by Charanya Kannan on Saturday, 29 December 2012

I was in my engineering second year. Finished a dance practice at Mylapore, took the legendary 12B bus to go home. I was groped by an asshole in the bus. I was not new to that, I don’t think any woman,especially in India,is new to that. I knew exactly how to handle it. I’ve always handled it that way, ever since the first incident happened when I was in class 6, if anybody touches me I would scream out and call the attention of the bus conductor, the conductor would then ask the man to get down, and I’d be satisfied that I’ve done by bit as I see the guy humiliated, embarrassed, hiding in his face and running out of the bus, knowing that he would never dare to do it again. So that day, I did the same. Except, this time it was different.

The conductor looked up and said “Stand somewhere else, away from him”. I was shocked and appalled, and said “What? Ask him to get out of the bus” and as I was saying this, the asshole kissed me, yes in front of everyone, while I was hurling this complaint against him. He curled his lips and gave me this vicious smile which silently said “You are but a helpless woman”. I screamed in rage, EVERYONE stood silent. ALL the passengers, stood silently, watching. The conductor looked up and said “Galatta panadha, buss virtu erungu”. (Get down form the bus, stop overreacting)  I was fuming and burst out in tears as I got down from the bus,I noted down the bus number and went crying to my dad. My dad agreed to take me to the police station. My mother pleaded with us “Are you crazy, why would you take our teenage girl to the police station? Its unsafe ,besides what would people think”. Can anyone blame her for thinking that way? So we telephoned the police instead.

My father had to use his position -‘gazetted officer’ to even so much as to get their attention. We said we have the bus number and need to file a FIR against the bus conductor and the driver. We got a call from the police station 10 minutes later, and a lady officer spoke to me.  She said ” If you press charges, we’d have to suspend the driver and conductor. We would never be able to trace the guy who did that to you anyway. The driver and conductor would complain to their union, and if the union decided to go on a strike , then the issue would be picked up by the media, and your image would unnecessarily be tarnished. My suggestion is to just forget it”. And thats what I’ve tried doing, tried forgetting it for the last 8 years. But I still remember his face, that sadistic smile, that I’ve been wanting to wipe it from his face forever, but just can’t.  And when I was discussing this issue in my college with a group of friends, a random guy who overheard it actually said ” What sort of a girl is she, why would she speak in public about all this”. THIS. THIS is exactly the problem with our country. It wasn’t wrong for the guy to have done that, but it is wrong that I spoke about it. A dutiful girl should have kept it  a secret and carried on with her life. Even now, I’m very sure my mom would call me from India and ask why I publish notes like these.

A bunch of people reading this are invariably bound to think how “unwomanly” it is for me to write all this. And a few people reading this would probably think “Wonder what dress she wore in the bus”. Thats why I specified dance class in the first line- Indian classical dance implies wearing Chudithar with Dupataa.  I read a blog on this issue where the author had to issue a disclaimer “..want to clarify that not all of the examples of harassment or abuse I mentioned in the post involved me directly..” Because we get judged for writing these. Its easier to speak in third person.  Its almost quite impossible  for any girl in India ot have escaped such experiences. But no one speaks about it. And thats the inception for trouble.  What happened to me was nothing, nothing at all, in light of what so many other women undergo in the country.

I’m probably not even thinking right when writing this, I’m just really depressed when I heard the news about that girl who died today. I may regret writing this tomorrow, as the society does expect me to be ashamed for speaking out. I could be termed ‘Dented-painted”.

But still, a few arbid thoughts that come to my mind right now:

  1. While this rape case is being discussed extensively on electronic media, a 17 year old girl has committed suicide, as the officers were trying to convince her to withdraw the case, by casting aspirations on her character and asking her to marry the rapist.Should I be happy that the officer I spoke to was at least courteous to me?
  2. These are the views about ‘rape’ expressed by our politicians, in the last one year. A sordid compliation. These are our law makers, what co you expect from others?This made me nauseous. I’m not sure what else to say about this.
  3. Everybody in korea wears skirts, the length of it being so tiny that it would not even qualify it as a skirt in India. Yet there is no eve teasing here. NO EVE TEASING. People drink, a lot. Girls drink, a LOT. They drink till 4 am. They hang out with guys. Yet girls don’t get raped, they don’t even so much as get stared at or judged. People eat a lot of chow mien here, yet there is no hormonal problem.
  4. A few months ago I posted this image of a girl, who’s face was charred when a guy hurled acid at her face, because she refused to humour him. When I published this photo, I got two messages from friends saying “We log into Facebook to see happy stuff, that image totally put me off, stop posting such gruesome stuff”. I apologize in advance to those people who find such a compelling desire to stay away from news of this sort.Please live in your happy fairy tale land.  And please don’t read the next point.
  5. Engineering 3rd year. Gajalakshmi Prabhakaran came a little shaken to college that day. I asked her why. Her mother is a nurse. Apparently the previous day, her mother saw a one year girl, a tiny little girl, brought bleeding and dead to her hospital. Apparently the father of the girl raped her. The little baby was dead in her mothers arms. Gajalakshmi’s mother was helpless and tormented. So were we, on hearing the news. The same thing has happened again, this time the tiny one is 2.5 years old. The case handled by Gajalakshmi’s mother was never quite reported in the media. I’m sure there are hundreds of nameless 2 year girls who die every year.
  6. My undergraduate college was very liberal in a conservative city, there were no ‘dress codes’. Yet when girls wore kurtas and jeans to college, they invariable earned the names ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ and ‘pros’ by fellow classmates. I was stunned and always wrapped myself in a dupatta for the next 3 years of college. When I see some of those guys’ photographs on Facebook, I now smile, as they’re standing next to a wife/grilfriend wearing jeans. Does that mean there is hope after all?
  7. Speaking about dress, how can you blame the poor guys of Tamilnadu when the youth icon, actor Vijay makes such crass third rate movies ? (I know I can be admonished by Vijay fans for this). Check out this scene where he tells Asin, that if she dresses in a sari, men would worship her. Seriously vijay? Do you want to know some statistics about women who wear a sari and get raped? Our stupid censor board which censors even a simple kiss scene from an english movie, lets such chauvinistic movies make their bucks. Do watch this video, it comes with english subtitles. And remember to hate it.
  8. A few years back the rebel in me would have died to return to India to fight injustice. Now I’m just glad I’m away form that place. I’m thinking twice if my daughter should grow up there.
  9. All my dear friends in Delhi /Gurgaon, please leave that wretched place as soon as possible. I love you all too much.
  10. I’ve already  given a few shout outs to this, but I guess this is the opportune moment, when everyone is keen on doing something. Go ahead, read this blog by Sunitha Krishnan, She was raped by 5 men when she was 15 years old, yet she survived. She not just survived, but has been fighting against sex trafficking through her organization @Prajwala (its a community on fb tagged in this note). Please support that. Do spend half an hour reading her various articles.