Candid Wallflowers

I am walking to my class, when I hear someone shout from above, “Topi Wali! (The one with the cap) I love you!” It didn’t take me a second to recognise it as a man leering from inside the police custody bus, coming back from the Court nearby. It was quite unsettling, more so because of the uncomfortable proximity I was forced into with the bus. Standard, crowded Indian road conditions applied there. Mercifully, I was getting late for a class and it left me little time to think about anything else other than hurrying. And hurry I did, with as much false bravado as possible.

Also happening on this planet, an admittedly gorgeous eyed tea-seller from Pakistan, got women, both within and across border lines, fawning over his handsomeness. The light eyed man, probably barely out of his teens, was the subject of blatant sexual fantasies of women on the internet. And yes, it was sexual. When some lady on the internet can’t stop belting out love ballads in the comments of the posts, she’s certainly not talking of the 16 saal ki baali umar wala pyaar. (the innocent love of childhood).

Both these incidents point out a well-known but conveniently denied truth; no one is safe from harassment. For those who are jumping to argue this point, I agree, women face much more of such unwarranted incidents than men. But the point is- the issue exists. A woman needs to constantly be on high alert to avoid getting pulled into unfortunate situations. And men, who we thought were immune, need to develop similarly vigilant attitudes.

I could take this chance to further point out how unjust and limited being a girl can be. But I will not. It is not as if every day of my life, I have had to don the role of Rani of Jhansi and fight the big bad world. I would be the first one to admit that being a girl, I have the advantages that I couldn’t dream of otherwise. I get special reservations for seats in the public transport and quotas in educational institutions. I have been known to sheepishly enter the morning class late, repeatedly, because no teacher wants to shout at the poor little girl. I can cry and whine and share my “feelings” without someone questioning my womanhood. A boy doesn’t have these luxuries. He can’t openly go about unburdening his emotional problems as easily because there is always that idiotic need for him to be manly.

Of course, this is all coming from a girl who is typing this article on her own laptop, in a house that is smack dab, right in the centre of the capital of the country. The average Indian girl still doesn’t get some of the most basic rights that she deserves, let alone the benefits of an educated and fairly open-minded family that I have. So for all I know, I should complain and exhibit my anger some more on behalf of my oppressed sisters. But you and I both know, people don’t want to hear all of it.

I am keeping this article short because I want you to absorb this as much as you can, Reader. I want, no, hope that you think over it and talk about it. Not just when you’re forced to show how modern you are.

Ahana Bose