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Most of us have faced sexual harassment, and we dread the idea of taking a lift from strangers. What happens when one woman is compelled to?
I was born as female. A female whom a family always kept as a treasure behind doors with locks of honour, values, and dignity. I always felt vulnerable as though I was kept as a treasure and that some people from other sex always tried to disgrace my honour and dignity. I always felt weak. Yes, #MeToo.
I was and am, a victim of those filthy, dirty acts, which a woman never ever wants to experience. And this put me into the arena where I have such disgust, distrust, and anger for the male community whenever the arguments regarding respect and trust arise. But then, there’s one incident from my memory lane that gives me strength and positivity, that gives me the assurance that our society also has some good and decent men around. And today I feel like sharing the incident, an incident shared never before as I always felt petrified of sharing it with anybody.
It was the first trimester of the year 2000. It was just 6 months away from the completion of my graduation. I wanted to do a MCA from IGNOU, and for that, I had to clear the entrance exam first. I got my roll number and examination center ticket. It was somewhere at a school at Karol Bagh. I prepared hard. And finally, the day had come.
I took my breakfast from home, packed the necessary things for the examination in my bag, my wallet, my hall ticket. My mom and dad wished me luck. My dad asked me if he should come along to drop me to the center. I said, No! I can go by myself as I’m a big girl now. He gave me a smile and my mom gave me all the necessary instructions to be careful. “Now go, and take the autorickshaw if you find the buses crowded because it’s 8.oo am, and it’s going to be peak hour.” I nodded in reply.
At the bus stop, I waited for my bus that would drop me. One bus came but it was too crowded and so I didn’t board it. I decided to take an auto-rickshaw, but I didn’t find one. Then I decided to break my route. I took a bus which would drop me to the outer main road and by another 10 minutes, I was at the bus stop at link road of Mall Road, at Delhi University. There I met a friend from the neighborhood which is when I came to know that there was a strike by all auto-rickshaw and taxis unions. She was standing there for the past half an hour. In between our conversation I came to know that she was going to the same place for her exam as me. I felt happy that I was not alone but was a little confused too, as to how we would go to our center now.
Those days there were no mobiles and we didn’t find any local telephone booth nearby at those early hours. By this time it was 8.45am. We were now worried. We waited and waited. And the strange part was that we had rarely talked with each other before, though we lived nearby. But at that time it felt as if we knew each other for long. It was 9.00 am. We decided to take a lift, and with shivering hands, we signaled. It gives me shivers even today. At those times, girls were never seen hitchhiking on the road.
And keeping the risks involved in mind, taking a lift was never a good idea. There was a lot that was going on in my mind that moment. But then we had no other option. Suddenly, we saw a car and we signaled with tilted thumb again. The car stopped. We had smiles on our face but we were still in a dilemma. We looked at each other and walked towards the car hand in hand. But then we saw a man suddenly opening the door of the car and sitting inside, and we were embarrassed to know that it had not stopped for us. We stopped there in utter embarrassment and as we were about to turn, a voice came, “Excuse me?” We looked towards the direction of the voice.
The man who had just sat inside the car was standing there. He asked us where we wanted to go. We told him that our destination was Karol Bagh. He then signaled to us to wait and chatted with the person driving the car. They discussed something. And then he again signaled us to come. We thanked God for finally getting the lift.
We were happy yet startled. There were a lot of things going on in our mind but with no choices, we gave each other a questioning look and then nodded. We walked slowly holding each other’s hand. When we reached near the car he told us that they would drop us at Malka Ganj. We agreed and got inside the car. There we found another man sitting at the driver’s seat. We got more scared but controlled ourselves and calmly took our seats.
We were sitting very close to each other, holding hands and praying to God. By then, it was 9.15 am. They asked us why it was so important for us to go to Karol Bagh. We told them that we had exams and didn’t know about the strike.
“Alright then, we’ll try to drop you closer, though it’s out of the way for us. But as it’s your exam, we will try to help you in any way we can.” “Thanks!” We said in harmony feeling grateful to them. Still holding hands, we still had our doubts. As we approached closer to our destination, the car slowed but there was still no auto rickshaw, only a heavy rush at the bus stop. We told them to drop us there and that we would manage. “How will you manage, didn’t you see how much crowd was there at the bus stop? If any bus comes it will be already crowded and it will be difficult for you girls to get in. We’ll drop you to your destination,” one of the men in the car said. I thanked him for being so thoughtful. “Thank you so much uncle, but you are going out of your way and you would be late for your work.”
“Oh, that’s perfectly fine with us, ek din office late bhi ho gaya toh kya. But for you girls it’s more important to reach on time, don’t you worry.” The man sitting in the driver’s seat said.
We still felt scared, but within another five minutes, we were outside our examination center. We hurriedly got down from the car and gave our thanks, to which the man who was in the driving seat said something that is etched in my memory forever. “All the best girls. Do well, make your parents proud. And that will be our thanks.” Yes, a strange man said so to a girl who was a complete stranger to him. We thanked them again. Because of their help, we reached our examination centre on time. What impossible some minutes back was now a reality.
Within seconds, under the examination pressure, we forgot about the problems we faced to get there. After the exam, we talked about the morning’s incident and thanked God that he sent his men to help us.
It’s going to be 18 years now since that incident happened. But I still remember each and every moment of it. I don’t know about the other girl as we lost touch later. I m not sure whether she remembers the incident or not. But I still have my gratitude for those men. That was the first and the last day I took a lift. Never again.
I have faced a lot of harassment by boys and men later, whether walking alone or walking with friends, whether wearing a western dress or an Indian one, whether I was a 20-year-old girl or now a mother of a kid. But all these incidents also remind me of that day where anything could have happened to me but it was those men who were noble and considerate.That day I realized that not all men are immoral – instead, it is always about what kind of upbringing they have.
I hereby request all the men in my life – my brothers, my husband, my dad, my son, my friends that somewhere, someday, some men helped your sister, your wife, your daughter, your mom or aunt, your friend to reach her destination safely on time. You can help other women to reach their destination safely to pay gratitude towards those men. I don’t know who they were and where they are now, but by any chance, if they are reading this, my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to both of you.
First published here.
Top image via Pixabay
Myself Pooja aka Nirali. 'Nirali' who is inclusion of all good(s) n bad(s).
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