say something … anything.

by prash on 07 Mar 2006

the best summers of my life were the summer holidays i spent at thatha(grandfather)’s place in madras. my brother and i would look forward to loads of chellam-kuduthufying (affection) and edam-kuduthufying (long-leash-ness). in short it was just a whole month of teens-will-be-teens.

and we had a rigorous schedule too: swimming, chess club, library, the games arcade at shanti vihar (used to be at the corner of luz and royapettah) – everything had to be fit in.

rajeshwari lending library was located on kutcheri road and we would take the 12B bus to get there from mylapore. one summer though i was in for a shock. instead of being greeted with the usual “munnadi po! munnadi po!!” (move to the head of the bus!) the conductor yelled “aambalenga indha pakkam, pombalenga andha pakkam!” (men go this way, women that way”). the momentary pangs of confusion i felt as i stood at the steps of the bus were erased the second i laid eyes on the interior. pallavan transport corporation had pulled a fast one on us. they had somehow managed to arrange for a sheep van complete with a metal divider that ran along the entire stretch of the center of the bus, from driver to the bumpy last seat, from floor to ceiling. that’s right: men on the right, women on the left.

and that was how bad the harassment of women had gotten in the late eighties in madras.

i have been a mute witness to scores of scenes of hands being where they shouldn’t, words spoken that would turn unborn baby girls in their wombs, cruel lingering eyes that deserved a proper gouging – always horrified, but always mute. what could i do .. what indeed? but today i realise what i could have done.

as i watched a high school girl shed a tear and get off at the next stop with barely enough money to catch another bus to school; as i watched a woman old enough to be my mother subject to horrors at the hands of business suit wearing lechers; as i watched how it didn’t even if they were old or young, married or not, i realise now that i could have just said something.

anything.

tags: blank noise project blog-a-thon , Blog-a-thon 2006

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

tilo March 7, 2006 at 16:21

I did not think the bystanders were going to speak up. I did not think there were bystanders.Thanks for doing so. Common response I got from the good guys – hey I didn’t see any of this happen! I was completely unaware…

I believed them because Hey, we were trying to pretend that it was not happening.

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prash March 7, 2006 at 18:42

tilo, i can assure you: any guy growing up in madras, using public transport and having the use of atleast one of his eyes would be a damned liar if he says if he was unaware of this menace – our mistake is not in noticing it – it is in silencing ourselves…

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Karthik March 8, 2006 at 05:44

Looks like everyone has a story or two here .. the general refrain among guys seems to be “We wish we had spoken out.”

By the way, you should send an email to blurtblanknoise[AT]gmail.com to get your post listed there…

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Meera April 12, 2006 at 20:49

Know what you are writing about, I have used the very bus in late 90’s. I guess the buses today are somewhat better. I remember when i was in college in Chennai, there was a girl studying in Ethiraj who died in an accident thanx to eve-teasing. It led to a flower-brigade plainclothes policewomen coming down heavily on ruffians and eve-teasers. But like everything else, am sure the practice no longer exists. With them things would be better.

Regarding your speaking out, buddy you have now. Do not get into a guilt trip. Never helps.

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prash April 13, 2006 at 17:08

thanks meera, you’re right – some thigns do gnaw at your mind long after the actual feelings are felt. it’s always good to get it out especially when there is a movement that feels the same way.
the bigger problems we used to face were, as karthik says, the fact that some of our friends used to do this and saying anything against that at the time would mean you were not a “team playah” – man, i hated myself then.

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