexual harassment is just one of the problems. It is a darker problem and hardly comes into public knowledge. Only a woman sports person might be able to say how bad the situation is.

I am proud of the women’s sportspersons, specially those the subcontinent manages to come up with despite all the issues. I hope you are prouder after reading the current piece.

Pavan- for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

This Post will deal about my opinions about Street harassment for Blank Noise Project. I chanced upon this blog and liked their idea and started reading the links which were posted and thought I should add my 2 cents to it. Every link that originates from this has experiences of women who have been harassed in the bus or on the road. I thought I should write about this coz i want people to understand what it is to stand on the other side in the guy's shoes. Street Harassment isn't done only by people who are un-educated and who lived all their life in agony with no one to care about them. It is done in IIT-Madras as some one pointed out. It is done by people who are brought up in good families. It is experienced by every girl in some walk of their life. Every one has a story... Why do guys want to do this? Let me tell you it is not fun it brings upon life long tremendous guilt on the guy just as it brings a life long of unforgettable dirty experience for a girl. Yes you heard it right the guy feels guilty. I am not talking about people who do it for sadistic pleasure but guys from well brought up families who really can’t come in terms with their changing hormones. Guys who don't know whom to turn to. Just an average guy who represents more than 3 people of the 5 you meet every hour. Guys who know that their whole life will be spoiled if the girls just takes up the fight and reports to the police but still can’t stop themselves. It is after all a five minute pleasure which will bring you to earth if you jerk off. So is Sex it is also a five minute experience which is basis of all evolution of Man-Kind. Please try to understand I am not advocating that this kind of thing should happen. I still shudder when I read some of the blogs in blank noise. All I am trying to point out is the society is failing miserably in this regard. Our parents shy away to discuss things like this with us. We are not comfortable with our bodies. There is still a lot of gap between boys and girls in understanding each other. I am sure you will agree with me that Street harassment is more in the recent times than a few generations back. That makes me think.. ok their parents are still the same. They shyed away from their children But, still it is less why... This is my personal opinion... I attribute it to the way the girls brought changes to their life style in the recent times. They came a long way be it professionally or personally they have set great examples for men. They fought for their right place in the society... this is a damn great thing... I am proud of these women... I feel there are still hundreds of men who are not able to keep pace with this fact. Frankly speaking I feel this change could have been handled in a better way
Dressing is an important aspect. Many people rote that it is bull shit to argue woman to change the way they dress. An argument which is always put across when this is told is that women wearing saris and burka are not spared from street harassment. But, do you think street Harassment is impulsive I don guess so. The emotions well up in people and when they can’t hold it any longer then they resort to means which brings a shame upon the society. Many people rote that they resort to wearing loose T-shirts and Salwar when they go in public transport why do you resort to wearing stuff like that when street harassment doesn't care what you wear. I am not suggesting that immediately all the women in India should stop wearing provocative dresses. Let times open up. We are still a conservative society. Every one has a right to wear what they are comfortable in but, micro skirts and short tops with lots of skin show. I really doubt if someone will be comfortable in them. I personally feel they wear them to attract attention.
People got to be careful. All the MMS Clips making rounds and exposing in the movies is just making things much worse. Teenagers are getting affected. If your boy friend suggests we make a clip don't girls things how dangerous that proposition is and what kind of guy they are dealing with...
There is no end to this argument. This can go on forever. To summarize I suggest girls to be more careful and parents to educate their children... Your silence is your enemy. I know the societal pressure is really something which is impossible to handle. But if you want to bring a change in the society bold steps got to be taken. Next time someone touches you and if you know who is doing it. Please don't keep your mouth shut and bring a sadistic pleasure to the guy who will not only stop doing it but also encourages his friends to do it. Stand up to him and do whatever you can make him realize he is doing wrong. A slap, a punch, a shout which will make him ashamed. Do something. Women sure are changing and i sincerely believe it is just a matter of time even this social stigma goes forever from our lives and our future women generations live much better...

Sunny/ Pickled Politics for the Blank Noise blogathon (2006)

Yesterday was International Women’s Day which I nominally regard as a silly PR stunt. However this time it would be right to plug The Blank Noise project – a blog based campaign against harassment of women in India. The Indian blogosphere has quite admirably been very supportive of the project but that should come as no surprise since it’s populated by educated, liberal types.

I hope the project moves out of the blogosphere in a sustainable and concrete form so it can move away from preaching to the converted so to speak. Also admirable is their unwillingness to tolerate statements such as “Wear what you want! You just want to be leeched at right?” My hats off to the women, who have been running the project for a year now.

Lately on time- for the Blank Noise blogathon(2006)

I sat in the far end of the café at the end of the world, trying to ignore time and let my thoughts coil and uncoil in the dungeons of my mind. At eight in the evening on a Monday, the world, for all I cared, could march straight to apocalypse now and I would have strewn flowers in its way and smashed a bottle of champagne on its back. There is something manic about Mondays (as the song goes) that calls for a certain morbidity and snap-at-life-ness. However, here, in the sanctum of coffee fumes engulfed, in a snuck corner with nothing but a sheer wall behind me and the rest of the world stretching away from my toes, I felt the self sinking into a comfortable inertia.

On the table next to mine, gelled and calvin klined, sat five men – specimen of what globalised consumption, rich parents and good education can do to people – talking at the top of their voices, showering hi-fives to each other, laughing, roaring, making jokes, having a ball of a time wrapped in their indifference to therestoftheworld. It was the mobile brigade, their phones always on the beep and their hands punching keys even as they talked under the neon hued tree-scape. I smiled at them, over the rising vapours of my cup, with benign amusement – old age comes with tolerance for that which reminds one of one’s own younger days, when one sat on the roads, around an old wizened man strewing cups of tea served in thick glasses, and felt disconnected from the traffic that passed us by; the hours, the days, the years.

Time tiptoed around me, knowing quite well that one false step and I would have killed it with a flat note. And just when I was feeling divinely alone – like god in his heaven, flipping over pages in an old, old book – she walked in. I am not particularly sure how to describe her but if Byron were alive, he would have stirred out of his hashish induced stupor and poked me in my ribs with a familiarity that the Romantics had perfected, and issued a small whistle and said, ‘Now that’s what I meant when I said, ‘Walks in beauty like the night’ ’ before sliding back into his hallucinogenic world.

With quick unhurried steps, she climbed the stairs and made the entire room gasp – a thing of beauty joy forever – and with a smile that would have lit a couple of African nations for a year and a tilt of the head that could have changed seasons, she walked in. Her stride was unconcerned, her hands, covered in many bangles tinkled as they swayed. She punctuated her walk with a comma, perched, as if in mid-air, to sweep the room with her eyes and then traipsed along to the far corner of the triangular room that we were all entombed in. You could see that she was happy. She smiled at strangers – something you generally don’t do in big cities unless you are begging or waiting to be picked up, she irradiated a certain all’s-well-with-the-worldness around her that was infectious. The room felt a better place, now that she was there. In her eyes, one could see traces of a secret joy that she was fostering – nothing in specific, just the joy of somebody who was happy to be alive.

People smiled back at her; momentarily taken aback, but caught in the wave of happiness that she was riding, but eventually giving in. The waiters all watched with their breaths held up, to see which table she descended on. And as she walked certain steps towards where I was sitting, there was a sudden lull in her stride. A chance word or comment from the GAP Group, as I called them in my mind, stopped her in midair as if she was frozen in time. As she stopped, there was a huge roar of laughter and the more courageous man – one shall call him that for lack of a better word – stood up and walked quickly to where she was standing. On the pretext of going nowhere he brushed against her and let his hand hover over her back, closer to the legs than you would have liked to imagine. And then with a look of a hyena that had found its prey, sauntered back to his table, his head held high and his pants tenting in the traces of a power erection.

It happened so fast that the only spectator to this whole thing was me and the bastids who were flocked at the table, their faces split in indecent glee and their eyes covered with a sheen of machismo, now that they had collectively conspired against a single woman in a public place. Her face was registering shock, like somebody had suddenly slapped her with a wet sponge. Her eyes were wide with the unexpected and quivering in anger. Her nostrils were dilating and her body was erect, caught in a rage that had no defining. I looked in horror back at her, wondering what to do next. What does one do next? Does one get up and preach to the bastids – the sons of bachelors, the gutter rats? Does one avenge the woman’s ‘honour’? Does one get up and shrug shoulders and leave it at that because that’s how the world functions? Does one join in, showing camaraderie to the macho men that they are? Does one pretend that it never happened? Does one make a mental note in the mind, only to quickly pile it up with something else? Does one naturalise it because come on, it happens every day to everybody, right?

Questions, at the speed of hemp fumes, rushed in my mind as I half sat and half stood, unable to reach a decision. Our eyes met and silently I offered her any help that she might have needed. But before I could stand up and offer any help of any sort, she turned. Taking slow and calculated steps she reached the roadside romeo who had just violated her, swung her hand in a style that would have made Sania Mirza gasp in envy and gave one tight resounding slap on his cheek. Swearing in styles that would have immediately made the censor board issue an A certificate, calling upon their mothers and sisters to the oldest professions in the world, she emptied a cup of hot coffee on a gelled head and then quietly walked back towards where I was sitting.

The silence in the room was palpable. The entire populace was staring between the two tables, from her to them, as if it was a tennis match. The rug rats had visibly shrunk, their eyes wide in horror. The Slapped sod was on the verge of tears and the others were doing a fine imitation of a rabbit caught in headlights. One slap and an overturned cup was all that was required to deflate their hormone fed masculinity. In two minutes, they had disappeared, their lesson learnt, hopefully thinking twice before ever engaging in casual eve teasing…

It needs people like her to remind at least half of MAN kind that even Adam, when he had walked up to Eve and made a pass, had a red cheek and a kick in his balls for the action. Eve teasing is a crime and to let it pass of as a joke, perhaps even bigger. Sexual harassment is an act of violation and violence and deserves to be punished – sometimes informally and sometimes through the law, depending upon the nature of it. It needs people like her to fight it. And it needs everybody who agrees with it, to support the fight. This is not a battle of the sexes – men versus women; it is the battle between people who care and people who don’t. Whether man or woman, if you see an act of sexual harassment, no matter how miniscule it might be, no matter who it is targeted at, do not ignore it or detach yourself from it. What happened to her could happen to anybody we know – men or women. And sometimes just your presence or solidarity gives the victim enough courage to right things up.

It is women’s day today and as a part of the Blank Noise Blogathon, I endorse the need to fight actively against sexual harassment in public spaces around us.

India Uncut for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

Of many violations:
This post is my contribution to the Blank Noise Project, which I support and applaud.

It feels strange to write this post, part of the Blank Noise Project Blogathon to protest eve-teasing and harrassment, for one simple reason: I'm a man. Till recently, I didn't quite understand the extent to which women are violated every day in India, in so many different ways, and that there are no exceptions to this -- you step outside the house, you're a body. I'm not sure I can understand what it must be to be treated like meat. Never happened to me.

When I walk with female companions in crowded places in Mumbai, like railway stations, I often walk directly in front of them, to clear the way, or behind them, to make sure they don't get felt up. So many of my female friends, when I ask, tell me stuff they've gone through that seems shocking to me, but is everyday to them. A touch here, a grope there, push, squeeze, hold, pinch, being reduced to tits and ass. Bloody hell, I'm lucky to be a man; and a part of me says I should be ashamed to feel that way.

When a woman is violated, of course, it is not just in a physical sense: looking does it too. You live in an Indian city? Notice the men when a pretty woman walks by in a public place sometime, see where their eyes are. Nice breasts, no? Such an ass. See how she walks, thumak thumak ke. Ah, how you'd like to...

I suppose women are used to the male gaze, and I can't imagine how. But everytime a man talks disparagingly about letches, he's being hypocritical, to some extent or the other. After all, we all 'check out' women fairly often. If we're male, we have the gaze. Maybe we've just learnt to make it less obvious. One man's checking out is another man's letching. Where do you cross the line?

Well, where you certainly do cross the line is when the look becomes the touch. Why are Indian men in Indian cities so free with their hands? Well, because by a lack of adequate condemnation and punishment, there is a sort of social sanction for it. Now, while men probably can't imagine what women go through in crowded buses and trains, they can put a stop to it. Instead of turning a blind eye to what is happening around us -- minding our own business, avoiding trouble -- we can raise our voice, and even our hands, if we spot someone violating a woman's space. Every time one of us does this, shames a molester in a public space, we change that public space just a little bit, and make it harder for the next guy to go overboard. And even if we don't know the woman we're helping out, we're making things a little bit easier for the women we do know and care about.

So that's my own resolution, and my plea to the men out there. What can I say to the women that so many other women haven't blogged about eloquently already? There's nothing new to say, but I'll just say this: it's not your fault and you shouldn't have to put up with it, so don't. Be like Hemangini famously was in the train to Chennai. Be strong.

Not like us male schmucks.