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The sight of an engorged male organ can be traumatic for a little school girl. It’s also a sight she can never forget. On a public bus, squished in the last two rows, on my way back from school, that is where I first encountered the perverted male. In living memory.

His dhoti parted and that monstrosity sticking out. I first thought he was ill. So I looked up with concern at his face, and then understood that the ecstacy on it was perversion. I dont think any one else on the bus saw him. His show was for one girl in pigtails, a school uniform; for the fear in her eyes; and as it dawned on her, the disgust. But, the fear mostly; and the thrill of doing it in public.

Most children of my generation and socio economic standing went to school by bus, until they were old enough to cycle to and from home. Buses crowded, spilling over with people, just making that it much more easier for the grope, the breast-grab, ass-fondle, and dhoti-part. Or if we walked to school, young turks on bicycles would speed by and as they swung past, make that desperate lunge for your pubescent breasts. Even if your dad was walking with you. Both you and your dad are angry. You are so angry, there are tears in your eyes. It also hurts where he grabbed you visciously, and yet, quite casually.  You assuage yourself by dreaming of a nasty accident for the boy on his cycle.

You say fight for yourself. How do little girls do that? Little girls of my generation were happy to carry heavy backpacks with books. It was heavy, but it was a shield of sorts. And then a lunch bag, held strategically, was further protection. We grew nails too, for more than cosmetic reasons, but I have never used them once on a bus. All this was before we picked up the courage to shout at or even injure a molester on a bus. Before we realised that courage built up in you, from education, or from realising you don’t have to put up with it. Not that it ever stops. At any age. Not on the bus, not anywhere else. 

At home, post cards with crude pornography come from anonymous strangers. Curiosity and puzzlement before your mother angrily tears up that yellow card. Then you realise it is embarrassing. It messes with your mind.

Later, in adult situations, several surreptitious glances at your chest, a wink, the suggestive gesture passing off as a joke. In the subway, a flasher. Men on bikes who screech close to you as you wait at the signal. In the auto, a perverted driver. Or a taxi driver – one who looks too often at you in the rear view mirror; the man on the flight who edges close to your thighs pretending to sleep and snore. 

Little crimes you can hardly complain about. It’s tiring to fight, again and again.

And yet, now, you must. So that when your little girl grows up, the men and woman who are today outraging the Delhi rape will have raised sons who will be free to love a woman, or hate her, without feeling her up on the bus.

Also so that an anonymous 23-year old aspiring physiotherapist would not have died in vain. 

 

 

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