Fortunately, I have found some very caring friends at the University. They indulge me, put up with my whims, even mollycoddle. It is their belief that I am an ignoramus when it comes to the ways of the world, and I am mostly ‘theoretical’, ‘impractical’ and ‘idealistic’, hence in need of ‘gentle treatment’. They use swear words in front of me with greatest restrain (when the situation demands wholesome cursing and swearing, especially at the ‘bosses’); carefully sieve out the dirtiest bits while gossiping, and if I recall correctly, have even admonished me on occasions when I chose to be uncharacteristically verbally abusive. Like I said, I am ‘mommied’.
One such dear friend of mine, all the more dear to me because we share the same birthday, declared last week that I was “good at Maths perhaps, but not in Biology”. It perplexed me then; being a student of life sciences ever since college, I couldn’t fathom the meaning of this sudden proclamation. I was seized with this irresistible urge to bring out all my certificates and wave them at his face and prove he was wrong, but then it dawned.
They were discussing the subtle sexual transgressions quickly becoming a norm at workplaces. The rising fury at having my post graduate training questioned, quickly subsided. I grudgingly admit I am far better at understanding what animals are thinking or what their next action might be, than fathoming the bottomless abyss that is human emotions.
But there is an exception. I can equally quickly and nearly accurately spot a sexual pervert in public transports as I can spot a moving beetle in hedgerows. I believe most women can.
This power was vested in me the day I started my daily commute to Midnapore, 10 years back. Through my college and university student years, then through my lab-work days, I have carefully and steadily honed this skill of mine, thanks to the burgeoning populace of sexual predators and perverts. And now, I can match my protesting skills to their molesting skills.
As a fresher in college, and at daily commuting, I used to think it was my fault that must have instigated such behavior, like most girls in India generally think. However, like repeat experiments with bigger samples, this null hypothesis of mine was rejected, and it was confirmed that, as has been beautifully put in colorful words by a friend of mine, “middle aged men, un-serviced at night by their wives, find anything that moves, ‘humpable’ ”. [I know I will be admonished again for the use of certain words here, by my father too, who happens to read my blog, but in my defense, why should anybody pointing out the obvious be persecuted?]
I believe, this realization was empowering, for me. I still remember that spirit uplifting sense of liberation I had when instead of silently suffering at hands of misbehaving co-passengers in the bus, I chose to loudly protest. I have friends who believe that some women protest unjustly and persecute unsuspecting innocent men, just for the fun of it. Well, I have not seen one instance in my 10 year long daily commute, of women wrongly harassing men for misbehaving.
In fact, there have been instances when I have felt enraged at the silence of girls even under constant harassment at hands of men.
Like I said, I can spot perverts pretty well; a consequence of their own doing, I believe. There was this incident once, while I was traveling by a 10-seater auto. A man sat opposite me and kept tormenting a girl, a junior of mine at school and college. I could clearly see the girl fidgeting uncomfortable and shifting about, trying to avoid contact, but she kept absolutely mum. When this had gone on for quite some time, I couldn’t sit quiet any longer. I asked the auto driver to stop and asked the man to sit decently. As was expected, he started a tirade against me, accusing me of “meddling in other people’s business” and “talking in foreign language in one’s own country” [I can’t argue in vernacular, I always switch to English, probably because I know more swear words in English than I do in Bengali]. And, all the while we were arguing, the girl, the victim, did not utter a single, word; not in my support, nor in protest against her abuser. It was only when I asked her if I had been wrong and had not the man been misbehaving, did she nod and say ‘yes’. So, even if a dear friend of mine complaints of women taking undue advantage of the steadily dampening reputation of men and insulting innocent people, that percentage is minuscule in comparison to the proportion of victimized women who deal with their suffering by keeping mum.
But I ask, why keep mum?
10 years back, this ugly face of Indian men was a well known but a rarely acknowledged reality. But recent years has seen a rise in awareness among the public about the truth, wide prevalence and horrors of sexual perversion. It is a shameful fact, but it is at least not denied anymore. So, although 10 years back, protesting meant subjecting oneself to full public glare and personal character scrutiny, the circumstances have changed now. All it takes is a voice ringing out in protest. From the victim.
I fought my own battles, in public transports. Scores of women in India do that on a daily basis. We all are loved and cherished girls, for our friends and families, who would almost certainly take the first bullet trying to shield us, if the situation calls for it. But nobody can fight our battles since none of them are in the battlefields with us. So we are essentially on our own in this real life ‘hunger games’. And protestation is a strong weapon in our arsenal.
The public awareness campaign issued by Whistling Woods International generates another unique idea of protestation. I love it.
I might not be observant of people trading sexual favors for career advancement but I know a pervert from his stares and gestures when I see one, and, thanks to him actually, I know how to retaliate. No woman has to be good at ‘Biology’ to know that. It’s a sixth sense, currently being fine-tuned into a feminine superpower by the nation’s growing number of reprobates, the lecherous leeches.
Image Courtesy: http://www.atlascorps.org
Whistling Woods International Advertisement: Dekh Le (view at http://youtu.be/SDYFqQZEdRA)