There’s always a dilemma, whether to beat him up or file an FIR. It will be really pessimistic not to have hopes with the police because they are the ones who are officially there to protect us. But then when we hear of stories of humiliation, harassments and even molestation by the police, it becomes difficult to decide what to do. I had made a personal choice last year of choosing to go to the police station to file an FIR.
One fine morning, I was standing at my balcony and this man from the neighboring society was on his terrace. His terrace is diagonally parallel to my balcony. 18 years that I’ve lived in the same surrounding, I’ve found him to be the weirdest of all. His is the most noisiest household and he is the one screaming all the time. As a principle, I’ve always stayed away.
So this morning when I was on call and I saw him come to the terrace, a sudden reflex was to go inside. I did. After a few minutes, doing ‘walk and talk’, I went back to the balcony. He was still standing there.
He was at his usual weird best, his tall yet elephant like body and he was only wearing a pair of shorts to adorn it. He stared at me, pretty much shamelessly, checked me out and made weird gestures. I won’t call it ‘unexpected’. Already agitated as I was, I decided not to leave the ground. After all, why should I leave? I was still on call.
In the next few minutes, what happened will leave you appalled. He looked down, slid his shorts a little down and exposed his dick. He looked back into my eyes and started masturbating.
Broad daylight, open terrace. Did I tell you his age? Well, he’s 55. I was shocked for a few seconds but not numb because the same thing had happened to me on the University road, right outside CEPT college, just a month back. A guy while driving to somewhere, had suddenly decided to release his hormones in front of me. Again, broad daylight but that time a 25 odd something guy. That day I was shocked and more numb. I hadn’t been able to react much. The guilt will always remain.
But this time I got myself to react. I screamed at the top of my voice. Swore at him, the B word, then the C word. Believe me, I never ever swear. But this was pretty much auto. I screamed out for mom and dad. He started to run. It was clear that he wasn’t doing something this ridiculous for the first time and it was clearer that he wasn’t expecting me to shout. So the elephant ran like a mouse. Mom saw him running.
Papa came out and he was shocked too. I left the ground and dragged myself to the shower. I could hear Mom and Dad screaming but I was trying not to listen. I was trying to think. I could forget everything but not the look on his face.
It’s been so many months but I can’t forget the look on his face while masturbating. It said, “What the fuck can you do about this, bitch!” That morning, I had asked my father and he (surprisingly) agreed that I should file a police complaint. Everyone fears going to the police-station and everyone stops you from going there and filing a complaint. Mom was against it. She thought it would be better to get him beaten up through the society people. I still went ahead and filed an FIR. A dear friend accompanied me.
Even when I had categorically said ‘He masturbated in front of me.’ They wrote in the FIR ‘He behaved indecently.’ I don’t think ‘behaved indecently’ sums up the level of torture that was. I mean you could probably say ‘behaved indecently’ when someone pronounces you a bad driver only because you are a woman. This was altogether another level.
Later in the day, one of my closest (guy) friends made a ravishing comment on call, “I haven’t heard of such a thing from any other female!” This came out like an allegation. I clearly remember that such a thing had even happened to my other (girl) friends even during our college times. Sure, you wouldn’t have heard of a thing like this but that could be because women don’t talk about it that much or that someone wouldn’t have felt comfortable in sharing such an incident with you, and I see why. There’s this new trend coming up, public masturbation for pleasure and to harass women. And because we aren’t talking much about it, people don’t know.
After a month, he was arrested, beaten up and I was called for a confrontation (as per my request), there were many arguments and I had called my father in the middle of it. My father was visibly angry while having to argue about what happened and whether it happened or not. Meanwhile an innocent sub-inspector got me to the side and tried to explain the matter to me: “See, these non-gujaratis are the ones who do such things. Our gujaratis would never do such a thing. I’ll give you one honest advice. Why even go to that balcony? Avoid going na?! You’ll avoid all these hassles that way.” Before I could answer to him, my father intervened, “Why should she avoid the balcony? She’ll go wherever she wants! People like these need to be stopped. If my daughter is not safe in her own home, what more can we expect!” The sub-inspector was silenced.
The main guy- the inspector was disappointed that I didn’t order him to be taken to jail. But I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want him to be beaten up. Although since that day, I haven’t seen him wearing shorts again. People say he got rid of all of his shorts. He wears full clothes and there is no complain from him. Probably he’s scared. He doesn’t look at me in the eye. All is well that ends well?
During my one-month wait for justice, I saw two different sides of the trends we have. There were people who said ‘You should stay away from such people. They can be dangerous.’ And other extreme were the ones who said ‘Your father should have beaten him up and then got the police.’ The latter one was interesting. It was a question on my father’s manliness, to go and beat the person. Anyone who has seen my father would not debate about whether he’s capable to beat him up but I respect the fact that he refrained from taking the law in his hands and supported his daughter’s stance. And what if my father was not strong enough? In that case, should I have to bear all that? Do we approve of goons (who are more powerful) ruling on common people?
This was my first experience with the police and it was largely smooth. They were respectable and it was a hassle free experience. I had to wait for a month for the results but that’s it.
I am not saying the answer is to always resort to the police. It’s an eternal confusion, especially for girls. It is confusing also because we don’t want to be dragged into an unwanted fuss like ‘police station and courts ke chakkar lagaana.’ But we don’t want this to happen to us either.
If you’re in public place like a bus and someone misbehaves, that’s the best place to gather some courage and open up. If you think it could be a mistake, politely tell them to back off. If they still continue, shout on the top of your voice. Let everyone know, in the plainest words as to what he did to you, make him feel embarrassed. DO NOT shy away and come back home crying. That’s pointless. Ask for help. You may have no idea that there are so many women around who are carrying the similar frustration and anger, there are so many men around who feel disgraced by such perverted men around. They might really help!
I don’t know if you want the person to be physically harmed or beaten to death. I would not want to, so I might end up saving him from receiving the mob justice. I feel, sometimes mob justice helps, and of course it gives goose-bumps too, when we watch it in a movie. But there is a very thin line and it can any time go wrong too. There is no black and white here. So let’s not.
But I guess in the end, what we should be able to see is that something has to be done. The view of ‘Nothing can be done! We have bear all this.’ doesn’t help either. This utter lawlessness and fearlessness in such hooligans cannot be tolerated. They cannot be allowed to do things to us and look into our eyes and say, “What can you do about this, bitch?!”
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