It was nearing ten. As I tried to keep up my pace to that of my father and sister, who were a little short than a meter ahead of me, discussing the applicability of Newton’s three Laws of Motion, suddenly a bunch of bicycle ridden men crossed our path. It was probably my inertia which broke the momentum of my gait and further widened the gap between us. Accustomed to concentrating more on the ground than in the front while walking, little did I realize what had happened until I was inches away from a beedhi smoking man, his eyes almost goggling out of their sockets, staring fixedly at me. I could well decipher the intention of that piercing gaze, which by the action of gravity was now moving southwards from my face. Fortunately, I remembered I wasn’t alone and after giving a hard stare back, I dashed for my walk fellows, who were now deliberating over metaphysics: a domain that exists beyond normal physics and human perception; completely oblivious of my brief ‘could-have-been diabolic’ encounter. Conscious of sounding serene, despite the ocular premonition I had just received, I only testified the validity of metaphysics and the presence of the Supreme Being who had rescued me that potentially damnable night.
“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” I could hear my father and sister’s discussion ring old bells in my mind and wondered if this famous third law were to apply to human beings as well such that a woman would react only after the action had taken place. This despite being fully aware of the fact that in the aftermath of such an incident, she might not even remain in a position to pull up an even fight. I’m sure Mr. Newton will jest me for extending his law to Sexual Advances, which was never a part of his original formulation.
One would say, a multitude of instances of sexual harassment flood our everyday life. So much more heinous and graver in intensity than just a normal stare- a molehill from which I built a mountain in the opening paragraph. Well, I agree. But I have a question. Going into the genesis exodus of this phenomenon of commodification of women and sexual harassment, isn’t it these small non-retaliated stares, that mature themselves into the more aggressive and barbaric forms of brutality. So as to say the Tarun Tejpal and Justice Ganguly like incidents, if not checked, unquestioned and persistent for long, cultivate themselves into ones like Nirbhaya.
But, the more serious question at hand is how and when to retaliate? When vulnerable or after victimization?If she decides for the latter, she would have to wait till she is violated and then muster up the courage to react, or if dead by then, the onus would fall on the follow up peace marches and candle light vigils. Alternatively, if she acts beforehand, it will not be to any avail. Because, she wouldn’t have anything to justify the savage lust she saw in the eyes of her hedonist predator, and would rather be branded a feminist starting a new crusade of anti-male chauvinism.
I’m a woman. Yes. But isn’t this as natural as all other circulatory, respiratory and biological functions. Isn’t my femininity as conspicuous as the other sex’s masculinity? Why don’t I go bonkers seeing the other gender? The most common defence available is that it is impregnated in the male psyche and can’t be helped. But I ask what kind of a pervert and degenerated psyche is this which drives him to stare at those very set of mammary glands from where he once sucked his own mother’s milk?
As a woman, both an onlooker and a victim to such incidents, I ask, what is the one infallible way of wiping out this menace?