As she was walking with her other classmates towards the bus stop to get the connection to her hostel, she saw the rowdy gang, all drunk with colored powder (Holi like) in their hand. Her college was celebrating something known as “Bus Day,” which was a free pass for boys to behave as obnoxious as they can. When these boys saw this group of girls, they started walking towards the girls to throw the powder on them. He targeted her, this particular girl, just cos he hated her guts and cornered her. He then proceeded to grope her in broad daylight in front of several people, including her classmates, all under the pretext of throwing the holi powder on her and actually told her that he wanted to “teach her a lesson.” He then smirked at her with a “now, what can you do?”and walked away.
Then……around 6-7 months back, 1st year of college
She was just 16 when she moved to a new town to pursue her Bachelors. The town she went to study was a small town, very different from the metro she grew up in. Girls were expected to be “like girls,” whatever that meant. She found it all strange as she had been brought up to speak up her mind, to listen to her conscience, to stand against wrong practices (read: RAGGING) and on her own too, she was very ethical, fiercely independent and had a streak of carelessness and a kind of disregard for authority that came only because of age and seniority. She believed that respect had to be earned and was not something that one was entitled to.
Typical to any college atmosphere in the mid 1990’s, seniors visited her classrooms under the pretext of “getting-to-know-you” when all they wanted to do was rag their juniors (I got ragged so I will rag you attitude). They perceived her as unnecessarily bold, arrogant, egoistic (and a whole other choice of lovely names). She didn’t fit any image of a “typical”girl that they had. They often questioned her if she was putting on a show esp. when other girls from similar metros were not like her. They were also baffled by the way she used to talk to them, as if they were friends rather than seniors whom she had to fear and of course respect. And the ones that got over it are still good friends with her, even after 20 odd years.
There was this particular character in her college, 2 years senior to her and from a different department. He considered himself to be some kind of walking,talking (even singing) encyclopedia of how girls should behave. He was crass, obnoxious and he came to know about this girl from his fellow classmates and peers and how they came to like her friendly and casual attitude. From then on he made it his life’s mission to irritate the hell out of her by the way he looked and talked to her. He would never even worry that teaching staff were around and wouldn’t relent even after his classmate(s) intervened.
His comments and looks would make her squirm but she never gave in and put her head down. Instead she met him head-on and their argument escalated to such an extent that he could not stand it and had actually told one of his classmates with whom she was friends, that she will get her comeuppance soon.
Present Day……after the ugly groping session
She could not sleep even after taking a shower to wash the feel of his hands. She felt like kambili poochis (or worms) were all over her body. She woke up a mess, with bloodshot eyes and with no one to talk to. Against the advice of some of her classmates, who felt that she was blowing this out of proportion, she went to her Department Head and described in detail what had happened. She even broke down a couple of times. She then went about her regular routine, all the while feeling ugly and violated, when some classmates of his came and screamed at her for bringing about disciplinary action against him. According to them, it was her bold attitude and disrespectful behavior that ticked him off and forced him to do something like this. And he was also under the influence so she should just consider this as tit for tat and leave it, instead of trying to spoil his life. They simply didn’t understand what it meant to be violated as they also felt that she was “asking for it.” When she asked them how they would feel if she were to poke them around with a sharp object or if someone were to behave in a similar way with the women in their family, they became quiet.
Its not as though she was a stranger to physical violation. Anyone girl from India, who uses public transportation can attest to this fact. But then a call of help or a physical reaction such as slapping or kneeing him you-know-where would draw the attention of fellow passengers and the conductor and the perpetrator would be shamed. But in this case, it was as though he had planned it. Even though she was not in good terms with him, she did not think that he would do something like this. She did not have the support or understanding of anyone (and she didn’t tell her parents as they would worry unnecessarily) and literally everyone turned a blind eye as they all felt it was her fault. And since he had to undergo some kind of disciplinary action, every time they crossed paths (he still had a year left), he would literally burn her with his eyes. It made it very difficult for her to see him day after day around campus as most of them knew what had transpired and were waiting in suspense to see if something else, an ugly argument or confrontation would ensue. He was at fault but she was the one who felt ashamed. But at that point, she just didn’t gave a F***and figured the best medicine is to be herself, her supposedly arrogant and egoistic self.
Her Final Year
She was humming a song, walking towards the college, when she heard her name being called. It was the same guy, who was visiting the college to clear his arrears. Still wary of him, she looked at him with a question in her eyes and he said, “I am really sorry for misbehaving with you. Please forget all that happened and forgive me.”
Little did he know she had already forgiven him so that she could move on but it was difficult to forget it as all one needs is a small reminder to remember how it felt to be violated, no matter what way. It is something that one cannot erase from their minds.
Just remember, No one asks for it!
“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” ˜ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner