Please read previous post to get the relevance of this one.
In December 1978, a group of college students, girls of 18/19 years of age, were taken on a week’s sightseeing tour of Hyderabad in the college bus by nuns, their teachers. On the last day of the tour, they were returning after enjoying an early dinner. Early next morning they would commence the long journey back home. The girls, in fact everyone in the bus, looked forward to an early night.
The roads seemed unusually crowded and the movement of traffic had slowed down to a crawl. The visitors to the state were unaware that the city was getting ready for New Year’s eve revelries. Suddenly one of the girls screamed, startling the rest. Someone had pawed her through the open window of the bus. Totally shaken, she moved away from the window. Then another girl screamed, followed by another. Young hooligans had discovered that the bus had girls in it. They jumped from the outside to reach and grab anyone or anything of theirs they could.
You must remember that it was dark inside the bus. Nothing to indicate the passengers were a bunch of girls. Perhaps the street light had picked up some young face sitting near the windows. (I have never been glad as I was that day that I had not got a window seat). We were conventionally dressed (read covered properly according to the rules of the times), not that anyone could see what we were wearing. So no way could anyone claim our dress as the reason why the ‘boys were boys’that night.
The nuns/teachers shushed us . Don’t scream child, they told us, ordering us to move away from the windows. As always happens every-goddamn-where, particularly in homes and especially from mothers, our caretakers the nuns and teachers were harsh with us. Not at those haranguing, but innocent us sitting inside a bus minding our own business. Always, ALWAYS, bleddy every damn elder whether male or female, finds fault with the females when anything untoward like this happens. So what if we have done absolutely NOTHING other than exist? Merely exist, mind you.
Doesn’t your blood boil reading this? If it doesn’t, it SHOULD. Mine does each time I think of the attack, even after all these years, precisely 39-going-on-40 years now. What if the monsters had succeeded in pushing the door of the bus open? What protection could the nuns or the old driver and conductor of the bus have given us girls against the mob of hooligans? And when I think of the ignoramuses on Facebook and elsewhere trying to tell me that this (meaning harassment during New Year’s eve) never happened in the past and is a new phenomenon!
Let’s go back a few more years. One day there was a sparsely attended function happening in the auditorium of the school which was part of the same institution as our college. It being after-hours, the nuns drummed up custom for the event by ordering the hostelers (captives!) to attend. After a while, bored, some of us slipped away and so glad we did because what followed was a horror tale.
When the event got over and the girls, all between the range of 15 and 20 years old, got up to leave, they found that the narrow corridor had been lined on either side by male college students from next door who had freely accessed the women’s college premises and were now getting ready for a mass groping session.
A few girls who tried to walk through ran back in tears. True to form, the nuns/teachers angrily ordered the girls to get going. Not helping them, not finding out how the boys had got in, not making sure to make them leave before asking the girls to go back to the hostel. Instead they shouted at the hesitant girls to get moving. Do you see the pattern? Your existence itself is your curse. Or at least that is how those around behave.
The girls were molested as they tried to make their way, touched and groped by laughing hyenas (why am I maligning the poor animal?!) who thought nothing about this ORGANISED harassment. The girls screamed, cried and somehow pushed through the lines of the monsters-in-the-making, sorry, lawyers-in-the making for they were students of the nearby law college in the city. These same boys (in the age group of 20-25 and may be older) would be strict brothers, sons, husbands, but they never spare a moment’s thought when they lay their dirty paws on girls/women from other families.
There are innumerable other incidents similar to this. The way young men throng movie halls the day we hostelers are taken out to watch a movie. The way the men in a crowd cannot keep their hands to themselves. It goes on.
How many hands have I scratched for straying to where it does not belong? How many others have done the same as me? How many have quietly suffered because they did not know how to voice their protest, or because it would mean the parents would scold the daughter and stop HER outings rather than at the very least, pin the blame where it belongs? And, HELLO! We are not talking of your BAD, Bad, modern times. We are still in the early seventies.
Let’s step back a few more years and see what happens in the supposedly pious environment of temples. When it is time for the arti, the devotees converge as one in their eagerness to see the lamp, squashing those in the inner area to a pulp. That apart they literally push their bodies on to you. If you are unlucky enough to be in the vicinity of men, the old men because your family would have made sure no young man is about, they take the opportunity to press their overfed bare tummies (in South India men have to leave their upper bodies uncovered in the temple) and other covered parts on you. Hey! It’s the crowd girl, I am not doing it on purpose, is the attitude of some who would have their eyes partially closed and palms folded in prayer. Such humbugs.
Once as a visitor at the Devi temple in Kanyakumari I turned around disgusted to find this man with a potbelly who leered at me. If it had been today I’d have kicked him where it hurt, but all I did was to avoid rush hours from then on. That brings me to the question. Just WHY do parents of girls bring up girls to be no good, mild-mannered and docile creatures who do not know to raise their voice, myself included? Yes, I know they all say some nonsense to the effect that that is how the female gender should be. Have you ever asked yourself why? Shouldn’t parents bring up daughters in such a way as to kick such perverts and put them in their place?
I better not digress. I’ll write on my thoughts on parents failing their daughters in every way, on another day. My main point still remains this: Whether past or present, city (any city) or village, the plight of women has been the same. After all if we go back some more, we’ll find that an was attempt to disrobe a queen in the court of the land by none other than her brother-in-law and that too in full view of impotent (and silent) elders. What more proof do you need of a past that was in no way better than today? If you go back even further you’ll probably find more incidents of crime against women.
It did happen then. In every city where crowds gathered, men have targeted women. The only difference is there was no social media to thrust it under your nose and demand your attention. No newspaper told you the very next day that Duryodhan tried to disrobe Draupadi. Even if it did, you probably missed the one sentence reporting in some corner of the inside page of a newspaper you seldom read. More importantly you never heard as many women speaking up and telling you this has to stop. And if truth be told those voices are what is bothering you the most in the present.
©Shail Mohan 2017