This happened to me yesterday night while I was travelling back to Delhi in a train. I feel most comfortable in the upper birth and was delighted once I realized mine was one. All evening went as usual, I kept myself busy reading a book, slept pretty early as Delhi was to arrive at 5 AM.
To my horror, I woke up feeling dirty in my gut when the passenger on the opposite upper birth was holding and pressing my hand. I immediately pulled back. The man realized I was up and apologized. I shouted back at him hoping someone will hear me and wake up, but nobody did. I rolled back and tried to sleep. But, I wasn’t satisfied with his apology, I kept thinking, what if I was in deeper sleep, what would this man have done if I did not wake up on time. Has he been staring at my body while I slept? What was going on in this dirty man’s mind? I wondered if I was covered enough! I felt dirty! So no, I wasn’t satisfied by his fake apology. When I shouted he had the audacity to ask me in an arrogant tone why am I getting angry when he said sorry already. I was getting mad because he had not just stepped on my feet, had not just pushed me in a rush, he “consciously” violated me!
I couldn’t sleep all night thinking what if this man tries something again, what if my blanket wouldn’t cover me enough! I couldn’t sleep thinking what should I do, I am tired of being ignorant, I am tired of such men conveniently walking away with a silly apology and no fear no regret!
It was morning, I went to a man who sleeps outside the compartment and seemed like a railway official, asked him if I was to file a complaint what is the process. He immediately guided me to the TC(Ticket collector) who then called in the Railway police. They asked me about the incident, they woke him up and took us in a separate compartment to deal with the issue.
On being confronted this man immediately flipped, acted all innocent and said he had done nothing. His brother escorted him, since they were travelling together. Series of arguments started and I felt like slapping this worthless man! I did not, my aim was not to beat somebody up, my aim was to make him realize he cannot get away with what he had started his hands on!
His brother seemed like a good man on the contrary, he kept begging for an apology while his brother sat and dug his nose!
I made a video for my own sake, I may need it in proving the guy is wrong since he apologized with the fear of me taking the case to the police. Meanwhile one of the members from the cops intervened asking me to stop making the video which I fought back to, while the other cops remained supportive either out of duty or fear of the video, I am not sure.
On the other hand, the public in my coach asked questions like why did I not make a fuss in the night and why make a scene now, asked me to let the “poor” guy go since he had apologized! While selected few stood up for support. One of the passenger was with his wife, he was teary eyed and said “we constantly live in fear, our daughter is of your age”.
From where I stood, clearly the apology was out of fear and not out of sincerity that fueled my anger, his face his indifference his arrogance!
By the time we approached the Delhi station I had managed to receive a written apology from both the brothers and their contact details. I did not go forward with the complaint plainly because I felt bad for his brother, he was literally in tears and hence I also choose to not disclose their identity or the video.
I feel good about myself that I stepped up, I also felt good about myself that I still had the humanity to let the guy go with a written apology because of his brothers plea.
Why I stressed on the written apology or why did I create a scene when I wasn’t aiming at sending the guy behind the bars? Why did I choose to not get him beaten up? Here is my take on it: I brought the issue up with concerned authorities and fought for my right to speak up and take action with almost twenty people in that coach. What was I doing? My aim as an individual was to fuel awareness, was to instill fear in each one who heard the debate,that, this is what they might have to face if they misbehave or try to take a woman for granted who they have violated, even if she is alone! As for the guy who harassed me is concerned, I think he got the embarrassment and a lesson for life he deserved! Violence could have been an immediate tool, nonviolence: a discussion over hours with different people, even if that makes a 0.01% change, my purpose is served!
My intention was to speak up!
Things I learned, I am my biggest support, I am my biggest strength, I am my biggest tool against injustice done to me. I have a voice and I put it to use smartly.
Video: Your smart phone is actually smart, while travelling please ensure you don’t use it on stupid apps and conserve the battery. It became my tool to actually be heard, before that my voice echoed in a room full of dead fearless souls!
Written Apology: I ensured I have a written note from the brothers and their contact details on a railway letterhead even if it was not an official FIR, this is for my future protection, makes a psychological impact on the offender and saves you from being the victim of a repeat offence. Also you secure evidence incase unfortunately you need it again.
I just hope this message reaches to people who may filter out useful information out of my experience. Men or women, sexual harassment or harassment in any other form.
Till you don’t speak up for yourself, no one will. If you don’t make an effort to bring a change whatever little through your experiences, nothing will change.