“I was there that night with my friends. We were some of the women who were mauled by the crowd. The problem was that the horror didn’t end with us getting out of there. We carried the terror and trauma home. One of my friends couldn’t sleep because she was convinced she still wasn’t safe even though she was at home. Another friend kept waking up because even in her sleep she wondered what she had done to invite such behaviour. When we met up again the next day, one of the girls refused to go home alone, so we dropped her to her house and then came back.
It didn’t make a difference that there were three guys with us. The men came in large groups. We were afraid to engage because we didn’t want to escalate the situation. One guy, who was bothering my friend, was accompanied by 10 or 11 other men.
I haven’t read what the politicians had to say because, honestly, I know what to expect. There are the usual dialogues about how we women invite this kind of behaviour by dressing in Western clothes and aping Western culture. All I can tell them is what plenty of people have said before me – the clothes I wear shouldn’t matter. In actual fact, they don’t matter. I have been molested while wearing a salwar kameez that was my school uniform.
I see a lot of back and forth on social media sites such as Facebook. There are plenty of people who have expressed their outrage about what happened on New Year’s Eve. But I don’t think that it makes a lot of difference to what happens on the streets. I understand that a lot of these people are expressing genuine sentiments. But things won’t change as long as all we do is sit and post about how outraged we are.
Action needs to be taken. I don’t mean this for just our ministers and politicians. I mean that the next time you feel mad about something like this go out and make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a huge effort. One of my friends told me that the reason they were able to get to their taxi safely was these 25 men who come to M.G. Road every year. They come not to join in the revelry, but to ensure that women can safely party that evening. Four of these men formed a group around my friends and escorted them to the waiting cab. Others can do the same. Next year, go to such areas around midnight or 1 a.m. Help out those who are in need. Whatever you do, don’t be bystanders.
I’ve faced situation like the new year’s eve before. At first, I did get upset but now I’m used to it. Of course, I don’t know what is worse – to not know what this kind of harassment is like so that you’re traumatised when you face it. Or to have experienced it often enough that it becomes something you get mad about but can get past. I don’t feel scared anymore. I choose to be stronger and inure myself. I feel mad when I can’t catch such guys because they are on scooters or bikes and can zoom off.
After all that I’ve experienced, I’m not even sure that when it comes time for me to have kids, I’d want to have a daughter – not unless things have improved. If I ever do have a daughter, I’ll make sure that I teach her how to handle herself. I’ll probably enrol her in some self-defence or martial arts classes so she can take on anyone who attacks or harasses her.”