The blogathon has been an eye-opener; actually its been ruder than that, a kick in the groin if you will. Although I suffered no myopia, the extent of sexual abuse that this has revealed has been shocking to me. People have raised questions each more disturbing than the previous, some have offered solutions each more unsatisfactory than the other. If nothing, an issue is more out in the open than it had been. Lots of people have been dragged out of oblivion and have been made to acknowledge a problem. That's a useful first step.
They brought back unpleasant memories. I remember P's anecdotes, about the guys in bus, about the guy who trailed her all the way home, about the lunatic at her swimming pool, and how she had to grow up so much faster than she needed to. I can never forget L's face after a guy had just flashed his equipment at her, while we were all having chaat at a crowded place. The guy had dared to do that to a girl who was with atleast half a dozen guys, a couple of whom could box a bull down, but she chose to feign non-chalance instead of creating a scene. However, the memory that gives me the greatest shivers are of H's troubled countenance when she told me about her cousin who had taken advantage of her when she was barely out of her childhood. What was scary about it was that the sonuvabitch had a girlfriend that he was going to marry very soon. My blood curdles when I recall how he bragged to us about how much he loved her. He now has a girl child of his own and I still get tempted to break his marriage by telling his wife about his exploits (yes plural!).
I now realise how much more shit girls have to deal with while growing up. But boys have stories to tell too, although the sissy-complex will make sure most guys will never reaveal theirs'. I can remember someone reached for V's(who was nearly 20 then) groin a couple of times in the bus and he shouted "Manushya na neenu !" (Are you human?) which made the scared pervert scoot off the bus. Once in middle school, after our evening sanskrit class, B and I were walking through cubbon park to our bus stop when a middle aged man on a kinetic stopped us, gave us a piece of paper and asked "Where's this address?". Before either of us looked at the paper, we spotted that the guy's fly was open and he had a hard-on. In the next few seconds that are still a little blur in my memory we must have run a super human distance, but I can still vividly remember it took a few days for both of us to be normal again. Cubbon park was a congregation of weirdos. There was another exhibitionist who would show up every now and then, whistle to attract our attention and then masturbate. We usually were in a group and we could laugh about it, but whenever I had to go there alone I couldn't help feel very edgy. But even at that age it was so much easier to be a guy. We employed the services of two of our school footballers (who had chest hair by the time they were 15) and they sought out the guy and, believe it or not, stoned him. Forget the barbarism of our justice, it was a great cathartic release that ensured we carried no scar. Besides that was the only way we could deal with it; in a soceity filled with people who are either prudes or perverts, there are not too many people you can talk to. I studied in one of the few schools which had formal sex-education but it came when most of us were ready for grandchildren. We had derived enough knowledge through porn by then, and the average kids' impressions on sexuality were irreversibly linked with surreptitiousness and dirtiness, as a direct result of which I recall getting sucked into the culture of sniggering when 'Menstrual Cycle' was mentioned in class. That kind of misguided self-education coupled with lack of opportunities to decently express sexuality explains the convoluted ideas of the indian male. The dhak-dhak videos are chartbusters (pun not intended) while The Bandit Queen gets mauled by the censor board , and you hear seetis during the scenes of the nude women in the concentration camp in Schindler's List.
A couple of years ago, with a minimal agenda, I travelled alone to Rajasthan to live out the romance of backpacking. When my sis heard about my plan she sighed that she would never be able to do anything like that and she wished she was a guy too. My first impulse was to tell her that she can do the same when she is old enough, but I snapped out of that illusion in a tick and we just shared a cynical smile. Let alone backpacking in her own country, she cannot even think about jogging in the neighbourhood park, late-nights in dhabas or 2AM meals at Parry's and so many other things that defined my college days. I won't hesitate before admitting that the odds are stacked against women in this soceity. I wish I didn't have to get all worked up when I couldn't pick up my sister from her tuition or feel the terrible unease when S has to take an auto through a godforsaken place. I wish this was a safer place for the people I love.