Monday, March 06, 2006


Please go read their site and add your voice to those opposed to street harassment!
I found out about the blank noise project, while meandering around India related blogs. Curious as to what it was about, I started reading about it. Despite having left the country of my birth more than a dozen years ago the highly reprehensible phenomenon of “eve teasing” or sexual/street harassment that women are subjected to is something one does not forget.
Having lived in a country that is so different culturally from India, some phenomena (like eve teasing) never seem to occur here and one sort of tends to slot them away somewhere in the recesses of the mind and it becomes something one does not think about.
But one only has to visit India and one might see this kind of harassment of women in public places, especially in and around public transit systems and one realizes that it has not gone away.
I am sure a lot of other bloggers as a part of the blank noise project will offer different perspectives about sexual harassment or eve teasing. The complex factors that go in to it, issues of gender, power, cultural influences and so on. That being said this is a truly horrendous experience especially for the women who have to undergo it. It has to stop and that will start by saying NO!. This is not just saying no to the perpetrator(s) of it, but also to oneself that no one can be silent about it. If you see it happening, try and stop it, if you experience it say no whether physically or verbally, It’s a long battle but it must be fought, for no society will truly realize it’s self worth without the full realization of the potential of it’s women. Sexual harassment is one of the many impediments that must be removed to reach this goal.

As a male what do I have to offer? I am not going to give those standard reasons about how not all men are bad and so paint not with a broad brush. Instead I am going to attempt to offer why as a male growing up in India, I was able to be on the right side if this issue. One is often shaped by their experiences while growing up. Some of these are definitive experiences, episodes that remain seared in your memory forever. They stay with you and they shape your opinions and your world views. I will recount one such episode which happened when I was around 12 years old, that I witnessed when I was at home.

We lived in a building that was adjacent to a street that connected to a train station in Bombay. As such it was used by everyone who used the train including school kids. My mom had gone out with my sis and I was expecting them back shortly. We would often try to look out of the window to see them coming. It was a common thing for us to do, especially when my dad got back from work. So I was doing the same thing. It was afternoon and the street was quiet, when I saw this girl “Jane”, she was about my age. I knew her as she was the daughter of a shop owner close by, as we used to go to him to get our clothes stitched or even laundered.

As she was making her way back home from school there was this guy, probably in his 20s who was walking towards the station. As I watched in shock and then horror, he proceeded to grab her breast as he walked by. She was shocked and I remember her recoil in horror. The whole episode lasted for a couple of seconds. He then walked away as if nothing had happened towards the train station. “Jane” looked around, there was hardly anyone on the street, and then she looked up to see if anyone had witnessed it.

I am not sure if she saw me but I will never forget the look on her face. It was a mix of anger, shock, and revulsion. I knew what I had witnessed was wrong but I was shocked too and I seemed rooted in place. Though I did not know it right away but I had witnessed street/sexual harassment. I continued to crane my neck as she walked away towards her home. Maybe I was trying to make sure she got home safe. I also proceeded to look in the other direction praying that my mom and sis would not have to deal with the creep. I remember feeling a sense of relief when I saw them come home shortly.
I did see “Jane” a few times after that before we moved away from that part of Bombay. I don’t know what I could have said to her as a 12 year old kid who could barely comprehend what had happened. I still ask myself what could I have done that was different?
That is my 2 cents worth, I hope it helps in some small way in raising awareness and fighting street harassment.


Silvs said...

When I was 15 , and spendig the summer with my grandmother in Dominican Republic, I was coming back home from the store, and this guy, just came out of no where, and grabbed my ass.
But i'm pretty sure, that was the last time, he did that! ooof! I wasn't used to that, I was shocked and started to throw rocks at him, I hit him right on the forehead! He had the best bumb in the history of bumbs! Since I was American .. they already called me "crazy and weird" so, throwing rocks was not something so stranger to me. but yeah ..Man! when you are small you sure can aim!!

Silvs said...

It's not the same... but It's just feel like crap when someone treats you like you are worthless .. and makes you feel so small and denfenceless. And I assure that your friend, still remembers the insident.

karmic_jay said...

Hey Silvs.. thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts.
The idiot who you threw rocks at had it coming to him...
As for *Jane* I am sure she remembers it, as does every woman who has to deal with this.

blow said...

this isn't the kind of thing you'd forget is it? amazing how it's so easy for a lot of men to impose themselves on women like that..

thanks for your comment...

Aranyi said...

I know... it makes you feel so dirty. Funny how men who in general are so possessive of their mothers and sisters can be so blatantly disrespectful of an unrelated woman.Or you wonder if those men who DO eve-tease actually are possessive of even their own wives/mothers/sisters/daughters? Maybe its a way of testing a woman's spunk, as is the case in certain Bombay slums.

~River~ said...

It must have been a shocking thing for a 12 year old to witness.

Thanks for not keeping silent about this.

I had a bad ass-pinching experience myself. I cried throughout the rest of the crowded-DTC-bus journey and cried the whole day. I cried because I felt so, so, so very angry. However, the reason I remember this incident is because of something entirely different. The elderly conductor of the bus saw me crying and gave me his seat and told whoever looked in my direction that I wasn't feeling well.

Shekhar said...

God !! How can men be so PATHETIC. I'm disgusted... almost feel like puking.

Why don't women just turn around and retaliate. I think what silvs did was pretty much the correct thing to do.