It was raining incessantly from past couple of days. The weather was perfect for a cup of tea with a smoke. He decided to go to his favorite tea shop just 2 kms away, but it took him a mad 30 minutes of honking and breaks to reach. The tea shop was hardly crowded, the rains had probably deterred most of the regulars. He was about to leave, when he saw her.
It looked like she was heading back home from a gym. She seemed to be lost in her own world, walking on a desolate lane without any care in the world. But it was past 8 pm, what was she doing walking on a road so late? Shouldn’t she be at home, in such a weather? How dare she step out in those shorts? Anything above ankle is short, isn’t it?
He decided to teach her a lesson. He sat on his bike, the girl turned to see a bike starting but didn’t think much of it. She continued to walk. She was thinking about the workout she had today, she managed to dead-lift 15 kgs today. But she could do better, she should try for 18 kgs next time. She thought of taking out her phone, but remembered she had left at home to charge. Anyway, her home was just 300 meters away.
“SMACK”, she heard a hand go at her butt, bringing her out of her reverie, leaving her stunned for a second as she saw a bike sped past her, the same bike she saw standing 50 meters away a few minutes back. She screamed expletives, and yelled him to stop. She was shivering with anger, and she was..scared. It was a relatively lonely lane, completely residential, but due to rains everyone was inside their houses. One of the street-lights wasn’t even working, else she could have seen his bike’s number.
She saw a guy coming from the opposite side, who had stopped hearing her screams. She ran up to him, and told him what happened. And then, the guy said ,”Look he is coming back”, as a bike went past him. But she couldn’t be sure, he was wearing a helmet and she couldn’t see the bike’s number plate again.
She reached another lane, which was well-lit with more people. But she was frightened. She absolutely had to reach home as soon as possible. She walked as fast as she could. Suddenly she heard a vehicle coming behind her, and she stopped and turned. It was a bike, the guy wasn’t wearing a helmet. And he told her “Nice shorts, baby.” She managed to see the number plate this time, and kept reciting the number of his bike to herself till she got home, so that she didn’t forget.
That girl was me. This happened in June 2015, just a few lanes away from my home. And what did I do about this? I filed a FIR with the police. When I reached the station, the constable tried to dissuade me, saying that the bike’s number wouldn’t help and that there is no “proof”. I also saw him telling a girl who had come to complain about a boy harassing her on phone as to why did she befriend him and gave her number at the first place. I didn’t leave the station. I waited for more than an hour, till the SI agreed to see me. He took me to the spot of crime, and I was asked to recount the details again and again. I wrote down the complaint, with all the details and the address of the place where the incident happened.
But you see, I live alone in Bangalore. And needless to say, my parents were freaked out by my dare-devilry. Over that, I did not even know the local language, so I was kind of taken for a ride by a middleman, who insisted he was just a good Samaritan. The SI would only talk to him, instead of talking to me directly, probably because of the language gap. Since I had noted the bike’s number, they found out all the details of that guy the same day. But he probably by then had realized what he had done, and had fled along with his bike.
They kept a watch at his place for two days, before he returned home and they caught him. And mind you, he was no roadside urchin. He was an employee with a reputed IT firm, and married. His wife was out-of-town, and he had come with a lawyer and his brother and sister-in-law to the police station. His lawyer told the SI that the guy “was a family man”, and that I was mistaken, it must have been someone else.
A charge-sheet was filed and I went to the District Magistrate’s court to give a statement. My closest friend’s father is a lawyer, and though both she and her father weren’t even in the country at that time, they helped me as much as possible. I was scared to go to the court, I had zilch knowledge of the law. But the legal code required me to give my statement, and I went. It amazed me to no extent that at the court too, there were men leering at me, they were shameless and fearless.
The law mandates that the statement of such a crime has to be given in presence of a lady magistrate, with no one else in attendance. And that was followed. Once my statement was over, I left. I got to know that his lawyer in the bail application had stated “How can anyone recognize anyone with a helmet on?” I never mentioned a helmet in my FIR. Apparently, the middleman had given them the details in lieu of some money.
I didn’t follow-up on the case after that. I was advised by some of my well wishers to change my address, since the guy had all my details now. But it pissed me off. Why should I go through inconvenience when he was the criminal?
It has been 1.5 year since then. I changed my gym, and have never gone on that lane since then. I make it a point to walk through well-lit, crowded roads. But as the mass molestation case shows, even crowd can be dangerous. I never wore that clothing again, and for those interested, it was a knee-length sports tights. I don’t know if that was what Tempted him to do what he did, and then dare to come back twice. But I know for sure that it was his blatant lack of respect of my being that outraged me, and gave me the courage to go to a police station in a strange city. I just couldn’t bear the thought that he believed he could get away with this.
I have not stopped living my life, but I made changes, to be “safer”. Each time, one of the morally righteous Facebook crusader screams “Not all men”, I feel like banging his/her head in the keyboard of their computer. Because it may not be all men, but it is #YesAllWomen . There is no excuse for a sexual assault, not my clothes, not the time, not my lack of knowledge of local language.
It is shameful that our education doesn’t teach us the basics – I think every school-going child must know the basic procedure of filing a FIR and what ensues after that. The reason I wrote this today, is because not even one woman filed a complaint regarding the mass molestation. Even the girl whose assault was captured on CCTV didn’t file a complaint – we have such huge misgivings about the law and police in our country that we think that nothing fruitful would come out of the complaint. But that is wrong. You might be shivering down to your bones when they call you to the police station to identify the perpetrators, but you can still make sure that they don’t dare to do this with someone else, by speaking up.
I didn’t think the first post of 2017 would be my re-telling of such a traumatic experience, that I could never pen down before, but the recent news reports have given me a new strength to do so. And thanks to all my friends and family who supported me through that time, for it would have been quite hard to do that without your help.
Featured Image: Here