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Women are told to report harassment promptly – but does the world we live in make it easy for women to speak up against harassment?
It was 9:21 PM and no bus was in sight. I squinted my eyes towards the approaching vehicle, willing it to be a BMTC* bus. It was not. I could almost hear people at the bus shelter sigh with collective disappointment.
The day had been long and I couldn’t wait to get home, take a relaxing shower and slide under the covers. A few minutes later, a bus arrived, trudging forward like an old, drunken giant. I stepped in and squeezed my way into the center of the bus as the conductor yelled at women to move away from the exits. Poof! There it went. My dream of catching a seat.
Well, atleast I had the pole to hang on to. No, wait. That was gone too as an elderly woman authoritatively took my spot by stepping on my foot. I moved further down the bus and established myself in a tiny spot. And regretted it as the driver began to apply the brakes and hordes of men used the opportunity to get their bodies in close contact with mine. I glared at one. It continued. I politely asked him to move away. He ignored me, without looking at me. It continued. I launched a verbal attack and he stepped a respectable distance away. Now, it was the women’s’ turn to stare. Not at him, but at me. It’s not everyday that one bears witness to an incident such as this.
My stop finally arrived and I got off the bus, relieved. The incident was certainly not the first of its kind and I was certainly not the first woman to endure it. Bangalore police launched the Bengaluru, Get Ready to Report initiative which helps women report harassment without hesitation. Every senior officer is supposedly active on Twitter and Facebook and can be reached via social media. But how could I report an incident such as the one I was just involved in? Would the miscreant tell me his name, his address or other details? Should I suffer in silence as I wait for the city to bring back women-only buses? Why should it be so uncommon for a woman to cause an uproar?
Meanwhile, inside my mind, a furious second verbal attack was being launched on him. I was proud of how I sounded in my mind. When I was finished, satisfied that I had told him all that I had to say, I looked around me. More women stared at me as the scene unfolded. Some whispered among themselves as they glared. A kind soul (a creation of my imagination, of course) reiterated a few things that I had said and berated the miscreant. More stares.
But would the scene that just played in my mind stop him from continuing harassment in other buses? Would it really ensure the safety of other women on the same bus? The only way I could rid the bus of the miscreant, at that very moment, was to get him off the bus. Once again, I imagine my ideal world with a handy solution. I revisit the incident in my mind and tug the recently installed emergency cord to stop the bus. This alerts the bus conductor and the miscreant is asked (read, forced) to step out.
Women around me are quite familiar with such incidents and it is common for a man who attempts to harass a woman to be taken off the bus. No stares this time. Everything goes back to normal and I reach home, take a shower and go to bed.
*Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corp
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