Empathy

Be kind, be sensitive, be empathetic.
Be kind, be sensitive, be empathetic.

I have spoken about this before, published an article that needed to reach out to women – which involved being stalked. I don’t need to delve into surveys to find out that 90% of women/girls have been stalked in their lives by men/boys at some point or another. My experience was particularly bad for me – at an impressionable age, as a teenager and as who I am as a person. 

I was stalked by an apparently ‘harmless’ boy for five long years. He was everywhere I saw, literally following me to wherever I went – whether alone, with family or with friends. It didn’t matter to him. I was embarrassed, constantly questioning my ways, constantly tired, constantly emotionally exhausted, constantly trying not to bother others with my problem. It was also the five years that we were dealing with my father’s illness. Going out of the house to school and college was a sort of escape for what we were dealing with emotionally, as a family. But nobody teaches us to ‘talk’ about our emotions in any area in life. So why would I bother my family with what I was dealing with in school?

My peers in school made fun of the whole stalking deal because it was harmless to them. It has traumatised me, for whatever reason. I became stronger as an adult to deal with such things, to stop it from happening when I see it now; but it is something we have to do on our own. The biggest flaw/mistake of this society is making such issues normal, something that you have to take in your stride because you are a girl/woman. “Ladke to chedenge hi.” Only as an adult, did I realise how toxic these patriarchal habits are. The whole, men will be men attitude. But I wasn’t educated about this back then, as a teenager. 

While growing up, I found out from my friends what a damaging effect being stalked had upon them. It enraged me and made me sadder, not knowing they had gone through something like that alone when they were aware of my problem. It made me feel selfish too, being so engrossed in what I was suffering through. But I understood then and I understand now that it is a sensitive issue.

I lose interest when I see movies/shows/videos where a girl/woman/bunch of girls are being stalked. It is a natural process for me to just turn off. Unless it is being raised as an issue. So recently, when I started watching a movie where in the first half-hour there is a scene where a girl is being followed by a bunch of boys every day – I lost interest – although I continued to watch it in between. My partner recognised that and knowing my trauma, he asked whether he should turn it off. (That’s when you know you’re with the right person.)

When a friend suggested the same movie and I said that scene, in particular, made me uncomfortable, her reaction along with another friends’ reaction, surprised me. One downright told me that I take things seriously nowadays and the other said I should move on. Both said they have experienced being stalked and they understand where I come from. But that amazed me. This reaction doesn’t emerge if you’ve experienced it – maybe you’ve been made to believe this is normal when in truth, it shouldn’t be. Maybe you were able to move on and I couldn’t be happier. The thing to also understand here is that everybody’s process, the phase where they’re at are different. As friends, I guess I was just looking for a mere, “I get where you come from….” 

I was upset after that conversation with them, it took the better of me. It made me think if I am an over-thinker? Do I really let things get to me? What happened to me was not a big deal, maybe they’re right that it happens with almost every girl. But my self-doubt indicated that something else was wrong, I can’t be called out for being sensitive!

The next day I spoke to a friend who understands me better. When I narrated the whole incident and asked her if I was wrong, she immediately asked me to stop thinking that way. What she said after that has left a mark on me. She said, we care about everything a little bit more than others do. We empathise a little bit stronger than others do. After you’ve tried to explain the issue to them, give them some time to understand and don’t explain yourself to them any more. We can only do so much, the rest they need to understand. 

It felt nice to hear that out loud, somehow. I realised I need to filter telling things to people. I know for a fact that I can go to a limited number of friends where I will be completely understood – no judgements. Not every one of my friends is the same and it’s wrong of me to expect that. True, my intention is to make this world a little bit of a better place and I feel I should help people understand such things by telling them, for example, that body-shaming isn’t appropriate. But it’s not my duty to be the educator. All those of my friends who do not need this education, already talk about such issues publicly, sensitively. 

The power to choose lies with me. And I choose to be empathetic.