If you think this post is about the recent ugly events related to harassment around the country, it isn’t. But it certainly is a post about my personal experience with the act, although, quite a tad bit late.
When I was new in Bangalore, I would travel by buses that are an open invitation to gropers/harassers everywhere. There have been times when a secret act would startle me or most of the girls, but it was so secret that nobody else could notice. The one time I was absolutely stunned was while walking on a footpath. The potential man didn’t even look intimidating and crossed me coming from the opposite side, with a quick and swift grab at my butt! I spit out dirty words at him while he ran away, giving me no closure whatsoever. That’s when I realised, it’s such an easy task for them, but such a difficult memory to erase, for us.
It was only after I understood the word harassment in its true sense that I could validate what a horrid teenage life I had lived, for a while. Cut to almost 15 years back when I was just entering my teens. I was in a state-board co-ed school with really fun friends, having the time of my life, living on my own terms (at least I thought so!). In just a day, the entire-remaining 3 years of my school life (and two years ahead) were destined for a scary hell. Which, by the way, at that point in time, seemed like it would fade away. But it has stayed engraved to this day and it has ruined my school life. When people state they want to go back to school, I don’t identify with them. At all.
When I entered 8th standard, there was this silent looking boy with piercing, piercing eyes who suddenly became interested in me. Very easily terming it as love, at that time. And after that, there has not been a single day in the next 3-5 years that he hadn’t bothered me with his psychotic acts. Following me home, trying to talk to my friends, almost coming to my home, singing friggin loudly around the lanes of my house to make his presence felt, following me to relatives and friends – I was fucking scared all the time. Anticipating his next move, wondering whether he would do something inappropriate, shit scared to go to school every day, wondering what I’d do in my best friend’s absence to accompany me all the way to school and back, making sure I was surrounded by someone all the time, executing plans that I normally wouldn’t to get him off my back – these memories define my early teens. The whole school knew, they would tease him and he would smile. Oh, how I remember that evil smile. Those eyes and that smile were my nightmares. When he wasn’t around, those eyes would bother me. I wanted to know what was going on in his head. It was easy to call him a psycho but why did I have to face hell? He was never on the losing end of this all.
To top it all, he picked up bad habits and blamed it on me. He would be involved in accidents and come looking for me. And those school mates who didn’t realise the seriousness of it, would come and tease me. I just wanted school to get over! My sister and friends tried to talk him out of this but he wasn’t harming me physically, in his defense. It was such a filthy game that worked in his favour!
This continued for another two years of my college and I would be ready with a divider (the mathematical instrument), to use it if the need be. I had less people to protect me in college and something had to come handy! He would constantly come up and talk. There were people on the same route everyday that saw this ordeal, making me feel embarassed and ashamed all of my 5 years! I was at the receiving end and bearing the brunt of it all.
And one day he suddenly stopped coming. You know that creepy feeling of a ghost being around? I felt like that for a long time. It has a term, trauma. My daily ritual of looking around to escape this creep didn’t stop for about a year, being scared all the time that he would pop up from somewhere one day.
He stopped his insanity, but it took away 5 whole years of my teenage life, where I was supposed to live a normal life with no complexities and complexes to deal with. Even today, people make fun of that whole time and how it was lame. If only, they were in my shoes. They think I have forgiven him. I tried, but I cannot. Because I am not a saint. Yes it bothers me, yes it might be harmful for me but since he hasn’t apologised, and even if he does – I cannot see myself giving control to him on this front. Nothing inside me allows me to forgive him.
School friends tell me at least he never spoke dirty of me. Does it matter? I have wished bad things for him, all through those five years but it never affected his life! He got away with a forgotten name and a teasing memory for people to make fun of, but what did I get in return?
I saw him 3 years ago at a wedding and I felt all those feelings rushing back to me – those fears, those dirty eyes. I felt unsafe in a crowd of hundreds. My heart beat ran faster than usual. He was clearly avoiding me, but it was as if nothing had changed. I grabbed onto my husband’s hand and unknowingly feared him coming closer. After more than a decade, nothing had changed for me.
From the bottom of my heart, if you’re reading this –
a) Please don’t let someone harass you, fight for it.
b) If you see someone being victimised, please help.
c) If you find joy in eve teasing, please stop since all you’re getting in return are curses.
d) If you know someone going through this or has gone through this, please don’t make fun of it. Talk to them.
e) And to all those who don’t understand, there’s never a closure.