“I have never felt this alone.”
My friend Nidhi, NM of the blog world, sent out a mail telling a bunch of us about the harassment her friend faced in the metro in New Delhi. I was shocked, saddened and alarmed at the attitude of people in such a “cosmopolitan” city and urge you to read the following account, in the victim’s own words. Please do share as much as you can. Nidhi has put up the email she sent as a blog post too.
This post contains language, four-letter word language. These are my words and my account. Most of the exchange was in Hindi, nearly everything I shouted was in English.
23rd June, afternoonish, I board the metro from Noida City Center. The train was almost empty, I find a spot by the right side of the car near the door, put my earphones on and prepare to wait through all the stations till Rajiv Chowk. Few stations afterwards, I feel someone hovering, I turn to look and this guy wearing shades is leaning towards me, his arm extended above me brushing my head, holding the seat railing, his breath fans my hair. I look beyond him, the coach is still relatively empty with plenty of space for someone to stand comfortably without being forced to lean on another passenger and breathe down their neck. I assumed he wanted to get off at the next station and waited. Station arrives, we are standing to the right of the coach, the doors open to the left and he doesn’t move.
I ask him now, do you wish to get off at the next station?
He answers in negative and looks away. I continue to address him, please step back you are crowding me.
He ignores me. I speak again.
He turns and says, why are you here, you should be in the women’s coach.
I tell him, women do not have restrictions on travelling cause they apparently can travel in decency, step back please.
He continues to ignore me and doesn’t move.
Another guy standing to the front us says to 1st guy, when she’s asking you to move why don’t you just move?
2nd guy says, what is it to you? You are her what?
They start arguing. 2nd guy says to 1st guy, hey! speak to her however you want but speak to me with respect!
Interesting how suddenly the dynamic of the situation changes. It’s about respect, not towards me but to his manhood.
Sufficiently angered they start shoving each other.
I try to turn away and ignore them hoping they will stop and quit being assholes. But it escalates. The other passengers are watching but not really doing anything to stop the fight. In a matter of seconds it turns horrifically ugly, 1st guy smashes his fist into 2nd guys face and 2nd guy falls to the floor, blood gushing out of his nose and forehead. The other passengers go wild. Few turn to me and start shouting, THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, YOU STARTED THIS FIGHT, THIS IS ALL BECAUSE YOU CAME INTO THIS COACH.
I’m a little surprised and I try to tell them, I am not the reason they started fighting cause 1st guy didn’t speak with “respect” to 2nd guy. Of course no one is listening. The crowd is a frenzy. The 2nd guy get up off the floor, blood dripping everywhere, no one helps him. One of the passengers steps up to me and shouts, DO SOMETHING THIS IS YOUR FAULT STOP THEM FROM FIGHTING. Can you imagine stepping in between 2 aggressive physically violent men and trying to stop a fight? Me, a girl? When all these other men in the coach haven’t yet made ANY moves to stop the fight!? The train stops at Akshardham station and 1st guy runs out. 2nd guy starts calling his friends and runs out as well. The crowd is screaming at me to call the cops. My shock is a delayed reaction, but it finally sets in. I am supposed to call the cops? If I was in an accident am I supposed to call the ambulance? I dial 100, networks choppy no surprises there. Someone answers, I give the details, which station, 2 men fighting, badly hurt. The guy on the other end of the line hangs up. I can’t believe this is happening to me, I’m standing here in a coach with 50 odd men and they are all shouting at me.
– YOU WOMEN ALWAYS DO THIS, YOU STARTED THIS FIGHT
– I did not start anything, I spoke up because he wouldn’t move!
– WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE GO TO THE WOMEN’S COACH
– I have as much right to be here as any of you. I’m not the reason the government made separate coach for women.
– YOU ARE THE REASON, GET OFF
– The reason is men like you who cannot respect women and instead of stepping up to stop harassment you encourage it by segregating us.
Yes. I shouted these words. Perhaps not coherently. Perhaps not eloquently. I couldn’t understand how even one individual out of all these people didn’t have the decency to REALLY see what had happened and try to stop it. My disbelief had turned to royal fucking rage. There were a few women, who looked on like how you glance back at road accidents. I shouted at them as well, shame on you for standing there, this happens to you too and you don’t have the balls to say a word now. My head was a screaming mess of thoughts, my heart felt it will explode. Strangely even though my knees were shaking like hell, I felt a strange compulsion to stay and not flee. There’s a button by the door for emergencies. I recall this hours after the incident. The crowd wouldn’t let up. Every time the coach doors opened and new passengers got on they ask about all the blood on the floor, everyone starts pointing fingers at me, SHE STARTED A FIGHT BETWEEN 2 MEN. WHY DON’T YOU GET OFF, GET OFF GET OFF GET OFF!!!! After 3-4 more stations I’m trying really not to fucking loose it. I continue to stand by the door.
One man in the back shouts, Ladkiyan to hoti hi aisee hain… I turn to see who spoke, he’s hidden between passengers… wo dono pit gaye par isko koi asar nahi huya.
I turn back, FUCK YOU!
Another man from the front of the coach jumps out, HEY SHOW SOME RESPECT!!
– Respect????? I’m aghast. Respect to whom? You all stand around and do nothing and I said fuck you so now you want to teach me respect.
– YOU WILL SHOW RESPECT.
– All the men all the time keep saying vile abuses, maa bahen ki gaaliyan and NO ONE SAYS ANYTHING TO THEM. I said fuck you, so you want to teach me respect!
I’m glad he didn’t dare. I do not know what I would have done. I start clapping and giving everyone the thumbs up, THANK YOU EVERYONE, brilliant display of support, I feel so good about my country. Keep it up.
I’m sure they all thought I have gone completely mad. I was mad. Stark raving mad. But I stood there listening to them talk and laugh and stare at me. I wondered why I wasn’t crying or falling apart. My shock was tremendous, my disappointment crippled me. Frozen I continued to stand by that door.
7 stations later I get off at Rajiv Chowk. I do not know why I didn’t just get off before. I probably should have. But I felt at that point, perhaps stupidly now that I have hindsight, no fucking force on earth is going to make me feel like a victim, I’m not going to get off, I have as much right to be here as any one of these barbaric men. My knees wouldn’t quit shaking by the way, I felt as if I had no oxygen. I didn’t want to report it. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be left alone, that’s all I had asked. Thinking back I cannot still understand how literally the most ridiculous thing turned so ugly. I’m sure you are thinking, why did she do this, why didn’t she just leave, why did she even get in the general coach, what was she wearing, what does she look like to elicit such an incident. And you know what, that’s precisely the whole fucking point. It doesn’t matter what you think might be a cause or a reason. No one, NOT A SINGLE person had the balls to step up and help me. And all these 50 odd men, your regular joes, college kids, engineers going to office shouldering laptops, salesmen and just normal folks commuting.
I have never felt this alone.
And for the record, I’m AGAINST the separate coach for women. It is the most ridiculous solution the government came up with to ensure women traveler’s safety. Segregating men and women will never help anyone develop tolerance and respect for others PERSONAL SPACE.
Thank you for reading.