This is my contribution to the blog-a-thon on Street Harassment organized by Blank Noise Project.
Mama says don’t go here, don’t go there
Dad tells me to stop ‘attracting attention’ with my clothes
Ma tells me she doesn’t have a problem if I look good; only that other people will think so too
Pa says I shouldn’t get caught alone and defenseless
My boyfriend wants to pick me up and drop me everywhere
And when he can’t, he says I should stay home
Last night I stood for 20 minutes waiting for a bus
And when it finally came,
I heaved a sigh of relief that there were enough of people in it
There’s safety in numbers…or so I thought
Till I felt that hand brush across my chest
And I froze right in the middle of the crowded bus aisle
It happened again
And I didn’t say a word to the people I was paying to ferry me through the city
Because that hand belonged to the conductor of the bus
I slid away, then managed to find a seat
But he didn’t stop…
A true master, using angles and gravity and crowds to full benefit
And I didn’t say a word because I didn’t want to be dumped off the bus
Onto an empty road.
I wonder if ma and dad aren’t wrong after all.
It is a burden to be attractive
It is a liability to be young
But most of all, it is a sin to be a woman.
The next time I stood right next to the reserved ladies’ seats
With a scowl on my face
And my shoulders hunched
But even that didn’t stop the assaults
With hands, with fingers, with shoulders
The nudges, the shoves, the seemingly accidental slipping forward
The hand that ends up on my back
And the eyes…the eyes that never relent
Glaring, staring, burrowing right into me
Accusing me with ferocity
Condemning me for my sin
The sin of being a woman.
But Mumbai is a safe city, we are told.
We don’t have the Delhi rapes or the Chennai assaults
The crowds give shelter
They also bring anonymity
To the hand that gropes in the crowd
And also to the sinners like me who are punished every day
The masses move
And I can lose myself and my shame in the crowds again.
The very same crowds that hide my assailant.