Of Camels and Straws
All of us have a carefully constructed public persona.
Mine is of a no-nonsense, ball-busting, passive-aggressive smart-mouth. Most men I meet get intimidated by this image and I don’t blame them. Problem is, like all carefully constructed things public, it’s a sham. That’s the only possible explanation.
I was first felt up in public when I was around 11. I was so shocked that I reacted only when the creep had felt me up a second time. By then, of course, it was too late to do anything about it.
Since then, it’s been innumerable faceless strangers with dirty whisperings as they pass me by, innocent, “accidental” brushes in all the right places and sometimes, worse. Why, I’ve even sat mutely, my smile frozen on my lips as a pervert rick-driver alluded to the most filthy things while casually driving me to Bandra station.
Every single time this has happened, I go through the same motions. First, of course, is the shock. Next comes the anger, a hot wave of fury that makes my fists itch and my brain burn. And then, comes the totally impotent exercise of imagining what I could have done, what I should have done to the pervert who’s making me feel like this.
Today was different. Today was special.
I started the day with forgetting my cell phone at home, going back to get it, missing my train in the process and getting felt up on the station when I finally reached.
This time, I yelled. He feigned surprise, all innocent and quizzical. “What happened?”, he asked me in English. The thing these guys don’t get is that a woman always knows. It’s instinct and it’s strong and there’s no fooling it. A woman always knows. I yelled again. I created a scene. And then, I walked away and got into the train.
Why didn’t I slap him, a part of me asked. Because I didn’t want to touch him, I told myself.
The truth is, I am a wuss, a wimp, a lily-livered, yellow-bellied chicken. A sheep in wolf’s clothing. An utter disgrace to… well, myself really.
Now comes the part about the mixed blessing.
On my way back from office, I was felt up again. Unfortunately, for the creep involved, this time my body acted on auto-pilot.
I swear, I didn’t even think once, forget twice. I slapped him, I hit him, I cursed him using the choicest Hindi swearwords so that he could understand what I was calling him. I did all this in full view of the crowd outside Bandra station and I did it while he kept saying “Sorry, sorry”, as if that was going to make it better.
It felt good. Not nearly good enough, but enough to get some self-respect back.
I could’ve done more. I should’ve done more. But it’s a start. And I have sixteen years worth of catching up to do.
I pity the poor bastard who tries to touch me next.