Today was supposed to be a really happy and jolly day. I and R met after a long time, even though we live in the same area. But when you are out on Indian streets, things are all surprise for you. Every day street surprises come in form of vulgar comments, indecent gestures and public shaming.
R and I were walking towards the big coffee shop that I occasionally go to. She was wearing shorts. Does that ring a bell? Shorts, my god! How she, a girl, can walk in shorts in the middle of the day? I was practically wearing covered clothes, jeans and top or maybe not? Should have wrapped myself like a mummy, damn!
All throughout our walk, on the footpath, there were people staring. By staring, I really mean of those stares which make you want to feel cheap. But we refused to be felt so. For a long time we pretended to be engrossed in our own conversations, refusing to acknowledge the fact that how uncomfortable all those stares made us feel.
We walked like that for a long time, talking about random topics, not even uttering a word about our discomfort. Maybe we just were not ready to be sad yet. So when we were crossing a police station, there was a lady police officer standing outside. She was had her head held up high, her uniform told she was some high ranking officer. As we were nearing towards the police station, I was admiring how smart the lady officer was. When we reached where she was standing, she looked at R’s shorts. Then she looked at my jeans, seemed to approve of the jeans. She looked at R again, and said “what is this indecent dress.” R looked at me, and I was blinking my eyes to make sure this was the same woman I was admiring seconds back.
We just walked away as quickly as possible, and the officer’s head shook in disgust. Then I and R opened up our feelings, because there is only a limit to bottle up your feelings. We walked and saw more people staring. She told me, “mostly I don’t wear shorts while travelling in bus and walking on the roads, I just ignore all those comments and stares.”
I was just about to tell her that I don’t ignore comments and stares. At that moment someone was calling us from a bus standing on the opposite side of the road. There were two boys hooting. I swear I felt like throwing a brick on them, strangle them; but let’s be practical. What I did after that wasn’t a practical or mature thing to do, but I didn’t know what else to do. When they were calling out again, I stared at them straight in their eyes for a few seconds, made a face, held R’s hand and ran away. Now I don’t know what you would have done if you were instead of me, but that was my instant reaction.
I don’t know what others get in at staring people and making them feel uncomfortable. When I say stares, it’s not just from a particular “class” of people or it isn’t even about the men. The people who drive their big cars, with shades on and looking classy…well they don’t have classy manners but; they also stare equally humiliatingly. The aunties who wear saris showing their stomach, but comment on girls wearing crop tops and jeans; it is equally a discomfort.
It not about class or gender; it’s about mentality. When you say “that’s how boys behave or men will always be men,” do you realise you are giving a stamp of approval to the “males” to do anything they wish and blame everything on their gender? How will they know that something is wrong, if you don’t tell them? They will grow up looking at your mindset and develop that mindset, thinking and believing that the mindset is right. I don’t understand why you would do that.
Parents want to protect their children in every step. Do you realise, that when your child is commenting on someone or assaulting someone, that someone is also a happy daughter/son of a parent like you. Don’t support your children in wrong things. It’s not that I am blaming parents for everything that the child does wrong; but you can’t deny that mindset’s are set since childhood. Children do what they see.
As for other people on the streets, you are not dumb, so don’t act like one when you see someone getting assaulted or someone getting eve teased. Who knows, if you stand up for someone today, when you are in trouble, someone will stand up for you.