Thursday, July 27, 2006

Just another day

Today I read a thought povoking post by Quills at Save Kerala and the subject is related to something I was planning to write for a long time. Then I decided against it because I thought it was futile to write more about something that all of us read about regularly and have even begun to ignore as it one of those subjects like, outdated laws that does not have an immediate remedy.

But after reading Quills article I thought I will write about an ordinary day in the life of an Indian girl…something that most guys in this country don’t know about.

From the time we girls grow up and start looking like women, life becomes hell. Till then life is carefree, at least for most of us. We learn very early in life that ‘Men” are bad. We are warned about ‘Men” and we learn by experience that these warnings had better be taken very seriously. From walking on the road to shopping, is not a routine activity for us as it is for guys. From the time we step out of the house, our life is fraught with danger. We have to bear with men trying to brush against us, or touch us or follow us, making lewd suggestions, cars slowing and keeping pace with us to have a good look etc. We learn to IGNORE these with practiced efficiency from a young age. We learn to steel ourselves and walk by with our eyes away whenever we pass a group of guys. We learn never to walk alone. Which is why you see girls walking in pairs or in groups. The conditioning begins very early.

Our mothers are on tenterhook from the time we are born to the day we get married. They cannot leave us in the house alone and we rarely move around after dark alone. From birth to grey hair we live on high alert. There are so many unwritten rules and regulations that we have to follow to see that we do not become yet another statistic.

One of my memories from college, is keeping books and files or bags in front of us as a shield and walking, to avoid the painful hits on the chest by men coming from the opposite direction. And this happens daily if you are not alert and it is a painful and humiliating experience. And these are decent looking guys, not the illiterates who are better behaved than their ‘educated’ brethren.

I nearly get run over when I walk on the road by Auto fellows, bikers and car ridden men trying to get their thrill by driving as close as possible to me. And this happens “daily”. And this is not because I am a Miss India look-alike, but because I am a girl. We learn to walk on the footpath because on the road we are open game for bikers to brush past. Our reflexes are razor sharp while driving because of bikers who try to scare us by suddenly coming in front of us making us to brake hard or swerve wildly. And this too happens daily.

When I look at the elderly ladies walking on the road I feel so much envy and I long for that day when I too will walk like them without being brushed against, stared and whistled at. And that is not happening for a long time I know.
For the girls working in IT companies, strict laws against sexual harassment keep us safe. For the girls working in other places, life and career progression is very difficult unless they have the dexterity of a Matador to avoid male colleague’s predatorial designs.

And all this happens in a free, democratic country famed for its family values. This happens in a country where a woman is the honor of the family.

And this my dear gentlemen of this country, is just another ordinary day in us girls lives.

For the women of India who make up 50% of the population, democracy does not exist.


quills said...

Thanks a lot silverine for taking up this topic and writing so beautifully as always. I really get so upset when I read about these day to day events that has become so normal and a routine part of life, that people barely give it a second thought.

Actually I do not think, atleast from what I have heard from people, that a few grey or white hairs is a deterrent for these road side romeos. As long as the person in question is identified as a female, with all body parts intact, she becomes a target/prey for these vultures. Young or old it does not matter really to these perverts. I remember back when I was in college, a bunch of guys, used to lie in wait outside the college gates and follow until I got home. It was really scary, especially when one day, they actually pulled up next to me on a not so busy lane and kept asking for name, number, and what not.

And you are so right about us getting conditioned from early age. It is the sad reality for almost every woman. But I personally find it less intimidating to walk on the streets of Bangalore at 8 pm than say on a busy street in Kerala even with a few friends in tow.

Mind Curry said...

sad...sooo sad..i just feel soooo depressed you cant imagine..just soooo bloody terrible..

Thanu said...

It is very depressing to see that this still exist.

I was raised in tamil nadu and one thing I saw there was the women would speak out. When one women did all the others would join in and that will be the last they all saw of that guy.

This is very different in Kerala, no one says anything.

One on my recent visits to India, my cousin (also a girl 4 years younger than me) and I were shopping in cochin and a guy passed by and said something. I got so mad, I stood there and yelled at him all the bad words I know in malayalam (which are very few - I have learnt them frm suresh gopi movies) and I realized that I was the only one standing there this upset, while everyone else on the street were going about doing their business.

When the whole episode got over, my cousin tells me chechi onnum parayanda irrunu.

I don't think with this attitude we will get anywhere.

Guys should be taught to respect, but we girls should fight back and we should not be alone in this fight.

Anonymous said...

Yeah we have been conditioned right from a very young age.At times I ve felt guilty for seeing innocent people with this eye.There were guys in college who used to get drunk and follow me home (thru the lonely streets).happened few years ago but it does leave a scar.And finally there are idiots who preach that all this is because the modern gal is not modestly dressed.Even when am Dressed in a salwar ...covered with a dupatta.. they try to make advances.. Am boiling...

Alexis Leon said...

Men should be taught to respect and women should be taught to fight. And you are not alone; majority of men are good.

Immigrant in Canada said...

You just described the 7 yrs I spend in kerala.
The amount of times people 'accidentally' knocked on my breasts, or my butt convinced me that the guys in Kerala suffer from some neurological disorder. The moment they see female homosapien, their hands and brain connection and cordination disappears. They then need a woman's butt or breast to help them gain the balance.
I just don't get it. Why do they harass the woman like this in India? Why the same people, when they live in another country won't do the same?

b v n said...

pretty balanced post,its a lil hard to write about this without getting angry :)

think the root lies in our treating women as a commodity, beauty sells,as long as it sells it will be a commodity and people will behave like in a market.its a cultural problem,but cocooning of the girl child also has something to do with this.

silverine said...

Quills: Hats off to you for writing that post on Save Kerala since it is a highly visible platform!! It is time we started talking about this, keeping this issue alive. You have a flair for writing about social issues and I hope you will do that more often :)
This is a gigantic problem to tackle because half of our one billion populations are males. I think sensitizing the male child is the key. I have also realised that stopping and staring at people following you makes them scoot and they also get the message that you are not a pushover. I still get followed; thankfully I go home in a car pool and so am relatively safer than colleagues who take the bus or auto. It is also considered macho to rag girls and you can see the guys collectively cackling after the girl has passed them by. Another aspect is that most men don't know about what we girls go through. Bangalore is definitely better than Kerala I agree but we have a big population of mallus here.

Last month my cousin sister got hit by a bike ridden with drunken mallu youth. They said 'Sorry Chechi" when caught by the cops. What more can I say?

mind curry: It is depressing isn't it? But it is an everyday reality for us girls :(

Thanu: What you did was brave and don't ever regret it. In the beginning yours may be the lone voice of protest but then soon other women will realise the power of that voice and join in.

Adrika: Am boiling too, but I have decided to fight back, though it will be an exhausting fight if others don't join in. I have realised that body language works. Like the other day two guys were following me and my colleague, we suddenly stopped walking; turned around and stared at them… they disappeared in a hurry.

Alexis: You are right women have to retaliate, make a scene even
if no one joins in.

Sarah: Kerala is a perverse place where I have heard even little
girls are not spared. I think guys too are conditioned from early age by males in the family or peers that women are objects of pleasure. It is the only explanation I can think of.

b v n: Thank you. I think respect for women folk should be made mandatory study in boys schools.

pophabhi said...

Well written, Silver. Its true that these are the daily chores of a girl, and even tougher in a place like Kerala. There are lots of perverts who like to 'strike a balance' through the slight touches and prods. A part of the blame needs to be taken by the elder women too. In a society like Kerala, every guy hears their mother/aunts telling that any girl in their family needs to do so-so routines because she is a 'girl'. The same people who talk about freedom of ladies will talk in internal circles about how a girl is coming late from work, and that she is not morally correct. I think this goes in the blood of most of the homes in Kerala. Naturally the young kids growing up hearing this, interpret ladies as an object of pleasure. The change needs to happen right from home, where kids are groomed, irrespective of whether its a he or a she.

Dr. Pissed said...

I'll reserve my comments on this with the intent of having a long discussion about this very same topic with you one of these days.

Jiby said...

you wrote about things every woman in urban india have been through...i have heard my mom and sis talk of so many incidents...but i cud never believe them when they said these things happen almost every day.
i thought that perhaps i am a guy and thats why i dont see the crimes of my sex.

and then i really started to notice all the perversions...that is all...i have never been able to even tell one guy to behave properly...i wud think women need to take the initiative...once my sis said she shouted at a guy, "nee poda patti" and the coward just ran away. i was real proud of her that day...

Lekshmi said...

Good Post Silverine,

I feel, it is mostly because of we are not reacting. Although there are so many incidents of sexual assaults in Delhi-NCR, I have never experienced any bad experience in Buses during the last 3 years. In Kerala, it used to happen on any other day.

Jagan said...

and I was wondering y girls always hugged a bag or a note when they go outside ..didnt kno girls use it a shield .

i wonder how much of this happens in abroad ? wer do we go wrong ??when u consider tht we refer "patriotically" to "bharath matha" , we hav goddess whom every one prays ...we seem to give respect to women .but y do still women are looked at only as sex materials ??

silverine said...

Pophabhi: Yes...blame has to be taken by mothers and older women in the family too for telling girls that it is their duty to cook and be subservient to the male and that they should behave appropriately in public so that they don't attract unwnated male attention...and also for gossiping
about the girls in other peoples families.

dr pissed : Sure :)

Jiby: When the majority of the girls fight back only then will the message go out that it is risky to 'handle' a gal.

lekshmi: Welcome to my blog :) It is true that Kerala tops in this shameful behavior and a social debate is needed on this topic.

Jagan:The dice is loaded so heavily against the woman in India. She is unsure of being born in the first place, then the discrimination because she is a girl and then the unwanted attention because she is a girl and finally the burden of an entire family on her shoulders because she is a girl. She gets respite when only when she is laid to final rest.

Jeseem said...

sad to see how guys behave.
this may seem like a lame excuse, but many guys have no idea how girls are. they seem more objects of desire, rather than good friend, who are more human and more softer and many times more mature.
a quick glance, a smile and at most a casual praise ,you look very good today, is in my sense, the most you should go to.
the lewd street romeo behaviour, i can usually attribute to guys, who have hung in the boys only gang, drinking and wasting there life away. but well indian society is not educated sociely, not yet.

Ganja Turtle said...

I remember being with a few female colleagues from mumbai for a walk on Cochins marine drive and after abut 5 mts, they told me that they wanted to go to sit inside somwhere...puzzled I asked why? And they told me to observe the guys walking past, sitting by the side...these jerks were looking at them like they were meat or something...absolute &^%$&^%$! And just because they were in Tees&jeans...though men are men everywhere, in India..doubly so in Kerala, treating women like this - a piece of meat - is in the danger of almost becoming a never-ending rite of passage that men seem to revel in this again and again and man is an an angel...but one neednt be a disgusting & horny #@!&^(& all the time...maybe my sample size of the men in kerala is too small...maybe the women in kerala have become so conditioned to this that this has become part of their life...maybe everywhere its the same if we look hard enough..

My cousin & me had to travel around 20Km in buses to college/ school and some of the stories she used to share were the same...abt these animals pinching, shoving, trying to slip in their hands and every other kinda crap that only a shamless *^%%@$#! coward could try...but the only saving grace is that this "honour of a woman" business, atleast in such rotten business is taken quite seriously in tamil nadu...this means that if you try any funny business and the woman raises a hue and cry, the guy gets thoroughly beaten up...and you are absolutely was always the illiterate and the villager who were very clear about the black and white of such incidents...we caught on only later...and again, contrary to popular opinion, it wasnt often the randy college kid who tries such was your friendly married middle aged uncle out to get his share of the gropes...maybe such animals need to be neutered as other species usually are...

"And this my dear gentlemen of this country, is just another ordinary day in us girls lives." Understand I was telling myself that I would just do a recce of all friendly blogs and I end up with such a long comment...but having seen close cousins/ friends/ colleagues go through the agony of this, couldnt help it....go Lorena Bobbitt!

silverine said...

Jeseem: You have made a very valid observation!! It is indeed guys who have no contact with girls and move around in guy gangs who indulge in such behavior.

GT: Thanks for that long comment and observations :) These perverts do treat women like meat. You should hear some of the comments when a girl passes by, they will talk loudly about the size of the various parts of her anatomy . It is so perverse!!! In a study by a Delhi newspaper it was found out that a big chunk of eve teasers were married men!!
Tamil Nadu everyone agrees is an exception. I have also noticed that Tamilians, Goans and Mangaloreans allow free mingling of boys and girls, perhaps that is the reason why in these societies, women are treated as humans and not objects of curiosity . Thanks again for understanding!

Anonymous said...

Hi silverine,

Really? You mean no girls are safe in Kerala? Or in India? C'mon.

I grew up in Kerala and in India and I lived a part of my life in Bangalore. I too am a girl. I totally understand your frustration. I remember there was an episode in Amazing Race (U.S Television Show) and when some U.S females got into the Mumbai trains in General Compartment, they were mercilessly grabbed. I was so ashamed, since I had to face my colleagues the next day. But then, I thought, in U.S you don’t have to go through that but you go through a completely different set of harassment. The women here bend over backwards to look ‘sexy’ (I am using a mild word) and ‘attractive’ and share lewd jokes with men just to be in Place. I have been in U.S, the World's oldest democracy and the most so called modern country. I have been completely ashamed the way women behave here just to be on the top positions or to get a good salary raise. You won’t believe it! 25% of Women undergo domestic violence (Aren’t the number shocking for a Country like U.S) and teenage girls dress up like w...s to get attraction and they would go to any maximum for that. Seriously, my friends who have girls as kids are so scared to live in this Country and is going back to India. Or you have to brace yourself to face anything. Can you blv this country was in Shock when a Women Anchor was appointed to read news alone? She was the first woman to do so, happened only couple of months ago. Here the men might open the door for you, but they think you as dumb nitwits. But still here there are Women like the Ebay C.E.O. So you see I haven’t seen a perfect World anywhere.

Same like in India. We only have to worry when we go outside. But we have our Dads, Brothers, Cousins etc 'protecting' us always. I don’t think there is any other place where a brother would spend his entire life and major savings to get his sister married. We don’t have to dress improperly to attract 'attention'. We don’t have to bend over backwards to get married before 30. The main news column sometimes in NewsWeek and Time is sometimes "Why none wants Women over 30?"

So you see, each place has its own follies. And I have lived in so many places, I would definitely say India is much much better for a girl to grow up. My Caucasian boss has told me jokingly many times to take his daughter to India until she completes her teenage years or he would die of a heart attack if she is here. There is nothing like men in Kerala are worse than in Bangalore. C'mon! I have had bad experiences in Bangalore than Kerala. But I wouldn’t say one is worse than the other. Same everywhere! I don't want to generalize like that.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention. You write very well.

silverine said...

inji pennu: Thanks for the long and insightful comment :) In US the girls do it willingly, here we are unwilling victims. Girls are not safe on the road but only in the house where the 'males' can protect them. That's telling isn't it?

Blogger Almighty said...

Taking the risk of being flamed, cursed and bullied, I want to give some insight to the psychology of the prevert.

Most mallu men don't get to know women -I think reverse is also true. I guess, even after getting married this remains the same.
As a teenager, I have done atleast some of these dirty things that you mentioned. The motive - was to know what a female body feels like. As the crowded places are the easiest, t he cowards like me went for it. Then, as in most cases the feel is not consensual, the curisity fails to be quenched. Then, it becomes a habit.
I had this wierd notion that some women liked it.

If I had known the serious trouble this habit puts women into, I would never have done it.

I really don't know about the married uncles - Why they do all this.

By the way - excellent piece of writing.


silverine said...

blogger almighty: I have seen your comment at SaveKerala and I must say you are very frank abut the stages of life that you have gone through. I think our society should let boys and girls mix freely, so that girls cease to become museum objects.

As for the 'Unlces' I have no idea!

Thanks for dropping by and your kind comments.

p.s. lose the pix :)