August 30, 2018

Shhh.. Don't make a scene.....

Why didn't I say anything - Don't make a scene...

I was travelling in an auto alone in Mumbai recently and all was well till we were 10 mins due to reach my destination: Hiranandani hospital. And then this conversation happened:

Driver:     'Madam, yeah itna bada building hotel hai kya?'
Me:          'Nahi yeah hospital hai'
Driver:     'Par itna bada hai - idhar aap rehte ho'
Me:          'Nahi main Vikhroli mein rehti hoon'
Driver:     'Idhar rooms nahi hote hain kya'
Me:          'Haan par woh patients jo admit hote hain unke liye hain. Yahaan koi rehta nahi. Shayad kuch resident doctors quarters mein rehte hai'
Driver:     'Aap phir Vikhroli jaaoge na?' (indicating if he should wait for return)
Me:          'Haan par mujhe time lagega. Atleast half an hour so aap chale jao' (indicating I don't want him to wait)

English translation:
Driver:     'Madam, is this big building a hotel?'
Me:          'No this is a hospital'
Driver:     'But it's so big. Do you stay here'
Me:          'No I stay in Vikhroli'
Driver:     'Are there any rooms here'
Me:         'Yes but those are for patients who get admitted. Nobody stays here. May be some resident doctors stay in their quarters that's all'
Driver:     'You'll go to Vikhroli after this?' (indicating if he should wait for return)
Me:         'Yes but my work will take time - atleast half an hour so you leave' (indicating I don't want him to wait)

This is when the conversation got weird:

Driver:     'Main rookta hoon aap ke liye'
Me:          'Nahi aap chale jao. Mujhe pata nahi kitna time lagega. Bahut time lag sakta hai'
Driver:     'Jitna bhi ho - ek ghanta chahiye to main ek ghanta rookonga'

English translation:
Driver:     'I will wait for you'
Me:          'No you leave. I don't know how long I will take. It can be very long'
Driver:     'However much - if you say one hour I will wait for one hour'

I was desperately trying to pretend this is a totally normal conversation.

Me:          'Nahi mera time ka mujhe idea nahi hai abhi aur kaam hai. Aap ko yaha passenger aasani se mil jayega. Wait karna waste hai aapko. Aap bas idhar rok dijiye' 
[English:  'No I am not sure about how long and besides I have some work. You can get another passenger very easily here. It would be useless for you to wait. Please stop just here' ]

We were entering the hospital now....

And here comes the most objectionable statement:

Driver:     'Par aap jaisa passegnger nahi milegi na' (with an extremely creepy expression on his face which I pretended to not notice. I really wanted to get out now.)
[English: 'But I won't get another passenger like you']

Me:         'Mil jayega aap ko passenger. Lo mil gayi...' [English: 'You will get another passenger. See there she is...']

Another woman who was almost my age was approaching the auto when she noticed I was getting down. I got down immediately and allowed her to get in.

On my way back, I felt very let down at what I did. I should have warned that other woman to not get into this auto - there were so many other autos available for her. In my desperation to escape, I just allowed her to potentially suffer. I can excuse myself for not doing anything when the auto was moving; But I should have warned or scolded the auto driver after getting down once I knew I was safe. That would have taught him that what he did doesn't fly. I didn't do any of that. My instinctive reaction when any of these things happened to me has always been to smother those incidents, like I did this time. Because nobody else should know that something ugly happened to me. I shouldn't make a scene and attract attention. Because deep down, at some sub-conscious level, I believe that these things happen to me because I did something wrong to evoke bad behaviour from the offender. It's My Fault theory has been ingrained in me so strongly. I can reason with myself later but the instinct cannot be overcome. The immediate reaction has always been the same. I don't want to admit even to myself that something wrong happened because it's ugly. Hence I don't want to admit it to anyone else, and I am more worried about others judging me rather than the offender for being wrong. So after all this, it mattered to me what people think, and that stopped me from not reprimanding any of the offenders.

This is not to say that I judge all the other women for not raising their voice when they've been offended or violated. I must know, by now, how hard it must be. I am doing this post to make people understand how hard it is for a woman to come forward and complain about assaults in a society which constantly tells you that it's your sole responsibility to ensure you're not violated and if you are, then you must have done something wrong. May be you have not followed the rules.  May be you shouldn't have entertained any conversation with an auto driver. Fear of social stigma is so real, that even in such a trivial incident where I really didn't have much to lose had I reprimanded him, I didn't do that. Along with the social stigma, it's the inner barricade that needs to be overcome...Again, I am not saying that it's the women's fault in not raising their voice. It's very important to understand part of my reaction was driven by the fact that if I did make a scene, I really wasn't sure whose side people would be on. 

It's just that..... When I started understanding feminism, I realised the exact same equation about how letting offenders get away encourages more offenders to commit more serious offences. I looked back at all the times I have been violated and felt the exact same inadequacy in my response. I told myself after analysing the past that I was younger, less confident and more vulnerable when those incidents happened so it was okay for me to react the way I did.  I resolved that if anything like it happens in future again, I wouldn't react so meekly. I've been through this curve now. But here I am, a 29 year old, financially independent feminist and a mother of twins, and I still didn't react adequately when I was offended. I am writing about this for salvation. Hopefully, if I encounter anything like this in future, I will overcome my inner instinct.

Related posts:

1. Fifty five word fiction: What did the girl learn? - link 

2. Understanding feminism, sexism and sexual assault series: Part I - link