Published On: December 10, 2016 12:35 AM NPT By: Dinkar Nepal
“Hardly had we travelled few meters and the Autowala brushed his elbow against my body”
This Facebook post from Geetanjali, my wife, under the title ‘Kolkata Experience’, unsettled me.
“It’s a regular day. I and my colleague are on our way to our head office, located in Gariahat, from Ballygung Phari (in South Kolkata). It would have taken us 15 minutes to walk but we chose to take an auto-rikshaw. The heat and humidity of Kolkata is excruciating.
“Autos in Kolkata carry four passengers. Three at the back seat and one fits beside the driver. The auto we were about to board had two passengers already. I sat next to the driver. My colleague sat behind.
“Hardly had we travelled few meters and the Autowala—barely in his mid thirties—brushed his elbow against my body.
“Did that just happen? Did he just touch me? Was it intentional?
“While I was struggling to find the answers I noticed that he had raised his elbow in an awkward position. My mind was in a storm. But I kept silent.
“I kept silent. And my silence cost me. In fact, that emboldened him further. He touched me the second time and then the third time and many times in that short distance.
“What could I do? I shifted. I tilted. I tried to maintain a physical distance. I tried to avoid the situation. I tried to avoid a scene. I only hoped, desperately, helplessly, that the journey would end soon.
“Finally we reached Gariahat. I hurriedly got down and looked into my purse for money.
But something strange happened. I did not pay. Instead, I glanced at my colleague. She was still getting down. I wanted to draw courage from her. But she was oblivious. She had no idea what just happened with me.
“That’s when I heard a sound. I had slapped him. Yes, I’d slapped him and I slapped him many times. By now everyone around realized what had happened.
“And the driver was apologizing.
“But that is not important. What is important is that I realized I had stood up for myself. Yes, I had stood up for myself. I had indeed stood up for myself.”
Reading this, early morning, was unnerving for me. I was angry too. But I was also guilty.
As a male, I can recollect many instances of unavoidable close encounters with a female body in public places, mostly while travelling in public transport. Sometimes, it makes you uncomfortable. But many a times, let me confess, and it shouldn’t come as a big surprise, close proximity with a female body does strange things to you.
Is that state of ‘elation’ or ‘excitement’ immoral? Is it a sin? What if it’s with consent? What if the initiative is taken by the other person?
It’s difficult to ask these questions, even to myself. It’s unthinkable that I am doing it publicly. All this and many more issues, from my own past, were running through my mind when I read that post from my wife.
I was happy that my wife did not ignore it. And also proud that she overcame the hesitation that female victims feel. Because the society shames the victims, many offences go unreported. And the offenders take advantage of this. She is brave. And, I am proud that she ‘stood up for herself.’
But I was also angry and guilty.
Many research conclusions point that we, men, on a regular basis, commit sexually aggressive acts to acquaintances or partners. A study has found, an average of 21-35 percent adult males have a proclivity to rape if they could be assured of not being caught.
Sexual exploitation and aggression is common.
Rape is associated more with issues of gender equality, racial discrimination and other differences. It is, history proves, also used as a tool of revenge.
It’s easier to end this on a professorial note by pretending that we know the solution to this menace. That we should educate the boys. And we should punish the offenders strictly; and also that the victims should be encouraged to speak up.
That sounds good. But it’s useless.
The bitter truth is, till the time we, men, don’t understand the devil within, it can’t be confronted.
Is there something wrong with our psychology? Is there something biologically wrong with males that makes them sexually aggressive to females?
We need answers. We have to know how to raise our sons.
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