Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Blank Noise Project - Action Heroes

Blank Noise Project is back with the blogathon - and this year, we are asked to share stories of how we, as victims of street harrassment, fought back and became Action Heroes.

Now, I haven't done anything remotely heroic, which would warrant a story, but they ask -

Being a 'HERO' is relative . We are interested in knowing how you challenged yourself or didn't feel victimised?

This statement was what pushed me into writing this - I might not be an Action Hero, but I haven't always been passive either.

I had written last year about my first experience at being eve-teased.

Many many years ago. A hot summer's day. First day of the academic year. I was walking back from school with a new friend. We reached an intersection, and she and I had to go different ways.
"Bye! It was good to meet you!" I called out to her.
There were a group of guys in a car parked close to us.
"Bye to her... now meet ussssss", they called out, with wolf-whistles.
I was being eve-teased. For the first time in my life. I was horrified, and nearly struck dumb. But I desperately wanted to impress my new friend.
"Mind your own business, Mister, or I will tell the police", I hollered, in true Bollywood style.
"Oye!" said one, and opened one door of the car.
That was it. All my bravado vanished and I ran home as fast as my skinny ten-year-old legs could carry me. I reached home and half-proud, half-scared, poured it all out to my mother. She listened, eyes widening.
"Where was that car parked?"
"In front of the bar!", said I, nonchalantly.
"Shruthi! Those guys could have been drunk! They could have done anything! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT answer back to them! Just ignore them!"

After this incident, I did ignore verbal harrassment for a long time. But many times, more in recent years when my confidence has grown, I respond with what I think is a withering look. I don't know if it cows them down or not... but I feel that I have fought back in my own little way.

But those eve-teasers who brush against me in crowded streets? I always answer with a jab of my elbow, or I lash out at them - it is an instinct. Else, if the street is not too crowded and if the guy in question has not got lost in the crowd, I even turn around and shout "Heeeeeyyyy!" People turn around, and look at him and he slinks away. I have no idea about eve-teaser mentality, but I like to think that he was embarrassed and will think twice before indulging in eve-teasing again. Wishful thinking? Maybe, but I hope not.

I haven't needed to use public transport on a regular basis, but on those occasions that I have travelled in buses, and have observed a man with a propensity to stand or sit too close, I used my elbows to jab hard at him, or I have pressed down my foot very hard on his feet (this has been good fun - I can direct all my anger at his foot - but I don't wear heels, a pity)... or I have looked him in the eye and said sarcastically, "Yenu, jaaga saalada?" (What's the matter, don't have enough space?"). It works. They always move away. And sometimes, if a particularly garrulous lady is around and has viewed the entire episode, she does her bit by proclaiming loudly, "These men - they see a young girl and all they want to do is paw her"... and more in that vein. That is very satisfying indeed. It catches the attention of the whole bus, and its great to see the discomfort of the perpetrator.

I feel that any little act of fighting back or a defensive attitude, makes me feel that I have got the better of the eve-teaser. And that's what matters. The confidence to walk on the streets with my head held high.


bellur said...


Maverick said...

kool bravery i must say. But i've been on the other end too, i dont mean eve teasing, but on the end where someone thought ur natural acts were teasing. On this particularly busy day in a train when there was barely place to stand properly, a women was suspecting tht i was deliberately close to her. i had to go n stand in another place making my way admist the packed crowd, to make her 'comfortable'. So watch out for innocent guys! however im sure u r gud enuf to discern.

Mukund said...

Happy Woman's Day
great way to fight back eve teasing

I myself dont know what a girl can do when eve teased. As from what I have seen if u make the guy feel uncomfortable that even more encourages him to do that again. They dont really care about it. they are just a bit scared but then they are confident that no one will do anything to them.

Only way I can help girls in this matter is to avoid doing this to them.

praneshachar said...

happy womens day to all women of this blog
as your mother said it is better to avoid people who are in their state of mind.
some the guys are istigated by friends and they do indluge wihout knowing what they are doing and if you react they will also escape the way you ran
resistance should be shown to reduce it

shark said...


I have travelled quite a bit in public transport and have been prey to this eve teasing a lot!
The funniest part is that till I was in 6th class, I didn't even realise that they were teasing!!!

But till I was extremely scared in school days.. and used to run away as soon as possible from the spot.

Things changed once I went to college.. I got more courage and have slapped some people also who tried to get too close in the bus ;-)

Prashanth M said...

Happy Women's day... And talking about being a hero, reminds me of my cousin - She is shorter than 5 and used to carry a safety pin while travelling by BTS bus. If someone tries to misbehave with her i nthe crowded bus, she just used to prick them with the pin. And stomp their feet with her high-healed sandals - this story is more than 20-25 years old

anandanubhava said...

Just like ragging, I wonder if all forms of eve teasing even mild are bad? I've heard that lots of girls enjoy stares, looks, and such stuff as it boosts their ego & hence they dress even more provocatively! Of course, there will be all kinds of girls. Only a girl can tell me if this is true even with some types!

Here in UK we Indians are subject to heavy racism. Remarks are nothing harmful, even if they're very abusive. But just yesterday I had stones thrown at me, though they missed. It is quite routine & many of my friends have even got badly beaten up!

So, what's common to eve teasing, racism, ragging, etc? They're all unfair means where the person indulging in it tries to show his superiority .. maybe to boost his ego, out of a sense of insecurity! I think nothing much can be done despite can only be careful and hope for the best! Its impossible to police every street or catch every criminal!!

praneshachar said...

felt sad and it is really very bad the so called advancd countris this racism do exist and here we make hue and cry. we are far superior in this respect.

Anadanubhava I wish these thing will cease to exist otherwise what
is value for humans.
It is good you shared it and we atleast understand the plight otherwise people will only exaggearte.

veena shivanna said...

Yeah , this eve teasing is so dirty ! I still remember we used to change our roads because of some guys standing at the end of it. Some even end up following you till you reach home & this is so scary... once it happened to us, me & my friend when returning from school. We ended up sitting on somebody's else's mane kaTTe(space in front of the gate which people can sit on) for sometime till they went... This is to make sure that he doesn't come again tommorrow looking for those girls. :-)
I think when we are young it is the fear which supresses our anger...

Most of the time, while travelling to school my brother accompanied me so I was atleast spared from that & better thing was lot of guys who were senior to me used to not even look at us ... generally it happens , the even teasing happens when a girl is alone (another girl is of no use anyway)!

A stare would certainly scare them to an extent, I speak a little in case needed like "swalpa aakaDe nintkolli" in the bus for which they justify .. alli jaaga illa madam.. stupid people... They might have some physhological problems I guess.

After wedding I have noticed that the eve teasing has really come down, I don't know whether its the effect of the taali kaalungra I wear(identification for hindu marriage).. May be they are afraid of our spouses :-)!! Thank GOD atlast...

My heartfelt wishes to the Black Noise project.. I shall go through link soon.. Thanks for the post Shruthi.

anoop said...

As maverick has mentioned in his comment, what is the yardstick by means of which you girls (pardon the generalisation) decide that a guy is too close in a crowded place.
Taking the case of an over-crowded BTS bus, in which guys invariably have to stand closely packed, whether they like it or not, next to girls. After reading all the other comments written by fellow bloggers in this thread, I dont think anyone has even considered the genuinity of their fellow passenger encroaching their personal space before elbowing, stamping, humiliating or even pricking them. What if the guy is as helpless as you, standing in that over-crowded, claustrophobic, suffocating vehicle, pushed and heaved around by the people around him. I have not traveled much in such buses, but i can imagine the plight of a guy like me in an over-crowded bus being humiliated for no mistake of his. I know its not easy for a woman to judge this, and I'm guessing that all she wants to do in such a situation is to claim that personal space back by whatever means, in an instinctive way.

astrocrazy2005 said...

i have had a lot of bad experiences with eve teasing ...IN da engineering college I was in..I felt I was helpless for the first two years..then I started responding with all the guts I had...
Once you take it and have no reaction the eve teaser gets more brave..Trying to fight it out is the best way ...most of the times it works..but I have seen that when you get teaed by 15 people at the same time there is no other weapon other than silence..

silkboard said...

only if one could do something to those moveis - they have, to a large extent, created some sort of 'social acceptance' (for lack of a better phrase) of this phenomena.

Sandesh said...

Heard of many such stories!

Such incidents makes one strong! Some take it in a negative way n become coward! It all depends on the mindset is what i think!

Shruthi said...

Bellur, thanks.

Maverick, you are right - many times I have given the person the benefit of doubt. And I do feel sorry for you, being unfairly suspected. But as you say, you can easily make out in most cases whether the brush was accidental or deliberate.

Mukund, really? Why do you say that it encourages them even more? Don't they feel ashamed in public?

Praneshachar, that is true - many times, a lone guy will not do anything, but if he is with a friend, he will most definitely indulge in eveteasing!

Shark, poor little Shark :)) But good that you picked up enough to slap people ;) I haven't had that opportunity ;)

Prashanth, wow! That is so cool! In fact, a teacher too had told us to carry pins when we travel in buses :))

Anand, do you really believe in such stories? If such girls really exist, you know what they are called. Please don't insult us by putting us all in the same category ;)
Good heavens - the incidents you mention are quite horrendous! I had no idea it ran so deep or turn so violent!
You are perfectly right - it is just trying to show superiority -- it happens when the perpetrator doesn't have enough self-esteem - what do you say?

Shruthi said...

Veena, sometimes, the presence of another girl with you can work wonders. The combined confidence of two girls can be a great fighting back tool. I have myself been much more bolder when I have a girl-friend with me.
And Veena - I think it is just coincidence that you have been spared of eveteasing after your wedding --- seriously, they don't spare even pregnant women. I can tell you this on authority.

Anoop, like I said, we do consider the problems of the fellow-passengers. I have given many of them the benefit of doubt. Also, There have been several instances when someone has fallen on me on the bus, and then immediately apologised - one look at the person's apologetic face and hearing the tone of the apology is enough to make out that this was really an accident. On the other hand, if you see a smirk on the fellow's face, there is no doubt what it was - an accident or a purposeful action.
Also, when you are sitting and a guy is standing next to you on the bus and he is being pressed against you, there are better ways to control it - but these men, they have to turn such that certain parts of theirs are being pushed into your shoulder. (forgive the crudity). Do you really think these guys are genuine?
We are not idiots, Anoop - nor are we paranoid.

Astrocrazy, teased by 15 people? Has it really happened to you? That can be quite scary. No idea what I would do in that situation!

Silkboard, I agree. I have dealt with some aspects of the causes of eveteasing in an old post.

Sandesh, such incidents make you strong? Fear of going out makes you strong? Please enlighten us about how it can be taken in a positive way.

Sachin said...

Hi, this topic always seems to bring out a host of opinions, on both sides...but thankfully all are agreed on the fact that eve-teasing is an evil, foul, even crude expression of mostly desperate guys who are out to prove their idea of manhood at the cost of violating all sense of privacy & decency of women.

When I was in college, I used to really dread walking alone past a group of girls - there have been many instances where they've passed comments and believe me, some of those comments have really embarassed me and made me want to bury myself in the ground. If a guy can feel this way in the presence of girls (where the general idea is that the guy would preen at the attention received from a group of girls who were well, attractive to say the least), then I can imagine the state of a girl / lady when being eve-teased!!!

I would like to recount this one incident which makes me both ashamed and proud of being in Mumbai. This happened near Churchgate railway station - one of the major hubs of the city in terms of lakhs of people passing through the place for their work etc. There is a major traffic intersection outside the station where huge crowds wait to cross the street while the traffic moves and once the light turns red, there is a major throng rushes from both sides of the road.

This one time, there was a middle-aged lady with her young daughter who was maybe 14-15 waiting to cross. When the light turned red and people started crossing, these two also did the same. There was this well dressed "gentleman" coming from the opposite direction who took advantage of the fast moving crowd and did something I can't even mention here to that poor kid. She cried out loud in shock, surprise and pain immediately which attracted the attention of many in the crowd.

The guy was grabbed even before he reached the other side of the road by a couple of guys and then dragged back to the centre of the road. Very obviously he was professing his innocence. The guy then proceeded to receive such a walloping at the hands of at least 20 guys and at the end of it, am happy to say he looked what he was - which is definitely not a gentleman! In the meantime, a guy and me had gone for the cops who were a little way ahead and they came back with us. The guy was then handed over to them; the cops told the lady she needn't bother to come with them and that they would deal with the guy as he deserved.

It is sometimes said that a crowd is just a group of frustrated people out to vent their frustration against a solitary helpless man - but in this case, I truly and happily say that this particular man deserved what he got more than a 100%.

Will try to contribute to the Blank Noise project... Shruthi, great contribution. Take care!

veena shivanna said...

I recently saw one 'MahaiLa vaahana' which seem to be like ladies only bus... Welcome change alva ? & bus-Eve teasing sadhya illi illa :-)

Sandesh said...

Its not the fear of goin out! Its facing such situation in a bold manner! Just fight back! This is what i consider as the +ve way!

Majority of people who evetease dont have the guts to face a situation if the victim hits him back! He'll not be in a situation to justify himself in public(if this happens in public).

Sachin said...

This comment is for Veena: though I appreciate the convenience of a "ladies only" bus and do admit that it will dilute the efforts of any eve teaser, I still feel that such kind of segregation goes further in driving deep an in-correct assumption that women / the authorities have accepted and are resigned to the menace of eve-teasing and rather than combatting it and driving it away are taking the easy way out. I know its easier for me to say it being a guy and all but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here. Such things are only temporary relief because the lady might be a victim of eve-teasing as soon as she steps off the bus.

Sachin said...

Also, we have a "Ladies Special" local train in Mumbai that runs at the peak hours from Churchgate to Virar. But that is more to do with the easing out of crowding in the normal trains which only have 2-3 special compartments for ladies only. I have heard some guys use crude language and call that train a "Maal gaadi", sorry to use this language....makes me want to ask them if their sisters / wife / mother does not travel in the train.

praneshachar said...

Special Buses for Women are welcome
as peak hours it is very difficult for them to get in. particularly you must see in the morning when they will be rushing to reach their office after finishing all the house hold work and it will be welcome relief for them if they get a special bus where atleast they can board and stand comfrtably though not to sit if they are boarding inbetween

on the other issue today changed scenerio in some cities and very forward areas I was told guy teasing has started. I came to knaow from one of friends in bombay a young boy was teased by group of mod girls. the boy just joined college after sslc and these girls must be in their finas
so it is not always on the one side slowly other side is also picking of though in small way.
one more reason why some eve teasing turns into higher levels is provocation they get from some girls by thier dresses by their behaviour etc., etc.,
I think this angle also needs to be thought over
overall we all must live in a civilised society and bring glory to our country which is a treasure of values and value based systems
let us hope for the best

Daniel said...

You are full of bravery! I like you and most friends of mine on like you too.

Veena said...

this is not a problem only in crowded bus ,but sometimes even invacant busses....once i was travelling to chennai alone in bus,behind my seat a person was it was very hot i fell asleep but after sometime i started feeling uneasy n i woke up to see tat the person behind me had put his hand front almost near to me and was trying to reach.....tats wen i stood up and called the conductor who had known tat i was travellin alone and he yelled at the person and made him change his place.....nd i made sure that i would never fall asleep while im travelling alone now.....

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