It’s a long period of years until this little angel that roams around your courtyard grows up into a girl or a woman. Most people think it is puberty that makes a girl grow up, it is not. It could be much earlier. I was 14 the day I realised I had grown up. Something had changed. I didn’t realise it, I was told that I had grown up. But how does someone grow so quickly?
We celebrate birthdays as if the person has actually grown up in 24 hours. People don’t. But I had, and it wasn’t even my birthday.
Until 8th grade, there were always limits and boundaries to how far from home we would travel. But with the advent of tuition classes, we used to travel a little farther in our cycles.
I grew up when I was 14. This one day when we were coming back from the tuition class, the three of us friends riding our bright, peppy coloured cycles, this man (looked in his 20s or something) slowed down his scooty and whistled, then he drove close to us and said,
“Would you like to be my friend?” We were dumbfounded. We didn’t stop, we kept cycling. Looking at our faces and no response, he added, “I need friends like you… you know? Why are you running from me? Talk to me. Come closer. I won’t bite.” We could hear his laughter while we paddled our best to go away from him.
This was not a secluded road, this was a busy street and broad daylight. It was funny in the first instance because the guy seemed lunatic but after it all ended, we realised how creepy it was. Forget telling parents, we were even shy to discuss within ourselves, what had happened.
Recurring thoughts came to our head. Why did we run? It was a busy street. We should have just stopped and told someone. For most of us, this is the point we grow up. We are told and made to realise that our bodies are special things to protect, that it is our duty to try and avoid confrontations, or even put ourselves in situations that can lead to eve-teasing.
Your uncles who have played with you while you were a toddler, now must not see your legs, so no skirts or shorts for you.
There are said and unsaid lessons on how to walk, what to wear, whom to talk with, whom to stay away from and when to be back home.
I have never seen cases where parents teach guys not to eve-tease, harass or bully. Parents of boys like to shrug their shoulders saying, “Oh..it’s the people from the minority communities who do such things or people who are poor who do such things.” While the reality is that guys from all kinds of homes do these things.
On the other side, sometimes the most unexpected guys turn out to be a real help and are understanding in such cases. They know what is wrong and they know what is right.
Writing such things sitting in Ahmedabad is another level of privilege, they say. They ask us to compare it with Delhi or UP. But why? All of us have the same problem. It’s not a state’s problem. It’s the mentality and absolute disregard for the law that needs to change. They must be stopped. Our freedom must not be restricted.
I read an article today in the Indian express today about the “life of a girl on the streets of UP”. It was terrifying. The Anti Romeo Squads are more of Anti Lovers Squads than actually nabbing the eve-teasers. Basically, you are stopping consenting adults in the name of Indian culture while the loafers live with pride.
“Don’t wear sleeveless or skirts because then you’re asking for it. Don’t talk on the phone while on the streets or in an auto because it means you have a boyfriend. You are asking for it.” Another page says a toddler was raped in Valsad, Gujarat. Was she asking for it?
Every day, we ask such rhetorics out in the open. What kind of precedence are we leaving for the guys out there? Is this the Tom and Jerry show we are playing here? Do what you can for saving yourself from Tom.
We are told, “Girls must not raise their voices in front of their elders (even when they say such conservative bullshit in 2017).” And we are told, “Don’t ask too many questions. The government is also an elder. So are the moralising hooligans. Either these are the people who are party to the wrongdoings or they think it is okay for such ugly acts to be a part of a civilised and cultured society. Choose your side.