It was 6.30 in the evening but it looked as if it was midnight. I was sitting on the night bus from Guwahati ISBT bus stop to my hometown in Arunachal Pradesh. My sister and I were visiting home after nearly a year, and naturally we were excited. I had always liked this bus drive to my hometown. I knew I would be fast asleep in sometime and with the first ray of sunlight, I would be home–sipping the early morning tea with my father and brother.
I woke up in the middle of night as I felt something on my leg. I looked down to find someone’s hand on my leg. I was shocked. There was a guy sleeping in-between the isle and it was his hand. I was alarmed for a second. Were his intentions nasty or was he an innocent soul accidentally touching my feet? It could be either so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and removed my leg quietly.
I dozed-off again only to be woken up with a tingle on my thigh. It was again some hand hunting for something. I knew it was the same guy. I knew very well now that he was not a poor soul as I had earlier thought. I was annoyed at myself for not warning him at the first place. I knew he was the culprit, but do I have the guts to speak up for myself? I wasn’t sure. My sister, all this while, was sleeping besides me, blissfully unaware of the turn of events.
Molestation like this is not the first I have experienced in my ten years of life as a single woman living on her own. In fact, this was the nth time I was touched without my permission. Be it the man rubbing his private parts against me in the MTC bus in Chennai or the man rubbing his elbow on my neck in Varanasi. I was always too ashamed to talk about such incidents. I have cried alone in my bathroom after the excruciating pain caused by the biker on a moving bike who hit my breasts in Bangalore city. I was embarrassed enough not to mention my agony and anger to my roommate or family for that matter. I have crushed, abused, yelled at the culprit in private, in the safety of my room, but never on his face. I was too scared to do that. What if he turns back and does something even more dangerous? What will the people around me think of it? Will I be portrayed as “Just another helpless girl crying for attention?” What if nobody helps me? It would be humiliating. My throat had always dried-up at the thought of it. I have never spoken a word about the humiliation and the mental trauma I have gone though all these years, something that always made me feel guilty–guilty of not standing up for myself.
That night, it was yet another incident in my long list of abuses by strangers. I looked down at the guy with the light of my mobile phone. He was acting as if he was fast asleep, which he wasn’t. The light of the mobile phone was flashing on his face but he was daring enough to keep his hand still on my thigh. I alerted my sister about it. She gave me a look “What are you going to do about it?”
I didn’t know what happened to me at that moment. I took out my slipper and started slapping this guy’s face left, right and centre. I felt rebellious as if someone has set me free. I’d had enough of these jerks. I thought that this guy would wake up horrified and apologise for his deeds. To my utter shock he didn’t. He shoved my hand as if I am some mosquito dancing over his face. He was obviously unaffected by my rage at him.
My sister and I were staring at him in disbelief. He was least bothered by our presence. We were the physically weak human beings trying to take on a ‘Man’! We were the weak species called ‘Women’. It was our fault that we travel alone in a bus without the security of a male companion. This was bound to happen. ‘Men will always be Men’. We shouldn’t have ventured out in the dark.
His overconfidence irritated me beyond words. What I did next was unbelievable for my own standards. I got down from my seat and gave him a real hard kick at his private part. YES! I did that. The guy finally woke up and curled himself in pain abusing me in Assamese. I was least bothered. I’d had enough of the nuisances of these monsters leaching on woman as and when it pleases them. I landed another kick on him. His voice grew louder waking up few of the fellow passengers. Before they could do anything this guy leaped into the driver’s cabin.
People asked me “What Happened?”, “What he did he do to you?” I narrated the incident to them without being bothered if i would be judged. I wasn’t scared to speak up anymore or if someone will stand up for me. I went to my seat secretly hoping this guy would come up and confront me for trashing him in the most painful way. I waited for the next five minutes, ten minutes and fifteen minutes. Nobody came. I slowly drifted in the arms of sleep not before the bus stopped at a location and I saw the guy getting down from the bus. I had a smile on my face.
Confrontation was not that difficult as I had imagined. It was rather easy. I felt much at ease. I was not a hapless woman anymore!