It was February 2017.

10:00 am

“Supu you should probably use this lipstick” Said Shally, my best friend since pre-school chapping her lips. Neha was busy posing into the full sized mirror on my cupboard and I was putting on my shoes . We were first years and super excited to attend college festivals. Swesh, the fourth and final member of our close-knitted group was waiting at the metro station and we had already taken an awful lot of time. It’s funny how humans assume that everything will go just according to their fantastical ideas. 

Those memories, how I cherish them! That was the last of my carefree mornings when I was still an innocent child who thought that this world was a nice place.

06:30 pm

 The place was crowded and honestly, not much fun. We clicked pictures, roamed around a bit, ate at the cheap college canteen untill it was time to return. We were far away from home hence there was no question of sticking around for the concert. Neha anyhow stayed back and I, along with Shally and Swesh headed home.                             

We were tired and our chattering mouths were quiet. We were standing at the Rajiv chowk metro station which was more crowded than a KumbhMela. Women’s coach seemed to be far away to our tired feet and honestly, making it to the other end amidst the pool of this sweaty crowd wasn’t exactly delightful. Also, Swesh was with us, so we decided to go for the General coach. It was barely four stations to Kashmere Gate anyway. 

The metro arrived and pushes came from behind. Swesh, who usually stands behind us girls got pushed ahead of me, and so did Shally. I was making my way towards the metro door, clutching my little sling bag tightly with both my hands when a third hand brushed my chest. My brain was suddenly on alert, “what the hell did just happen? It was a mistake, this is crowded and it was a mis” Before I could finish the thought it happened again and this time with a pressure which was more like a squeeze. It happened within a nano second, too fast for an 18 year old to comprehend. I was 18 by age for namesake. In such matters,mentally, I was only 15 or may be younger. I never took interest in any such things, even when my friends talked about this stuff I was just a passive listener. And today, it had happened with me. with me ! These thoughts, were cancerous.I could practically feel the poison spreading through my nerves, gripping my senses, Paralyzing them. My mouth suddenly went dry. It was a scar. A stinging slap on my self-esteem. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t even remember how I made in into the metro doors. Is he still here? In the metro with us? Will he do it again? Was it my fault? Why didn’t I take the ladies’ coach . As soon as my mind gained its senses back, the questions flooded. You are weak. You could not protect yourself. My face was growing redder with each passing minute. The first touch I experienced was against my will. against my will!   

Ever since I was a kid, I was always respected for the way I carried myself. Even those who did not know me that well knew that I was not someone to be joked around with. I was not used to be taken lightly. Dignity had become a huge part of my identity. I was true to my word and bound with principles and discipline.  No one had told me to, I was just always like that. But today, all of it was compromised. The way I looked at myself, all puffed with dignity, had changed due to this man, this one man who may be thought I was a clay doll. 

Suddenly, a man pushed me in order to get out on the next station. And that was it. I was filled with rage and humiliation. I roared at him, the man, way older than me, stood there shaken. So shaken that he did not get out, he quietly walked back to another compartment. In my all honesty, I did not feel guilty, not even a bit. At that moment, my 15 year old mind looked at every man and saw an untamed animal. “What happened !!” Swesh and Shally came rushing. I said I wanted to go to the ladies’ coach and Shally took me. In the safety of her presence, I finally told her what had happened. I was still shaken to the core.

That Night, I messaged Swesh and Neha about it. We four, share pretty much everything with each other. Swesh already knew that something had happened. They  were filled with blind anger and Swesh was particularly sorry for not being behind me. You see, that’s the kind of men I grew up with. The closest guys I know of my age, Swesh and my little brother are perfect gentlemen. So the real life, was an ultimate shock . Few days later I heard an Aunt discussing similar incident and her solution was “why don’t girls just stick to the ladies coach, you know for their own safety”. Every cell of my body wanted to scream at her “Do-you-even-know-what-it-feels-like. Why-don’t-you-put-some-sense-into-your-boys” I was always a rebellion. Specially when agitated, I remember shutting up people thrice my age on numerous occasions. I have had absolutely no tolerance for non-sense. But her talk bought back the traumatic memory, so I suppressed it deep down and let it go. 

I was ashamed of myself, It felt so sully. I felt sully. Like someone had touched a flawless white book cover with dirty black hands. Few days later, While taking to one of my friends about it, I shockingly realized that for them, it was not even a big deal. My school was just at a 10 minutes walking distance. My college was a direct metro line, so I always used to get a seat and never had to change. I was not a party person, so I did not travel much. In short, I never had my introduction to the dirty level at which this world operates. My friend told me how once, an old man tried to push his legs on her back, another one told me how a man once touched her inappropriately with his elbows. “And you didn’t say anything?” I wanted to ask. But now I knew, that you have to be in proper senses to revolt  and such incidents leave you numb for at least two days.

 I woke up the next morning as a matured person. A lot of things that I didn’t pay attention to earlier started paying me visits. Is this jeans too tight? Top too short? Kajal too dark?  I was going nuts, questioning every-damn-thing.  Suddenly, I was aware of those creepy stares and shameless gazes that traveled straight to eight inches south of my face. After a week of torturing myself I finally came to terms with it and pulled it together. The first thing that came to my mind was regret for letting him escape. The next thing I did was to prepare myself mentally. If anyone ever tried that stunt again, I will beat him dead. I learned groin kicks, and pressure points on the neck, nose and throat . I was aggressive and deadly Violent almost ready to do serious harm.

The doer may think that hey! it’s just 2 seconds she won’t even notice probably. Just a little fun that’s it. But that two seconds causes years worth of trauma. Even when you Gaze at a women,  it is extremely uncomfortable. Offensively uncomfortable. A little brush, a little touch can cause the damage way beyond imagination. Even more wrong are the parents who ask her to ignore. Such parents are raising a human who will not be able to take her stand. Who will not be strong enough for she will always fear that her freedom will be at stake. Trust me, in a world like this, the last thing you want is to raise a girl child like that. Before letting her cross the threshold of your home, tell her what to expect and how to deal with it.  You see, every man is not a harasser but every women is being harassed. When the #metoo movement started it was painful to see the spread. And my humble request is to not to praise this write-up as courageous. These things should be normal to talk about. No girl should need to muster up courage. It’s not her fault and neither it has anything to do with her dignity.

 I am no parent, but along with the daughters, it is important that our boys too, know that for somethings, there are protocols.

A lot of parents teach their girls, how to act, what to wear, the deadline by which she has to be indoors. But I have come across only a handful of parents who do this with their sons. Who tell them how to behave with a women, who teach them certain things, that looking at the women anywhere other than her face is offensive. We have been focusing on the wrong gender all together. Girls are not the problem, they have got a biological structure and nobody can change that. The thing we need is to change the way of looking at it. Boys will be boys, is not an excuse, it is a shield that cowards use for hiding. It needs to be cultivated from a very young age. To assume, that our son is not like that is understandable but foolish. Kids are curious and they have a circle of equally curious kids. With Bollywood songs and posters all around They learn things way faster than you think.

It is important to teach them from a very young age that how a women should be treated. It is sometimes the conditioning that shape a human being, it’s important to give it the right direction. Only parents can do that.

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Supriya Patnaik

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