Thursday, February 25, 2010

Being a Woman in India

As Woman's Day approaches,I reflect on the moments that made me aware of my 'woman-ness',and the feelings are mixed. There is according to me only one thing that makes me thankful that I am a woman and that is the privilege of giving birth and the awakening of the feeling of motherhood. It is a feeling akin to having your insides melt down and flow about in your body at the sight of that little creature that came from inside you- never mind if the little creature has grown up and is now bigger than you, such small attention to detail just does not count!! I have seen my mother in law gazing in the same tender way at the fully grown Mr as I look at mite and Brat! At almost all other times that I have been aware of my womanhood, I have felt nothing but disgust!!
Consider this, while walking to the beach at Kanyakumari with the mite's hand in mine, two fellows in a motorbike whizzed past and the pillion rider made a grab at me!!! Imagine, here I am an elderly lady nearing 40, with a baby holding my hand and yet some sick fellow has the teremity to make a grab at me. I gave a shout and looked viciously at him, but I was completely helpless. Later, I thought of a hundred things I could have done- picked up a stone and hurled at him, shouted 'chor chor' at the top of my lungs to attract attention, run after him shouting insults...anything...but at that moment I was a totally intimidated creature. It was evening time, but there were a lot of people around, the Mr and my Brat Girl had gone a little ahead, none of the people around noticed the incident, or maybe if they did, they did not react. I could only feel sick and disgusted inside....When I told the Mr about it I could not speak about the groping part...I said, "maybe he was after my camera" (which I was holding in my hand), whereas in my heart of hearts I knew what the fellow was upto. Now, I have had to face many such situations before as a college student in the buses of Delhi, but I had expected that marriage and motherhood would save me from such cheap affronts, but alas a woman is always prey to such filthy acts. A few months ago I was shopping at a nearby mall when I saw a man and several women talking about the fish in the non-veg section. I assumed they were together. I was waiting for my fish to be cut when the man started talking to me. He said he was in the army ( I assumed that the ladies were army wives whom he had brought here). He said he went to Russel market for fish and it was much cheaper and fresh there. He offered to take me there someday when I chose to go there, he gave me his number and asked me to give a missed call to him. By this time my fish was ready, now, I never give my number to strangers but I don't know what folly came upon me that I gave him a missed call, just so he would leave me alone. Meanwhile, I noticed that the ladies had disappeared and the man seemed in no hurry to accompany them. Anyhow, I completed my shopping and came home. From that evening the trouble started, the man started giving me blank calls. I felt totally intimidated, what if he stalked me and found my daughter? what if he is a rapist?? I felt complete helplessness, disgust and very sorry for myself. How could I make myself so vulnerable so easily? I am a nearly middle aged mother of two, yet one silly lapse renders me totally helpless. I started keeping an eagle eye out for my daughter. I did not ever wear the dress I had worn that day, neither did I go to that mall again in the morning or with my kids. Meanwhile the calls kept coming. I cancelled the calls without taking them. I told the Mr and my landlord. I thought if I had a male voice answer the phone once or twice then the fellow would be discouraged. At last the calls stopped...he must have found some other pray. Indeed, a few months later, when I was relating this incident to a young friend of mine she grabbed hold of me and said, "Didi, the same guy took my number in almost the same manner and kept calling me and turning up at places where I was buying stuff and later even proposing marriage!", my young friend did not tell me about the incident because she thought I would not believe her or I might think that she is silly to have given her number to a stranger! So what is the result of this? A man who is a potential danger to God knows how many women is roaming free in the malls and 2 women who know him for what he is cannot prevent him from spreading his perversity around.
This same young friend was attacked by a burgler in her own house a couple of months ago. She had been living in Bangalore for the past 5-6 years on her own. The burgler apparently stalked her for sometime and one morning when she went down to start the water pump he slipped into her room and when she came in he nearly strngled her and beat her up badly before running off with her valuables. The police arrived and started asking questions of her about the minutest detail of the attack, their questions became unbearable to my friend, it was almost as if they wanted to hear something more sensational than a mere robbery. My friend felt very uncomfortable and later refused to lodge a complaint for fear of further harassment at the hands of the police.
These incidents made something very clear to me. We just do not have the mechanism to afford relief to women victims in cases of assault against women. The first person we can turn to i.e. the police itself has a dubious record in these matters. Is it not important that women should get a chance to report such cases in a place where she herself does not feel threatened? The woman should get proper training so that she can face such attacks...what does she do in case this happens to her?? There is no agency apart from the police to deal with these cases, atleast nothing that might be freely available to all women.
Now I believe that the Indian woman is more intelligent, more focused, more hard working, more caring and in every way more superior than the male of the species. In spite of anti-social elements strewn all over the place, inspite of socio-religious restrictions, inspite of unfair cultural dictats, inspite of every kind of deterrent she has emerged with great courage to persue her dreams. She walks the hostile streets, scales corporate ladders, excels everywhere, nurtures her family with super human effort and I think she deserves a much better deal than she is getting. What we do not have and require desperately is a sisterhood of sorts. Maybe we can carry whistles and when someone blows it women within hearing distance can rally around. What is required is a revolution among the women so that they can support each other in case they are targeted due to their sex. Any suggestions??


2 B's mommy said...

Once again, totally agree with you Diya. I can't beleive u faced that situation on a crowded beach ! you know there's one thing I really like about living in NZ, I have never faced such perverts here and I am so relieved that my daughter wouldn't either. That's the most disgusting part of being a woman in India where Goddesses are worshipped and women are considered to be 'devi ka roop'.

I am so glad that that man finally stopped calling you.

diya said...

Friend, this might be the least offensive thing that I faced! Tourists, specially women travelling alone have to bear the brunt of these attacks. An aquaintance from Indore in the garment business said that foreigners do not buy ghagras because there is more risk of getting raped!! Can you imagine that??

Buchki Scribbles said...

I am paranoid about these things and I refuse to talk to even well meaning strangers. however that doesn't stop the potential abuser from stalking you in the streets, railway stations, crowded buses, trains, metros in Kolkata. However Hyderabad has variety of stalkers who stare and follow you and sometimes pass snide comments.