Saturday, September 22, 2007

The after-seethe

A few days ago, I was at Gwalior station, waiting for a train that just wouldn't arrive. Since I travel very light these days, I just swung my bag on my shoulders and proceeded to walk about, mostly between the enquiry counter, the platform and the tea-stall.

The man approached from a distance. I could see him but didn't notice him until he extended an arm and tried to wrap it around my waist as he walked past. For a fraction of a second, it didn't sink - what just happened? But instinctively, my hand had latched on to his arm. Even as he began to walk away, I pulled him back and with the other hand, caught his ear, and asked him (in Hindi), "Where do you think you're going?"

Young man, checked shirt. From his expression, he didn't seem to realize what was going on.

He just stared, then asked, "What do you want?"

"I want to take you to the police station."

He tried to walk off again. I hit him on the arm and twisted his ear. A few people gathered. Most paused half a second to glance at this new tamasha, and walked away.

He stepped back and struggled free. Then he got out his wallet and began to produce credentials. Some sort of identity card. "I'm not just anybody, you know..." he began.

I snatched the card out of his hands and yelled, "What do I care about this? What difference does this make? Come to the police station."

A few people asked, in passing, "What's going on? What's the matter?"

He said, "I didn't do anything."

I slapped him.

Before I could ask anyone to help me take him to the police station, he snatched his identity card out of my hand and broke away. I was about to follow him, frightened as I was, but right behind me, there stood two railway police cops. In uniform. Not saying a word. Watching.

I saw the checked shirt receding, disappearing into the crowd, and decided to forget about going to the police station. Instead, I went to the ladies-only waiting room, to seethe in silence, and to glare at every man who entered the room whoever briefly.

16 comments:

dodo said...

You gotta learn to play the Indian mob. Instead of slapping him, you should've said something like "Yeh aadmi Ram ko gaali de raha hain", or, "Yeh aadmi Shahrukh Khan ko gaali de raha hain". That would've definitely gotten him lynched. The only two things to which the malnourished/pot-bellied Indian male responds to: religion and Bollywood. And yeah, "tradition" also.

I'm not qualified enough to advise you, but you should always carry pepper-spray.

bluespriite said...

Holy cow woman!! this is scary.. did u manage to find out anything at all? and yes pepper spray would be a good thing...

the mad momma said...

well its easy to say that you should have walked up to the cops and yelled at them too, but i think what you did was already braver than anything the rest of us would have done. stay safe woman.

dipali said...

You must have really scared that fellow. I wonder what the cops were waiting for. Do take care.

Anonymous said...

Cant for a moment think what the cops were doing. But,

I tried placing myself in the crowd for this incident and check how I would have reacted. We all know whats the 'right answer' here but to be honest I found myself pretty much doing what the crowd did.

Here come the reasons/excuses:

- did not absolutely witness the act

- no clear and present danger or 'victim'

- lady appears to be in control of the situation
you said 'frightened as I was...' but the overall behaviour from an external viewpoint didnt convey this.

- yes to some extent how the guy is dressed and carries himself- thinking to the post by Hemangini of how an underclassy Bihari applying for a Rlys job is straightaway thrashed when accused by an upperclassy lady traveller.

- the ear-holding could have come across as a sign of familiarity, a family frap even.

maybe the lady in such situations needs to scream and really create a scene. But continuing...

- I think most of us like to avoid messy situations, unless somebody we know is involved. We(I) may lack empathy for a stranger.

- everybody waiting for somebody else to make the first move. This does happen esp if the ppl are severally alone. If I am placed in a group of 3/4/5 guys I think I would get involved, I know the group will kick in.

I'm probably going to get a lot of stick now but have been trying to be honest.

regards,
Jai

~nm said...

Clap-clap-clap! Kudos to you!

When I think of myself in your place I would have done the exact thing except that I would have shouted at those cops too saying "Just because of cops like you that these people go away unscathed"

I know I can't control myself as good as you can!

Deepa J said...

Wow! Annie, Until now, I have been your silent admirer and visitor of your blog. But this brave deed of yours makes me speak out. Well done dear!

D said...

I guess the cops had no clue why and how a woman could react thus! How many cases of eve teasing get reported? How many women actually dare to speak up? But that's not to exonerate the cops. Or that checked shirt guy. And believe me, what you did would be sufficient to make that guy think 10 times before he tried such a thing again though I know it's not enough.

gopika nath said...

Dear Annie

That was brave. Kudos to you. Am glad I stopped by to check out your blog.

Felt bad that it ended up as a silent seethe. How many times must this happen before it reaches that Tipping point, when people do not walk away, do not assume you are in control, do not stand as spectators witnessing a tamasha they go home to relate with you know what I saw today.... ?

Keep going girl. Know there are more like you, working to change the way things work.

Gopika

Anindita said...

That was a very brave thing to do! Kudos to you!

annie said...

dodo: don't think so. wouldn't do that.
bluespriite: yeah, maybe pepper spray for my next birthday.
mad momma: no telling, with cops. didn't want to get into an argument or have to explain the lack of provocation my part or have to listen to idiot advice on why was I on the platform at all when I could be in the ladies waiting room?
dipali: i hope so.
anonymous: wasn't looking for justification of crowd behaviour. we've all been in crowds and we've all walked away from something that needed us. was just putting it down, for the record.
nm: restraint did not have much to do with it.
deepa: hardly very brave. have done similar things in the past. was only doubly upset this time because the cops were standing right there.
anindita, d: cases enough get reported. a better question to ask would be - how many FIRs are filed and how many are actually punished. if you are looking at police attitudes, you may want to visit http://hemanginigupta.blogspot.com/2005/06/train-to-chennai.html
gopika: i certainly hope there are people working to change things. could always do with more. want to volunteer? :)

Opinionated said...

Should've nicely asked the cops, "Kya aap sirf kahde dekhte rahenge? Kuch karenge nahi uss ladke ko?"
If they hadn't reacted, made a silent note of their names & written a complaint to the commissioner of the area. If well connected people like you won't do that, who will?

Jai_Choorakkot said...

Anon above at #5 was me. I think there is more to the overall attitude and was trying to get at that. Other than those points:

The sum of earhold, earpull, armhold, armpull, armtwist, shouts, snatches, slap likely came across to the average bystander as sufficient punishment directly delivered by the offended party. Zero confidence is placed in the police and taking any affair to them is considered as a kind of last resort. The idea that this might become a police issue actually demotivates passers-by from getting involved.

This may not be how it should be, but it unfortunately is.

regards,
Jai

'Ghazal' said...

I love this bit..
'The only two things the Indian male respsonds to.
Religion and Bollywood.'
Add the pakistani male too.
I recently had an 'encounter' with a Harvard based Pakistani.
'Where are you from'
India.
"Muslim'?
Well my surname spoke of it.
'Sort of" I said.
Where r u from in India.
From Delhi.
But your parents?
My father is from Awadh.
And You mother? Where is she from?
She is Punjabi.
Oh, I didnt know there were Punjabi Muslims in India.
I knew where this was getting to.
The entire tribal subcaste is she Hindu sikh shia thing.
She was born near Lahore.
So she is from Pakistan.
No she was born there, before '47.
So how come she lives in INdia?
I tried to change the topic.
MOst Punjabi Muslims left India after partition, how coome she is there.
This was getting too much. Like an inteerrogation.
She is Indian. My parents dont belive in religous boundaries etc.
So he goes straight to the point. Like a Nazi doctor taking a history of a patient he is about to gas.
Did she convert to marry your Dad or she is Muslim?
I had had enough.
I changed the topic.
Then he went on a tirade against 'Muslims' marrying into other religions, and ultimately the Shia thing.
Ultimately all Muslims and non Muslims (obviuosly), would burn in hell excpet for the Sunni Wahabi community he came from.
How about human beings who love ISlam? Its Sufi spirit, I was playing cool.
I dont have problem with converts.
I was like. All Muslim in the world today ( except the 00.1% family f the Prophet) are 'converts'.
he had no answer to that.
The Brahmin's Islam.
Pakistan's really purified it man.


I hadnt had a conversation like this one for a while.
I didnt expect this in Harvard, thats all.
Some things never change I guess.

Sunita said...

In my youth I've lashed out at eve teasers - taken one to the cops and hit another - but now as my joints creak I think I need a simpler, quicker form of retaliation. Where do you get pepper spray in India?

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