Dear me, Session I: The Time You Failed Yourself
That lingering touch on your thigh, the hand that strayed on your back longer than what felt comfortable, the handshake that stretched beyond a normal one, you ignored it all. The catcalling and whistling, the evil stares that scanned you from top to bottom, you brushed them away too. You were walking on a roadside with your sister one evening, and a guy on the back of a motorcycle slapped her butt and sped off. You heard from a friend about her boobs getting groped by a man on a quiet street. You read in the news about girls being molested, raped, thrown acid at.
Enough was enough. You promised to yourself, “Whenever I face harassment, I will handle the situations in such a manner that the man will never dare to repeat his actions on any girl again.”
Yet, you failed today. You failed miserably.
You were so excited about going on the horse ride. His body brushed against yours as he was getting on the horse behind you. Touch, you learned, could be healthy or unhealthy. As soon as the horse picked up pace, you felt his hands reach up your bosoms. Wait, was it accidental amidst the frenzy of the horse galloping on a bumpy path, or was it intentional? You couldn’t decide.
As the horse paced faster, you felt his hands from behind grab on to your bosoms even tighter. You knew with certainty, it was intentional.
“ Put your hands away!” You yelled at him.
“Why, what happens if I put it here, do you feel uncomfortable?” His reply blazed through your ears and dumbfounded you. In that instant, you should have gotten down from the horse, slapped him across the face, brought him in front of people and exposed his misconduct.
Yet, you did none of that. Instead of anger for that man, you found yourself drowning in misery for yourself. “Maybe this is what I am worthy of” “This is happening to me because I deserve it” bitter thoughts raced your mind. Many years ago, you remember shivering in the cold evening because no one from home came to pick you up until late evening. In that instant, you sunk back to being that tiny girl from your childhood; helpless, weak, and vulnerable. Men you thought you had forgotten came swirling back to your mind. The man who snapped, ‘you need to buy your own car if you want to sit comfortably’ when you asked him to shift a little because he was occupying too much space beside you in a public bus. The man who you stopped to ask for directions, who later followed you to say that he owned a swimming pool and you could “swim together” with him. The memories added to your feeling more powerless.
The promise you had made to yourself dissolved away like the tears rolling down your cheeks. You failed to stand up for yourself. You failed to punish him for disrespecting you. You failed to save girls who could possibly fall prey to his harassment in the future.
Your disappointed self
Dear Me: Session II: The time you made yourself proud
It’s the next day. You stare at his face across the room in the police station; feelings of anger and disgust welling up within you. “She is like our sister; don’t you have shame for your actions?” The policeman spoke to him with a threatening demeanor.
You had drifted to sleep the earlier night feeling miserable. Sometime in the middle, you jolted awake. The time on your phone showed 3:12 am. Scenes from earlier still squandered your mind; the horse ride, his demeaning touch, you yelling at him, him answering back at you. You hold respect to be of highest value in the pedestal of life. When someone disrespected you in such a disgraceful manner, how could you, then, let it pass? How could you not stop him when you have the chance to, knowing he could repeat his actions on other girls in the future? All these years of education and training, aren’t these the situations that test your leadership? Are you going to stand up for yourself or spend time drowning in self pity instead?
You didn’t feel like a victim anymore. You felt powerful, capable of actions. “I’ll go to the police” you decided. You couldn’t wait for it to be morning.
Outside the Police station, you saw two men in the uniform sitting outside, chatting with each other.
“Namaste, I came with a complaint, who could I talk to?” You were concerned; would the police take you seriously? Would they brush off the matter, saying it was too minute of an incident?
They patiently listened to you as you narrated the story. “We’ll go to the site with you; you can help us identify the man.” They said.
At the police station, you scanned his face, searching for signs of regret. He kept his eyes down. Around were 40 other men who worked with him as horse riders, including his supervisors. You repeated to them his misdeed from the earlier day, your voice firm with conviction.
“I never came across such a case in my 8 years of work” one of his coworkers chimed in.
“He is a disgrace to our line of work. I’ll start preparing his letter of expulsion from the Association.” His supervisor spoke up.
The inspector decided he would spend a night in the jail. As you watched him being led to the jail, you hoped in your heart that he would learn his lesson, that this experience would stop him from disrespecting any more women.
You tired, and you hope you succeeded in making a difference, even a little one.
Your proud self