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“The cops might ask me, if they touched me… They will just ignore what I say until and unless I have been hurt. That’s the problem, we wait for a disaster to happen to take action.”
The music blaring loud in her headphones, she walked past a bunch of guys loitering on the street, towards her stop.
Naina had no choice but to go by this particular lane from her home to the bus stop. A bunch of jerks would always be at that corner building loafing around. Since people would always be around in the mornings, Naina did not really care about their presence. It used to affect her initially but later she managed to put on her headphones and listen to loud music ignoring them until she crossed that corner. And many a times she noticed, she was not the only one going through the ordeal. Evenings were easier. She would get off a stop earlier and catch an auto directly to her home.
One particular evening, Naina had got really late at work. Well, if 7 pm is considered late! She would usually be back at home by 5.30-6pm. At that peak hour, though, she was just not able to get any auto that would take her home. After trying for some time, she finally decided to catch the bus to her stop and walk home.
Naina was scared. For one, it was getting pretty dark. Second, there would hardly be any people around at that time. And if the jerks were still at the corner… Naina shuddered at the thought of it. But now she had no choice. She decided not to put on her headphones so that she could be alert of her surroundings.
Naina’s steps edged closer to the turning lane very cautiously. She could hear loud noises of a bunch of men talking out loud. Naina literally froze. “Should I walk ahead or just go back and wait for an auto?” she thought to herself. But at this time and for this short distance, barely 2 minutes, no auto person was not going to agree to drop her home.
She mustered in the little courage she had and took one step forward when she suddenly heard her name at a distance. “Oh lord! Now they know my name!?” her heart skipped a beat. She had no idea which direction the voice was coming from.
“Hey Naina! Turn around!” said the voice. Naina was frightened as hell. Now there was someone stalking her too! “I should have carried pepper spray in the bag,” she thought, but it was too late. She turned around ready to fling her bag at her stalker.
Her bag was almost mid-way to hit the person when she suddenly stopped. “Rohan! It’s you!” It was her colleague from her office. It was such a relief for her. She had half a mind to hug him for being there at this perfect moment. But then she held back her emotions.
“Hi Naina! I did not know you stayed here. And wait a second… were you just going to hit me with your bag?” questioned a bewildered Rohan. Naina felt pretty embarrassed then she went onto explain the reason for her bag fling action.
“Naina, that’s crazy! You take an auto every day home to avoid a bunch of morons! That’s ridiculous!” said Rohan.
“It’s very easy for you to say! Being a girl, I wish I was invisible on my way from home to the bus stop and back,” retaliated Naina.
“C’mon Naina! I have a sister too. I understand what girls go through sometimes. But that doesn’t mean you live in fear this way. Call the cops.”
“You really think that’s going to help. How do I prove street harassment? The cops might ask me, if they touched me… They will just ignore what I say until and unless I have been hurt. That’s the problem, we wait for a disaster to happen to take action. Rather than act upon when a problem is reported.”
“That’s true Naina!” he looked on at her thinking to himself. “You know what Naina… learn to drive a vehicle. You can be independent and you don’t have to depend on auto drivers and fret about your walk back home in the night. I know it is crazy that they might stay off if you are with a man, but won’t let you pass if you are alone. After all, you have a right to be safe even when you are by yourself and they have no business bothering you. I know this is not the solution to street harassment that you face, but a practical option for your own safety. Until then I can accompany you or if you are OK, as I stay just next doors, I can pick and drop you home till you learn to drive!”
Naina really liked the idea. Because of fear clouding her judgement, she had never thought of a solution.
Disturbing her thoughts, Rohan said, “Think about it! For now, let me drop you home on my bike. Wait right here. Let me take my bike out from the compound.”
In her mind, Naina thanked God for sending Rohan like an angel to her this night. She couldn’t even imagine how else she would have reached back home safe.
Author’s note: I understand, this isn’t the ideal solution to street harassment. But facing the monsters alone and trying to be a hero would backfire for Naina and Rohan. Being independent is very important, and if you have acquaintances like Rohan, who are ready to help you when in need… reinstates the thought that not all men are the same!
Published here earlier.
Image source: pixabay