Harsh Truths

This section is very simply a place to discuss some serious and pressing current issues. While none of the opinions expressed here are to be taken personally or to be against any group, things can get a little ‘hairy’ here, so proceed with care.

(Written by Shruti Bharath)

We all have our stand on any given issue. And here we discuss openly and constructively what action lies in our hands. As a woman I am constantly reminded that I live in an unsafe world. I was undecided whether to even bring up this subject , for this is an old and tired one. Like over population or illiteracy in India, where there are a 1000 opinions, but no real fixes. But a few events this week proved the tipping point. A week ago, while at the Kolkata airport, I sat waiting and reading that morning’s news. Nothing extraordinary. This had all happened the day before and it will happen again tomorrow. The first 4 pages had at least 6 stories of rape, 3 stories of violence against women and a child (girl) abduction. Just at that moment, a women seated beside me (with her husband), asked me with a definite sense of panic, if I was traveling alone and if i was ‘ok’. Funny, I hadn’t thought about it like that. On my way to Howrah, I had this horrific thought – what would I even do if someone tried to attack me? Would I be just another flimsy headline in the local paper?

Walking trail, doesn’t look so bad here, Right?

A walk in my neighborhood (Jamshedpur) this week and I found myself on high alert, as always. This is a typical walk for me, in broad daylight – Scenario 1: car slows down, driver ducks his head for a better view, makes lewd gesture. Scenario 2: 3 men on a motor bike, scream loudly as they pass me, I scatter off the road like a chicken. Scenario 3: 2 men walking towards me, neither bothers to step aside. Suddenly I feel a bump on my shoulder. My dignity is bruised, nothing else. Scenario 4: A man on his bike follows me, asking me to ‘hop’ on.  Just for academic purposes, I will have you know, I am wearing a long t-shirt over tracks and running shoes. Nothing provocative there. Now again you are probably imagining brash men, with village roots. NO. These are regular guys too, someone’s college buddy, someone’s brother. But to me, he is nothing. Now if these recent incidents weren’t enough, I was looking for another ‘sign’ to talk about this. I got out of bed this weekend, to find the newspaper slid under my door. ‘Boys of India’ it read, instead of ‘Times of India’. I laughed, a sad, private, defeated laugh. ‘Boys of India!’ indeed! With all due respect to men – good men everywhere, I have had just about enough of this problem.

For the unaware I want to explain, on behalf of some women, what this feels like. No, having rude words thrown at me or undressing stares won’t break me, but it is the precursor to unacceptable behaviour. And that is what makes this NOT OKAY. I want to be able to dress the way I want to and walk where I can, bravely, and have my share of public freedom without having to fear for my safety. I don’t want to have to be extra careful all the time, or look down or away when I see you approaching. It is tiring and humiliating.

We see and hear enough of this on the news, but I thought a personal account, might help spark some debate.

So I’m throwing this question out there. What are our options? How does a regular girl, in urban India, reclaim her dignity and walk away unharmed? Living in fear cannot be the only option right?

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About Shruti Bharath

Social entrepreneur and developmental writer, passionate about creating workable solutions in the areas of improving employability of youth and women through skill enhancement/training and generation of productive and sustainable employment opportunities.

3 comments

  1. Ak23

    I would definitely fight back if I was assaulted or hurt. But at the same time it is not right to dress inappropriately, taunt men and Then expect to be given respect. The point I’m trying to make is that women should be aware of what they wear and where they were it. For example, wearing a dress you would see in a fashion show, on a dark alley at night , is Begging for trouble.

  2. Rohini

    I would fight back too, even if it is by giving an angry glare back. But I also feel we need to take responsibility for our safety ourselves. The world is full of bad men and women too.
    So, wanna yell at or whack the guy who just misbehaved? make sure there are others around.
    Wanna go to a pub/party? please don’t get drunk and pass out. Such heavy-duty drinking shud be done at home (or in private) only.
    Mind ur drink more carefully than ur purse. Finish ur drink before going to the loo and order the next one after ur back. u’ll never expect ur BFF to drop a date-rape drug into ur glass, but he/she just might.
    Take a friend along to the loo just as a look-out.
    These are age-old ‘instructions’ handed down thru the generations. nothing shameful in sticking to them and being safe…

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