It has been almost 6 months since I have posted on my blog. But the story of the Delhi girl that was gang-raped, and the ever so many posts about it all over the Net world, this particular post especially, made me feel like posting too.
I had done my graduation in Chennai and went on to do my Post-Grad in Delhi University, North Campus. That was around 41 years ago.
In Chennai, I was a student in an all girls college. But, when walking out on the street, even along fairly lonely streets--of course only in broad daylight (naturally as we had to be in the hostel by 6 pm), you never had to suffer things like groping. But when I came to Delhi, it was such a different experience. The clothes you wore made no difference and neither the time of day. The only safe buses to travel on were the University Specials, when the buses were running during the week, or else there were sometimes taxis, which , when driven by some old Sardar taxi drivers, were safe as told to me by other Delhi girls. Getting on a bus was a nightmare and, if you were forced to stand, it was awful. During those years in Delhi I learned to keep needles or pins to deal with wandering hands in cinema theatres, have used boots with heels to grind into toes at the back of me in a bus, to keep hands away from my bottom, I learned to use my elbows--always stuck out at right angles to my body-- to keep away hands from my breasts. But the worst thing in Delhi was how males--not even in a crowded area--just came across and touched a woman--even if she was walking way to a side. I remember once one of my classmates telling me that she was walking back at 2 in the afternoon, over the Ridge, back to college, with another girl, when a bunch of school boys, in uniform and not more than 12 or 13, came at them, groped them and ran off! The two girls were in salwar kameez--not provocative clothes. Once, a bunch of friends and I had been for a carol service at the St. Stephen's college chapel, which was conducted early, so that girl students could attend and get back before dark. We were dressed in saris, and with thick sweaters or shawls--very decent. We were walking back through gardens in the University and had almost reached the main road when we saw about 5 or so young men coming towards us. We decided to try and stay together. But when we reached the men, they stood in such a way that, to get through, we would have to break up and walk through them. As we walked through, one of the men just put his hands up and caught me on my breasts and this is through my sweater. Each of us was trying to take care of ourselves in the melee. I know that I promptly lifted his arms up with my bent elbows and bit him hard and then one of the girls screamed and someone shouted. Immediately they told us not to shout and then ran away. Now, this is not a question of a lone girl walking with a boyfriend, nor is a case of being in any way 'provocatively' dressed. It's none of these. Just the fact that these men felt that us women were fair game, probably because we were out without male family members.....The impression one got in Delhi, was that men from the North Indian states had absolutely no respect for women.
I have now lived in Kerala for 40 years and brought up girls here, but never has there been the kind of groping that goes on in Delhi. Here, yes, in a very crowded situation somebody might try to surreptitiously touch your behind, where you can't be sure it was intended, but not a direct attack.
All I can say is attitudes have to change from the roots, where boys have to be taught in school about respecting women, where Indian males have to be taught that being born male gives no extra rights; where fathers and mothers treat a girl child and a boy child equally; where a mother does not treat her son's eve-teasing of a neighbour girl as 'that's the way boys are'; where women--whatever their hierarchy in the joint family--can speak up for other women, within the family circle, when they feel an injustice is being perpetrated, in fact , where women can voice their opinions, without being thought of as bold for having opinions.