The curse of India – What it means to be a woman in India


India! I have pondered, written, cried, read, anguished, cursed, rejoiced and at times even celebrated; the country, the people, the practices and many things about it. Everyday life, ups and downs, people, endless prism of drama, color changing trees, color changing people, crushing cruelty, unimaginable poverty, vicious manipulation, ruthless economizing, unabashed selfishness, overwhelming altruism, shameless exploitation, unforgivable imbalance and so much more. I could strive to come up with one example after another for all the adjectives I could muster and then some more. That would still not explain the kind of chaos that happens through the day.

But I want to try and explain what I can.

Market Day

I will always wish I did not move back to India more often than I’d like. This was one such day. I was off to the market for my weekly supply of vegetables and usually carry cloth bags from home, as most people do. I was almost done and about to wrap up. Wrap up meaning, carry the vegetable bag to the car and drive back home. All was going well. Suddenly I felt a hand brush/tap against my butt. I turned around. The place wasn’t crowded, which means I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. What I fail to realize over and over again, is performing these unmanly, cowardly, repressed acts is nothing “out of the ordinary” for some human scums.

Coming back to my butt. I have a butt, but nothing that blocks the way for a 6-feet, 100+ kg blob of garbage in a 7-feet pathway that is relatively traffic free. Just as the brush-against/tap and spotting a shadow walk away in my lateral vision, I froze for a few seconds (and what seemed like eternity at the time). Then slowly turned back and I was staring at the general direction of the crowd. I noticed there was no crowd (Unspeakable acts happen in crowded places; a woman has to carry a pin or blunt weapon of some sort to retaliate, because that’s all one can do. Preventing disgusting rubs/brushes/grabs/pinches etc is not a possibility). There were not many men around and not many people in general. I went up to this disgusting creature and hit him with my hand and yelled at him for what he did.

He acted like nothing happened and asked me if I was crazy. The vegetable vendors and people in the market were looking, but said nothing. They didn’t bother to respond. They just stared. My anger, blood pressure, rage was going through the roof as I realized what was happening. There is a lowly scumbag that violated my space and on being accused, resorts to calling me crazy and the people around stare and do nothing as if to reinforce that behavior. My rage flowed from the thought that this asshole was turning it on me. I started yelling at him louder “You think all women will be quiet and just accept when you’re being an asshole? I will call the police”.

He was getting embarassed that I was yelling at him and decided to threaten “Yeah, call the police. Woman, are you crazy? I’m coming. Wait and see, I’m coming for you”

I was all raged up and trembling from all the yelling and walking away. I didn’t realize at the time that it was all a haze and that I was on some auto-pilot mode. I was worried that this huge guy was going to do something to me. 6 feet plus and 200 kg against 5 feet and 50 kg — I felt alone and scared and decided to just go to safety, I guess. As I started walking away, my rage had not subsided and I didn’t realize I was walking back to hit him one more time, “You asshole, fucked up donkey, how dare you! You are probably the scum that rapes his own mother, you shit-faced monkey”. I was walking out of the market as I yelled at him, still feeling angry and violated. I walked up to my car to unload the bag and made sure my phone was with me. I walked back from the car feeling slightly bolder because it was bright and sunny, street was busy and it was easier for cops to get there if needed. I noticed this man was out of the market, so I took my phone and pretended to make a call. I do not know if he came out of the market to find out what vehicle I had or to see if I was calling the police. I was free of the bag but still scared if someone might grab me or handle me in some way. I decided to take a picture of him. As I opened the camera in my phone, he had turned another direction and I realized I was standing far away out of fear and couldn’t get a clear shot. As I got in my car, I saw him driving away in his bike crossing my path while I was reversing my car. Raged and feeling helpless, I honked like crazy until he was out of my sight. (I am thankful I have a car. I cannot, perhaps I don’t want to imagine the sorry plight of several women that have to take the bus on a daily basis and the many ways they get abused).

This happened more than a month ago. That picture is still in my phone and the rage is still there. The reason I recount this unfortunate incident more than a month later is for one reason.

I haven’t been to the market ever since.

I try to find excuses to not go there even though it is a good place to buy produce and closer to my home.

I decided to finally face this fact head-on that I was subconsciously very hurt, afraid, violated, depressed and enraged at how women are disrespected and that it will be a fact as long as I’m in India.

As long as I’m in India, I cannot let my guard down. I will be regarded as a gender that’s beneath men. I will be reminded of it every single time and will be “put in place”. As long as I’m in India, men will see me as a commodity. I will be valued for my prettiness or sexiness factor or attractiveness by men and sadly, women as well.

Granted that the reasons why I despise India are far more than the reasons why I love India, I do live here now. I like living here for a few important reasons. I do not want to give up living here after a series of unfortunate incidents but truly, there have been too many.

I am ashamed, disgusted and sad to admit that I have been a victim of such incidents since pre-teens. Ashamed because I live in such a place and do nothing about it. Disgusted thinking about young kids facing such indecency. Sad that I still have to go through it as a grown woman. I know that I’m not alone and every single Indian woman has experienced this kind of violation or abuse at some point in her life-brush, grab, push, pinch, shove, beat, rape. May be more.

While the long term goal is to find and work towards a way to eliminate or counteract such behaviors in men, one short term goal (which is still hefty), is to promote discussions about this topic — among friends, family etc. Not many young girls are educated about these issues. I know I wasn’t, even though the house that I grew up in, housed at least 4 women. Second goal, while selfish, is to just vent; because it feels better knowing there’s someone reading and possibly empathizing and relating to the plight. Third goal, is to trigger ideas for working towards solutions — should there be awareness camps in schools, should there be more Krav Maga or martial arts camps for women, should there be enlightening camps for men, should there be a schooling system for parents, etc.

Like I said, it feels better after venting.

And I’m listening.

6 thoughts on “The curse of India – What it means to be a woman in India

  1. I live in Europe and this happens all the time, it even happened recently to my teenage daughter when she was with me in a bus. We told her she has nothing to feel ashamed about, that it was abuse, and to react strongly next time. We didn’t tell her to stop taking the bus. When you are feeling ashamed and dirty you are in fact feeling what the perpetrator should feel, this feeling does not belong to you. Get rid of it.

    You should definitely go back to market. That’s a Krav Maga lesson. 😉

    • Thanks for the advice and concern. But that’s not what I meant when I said you need it to read it again I said it because I felt misunderstood.
      Firstly, I am not a teenager. I’ve seen my share of things over the years. “It happens all the time, everywhere” doesn’t sit well with me, generally. It is neither a solution nor a good excuse. Whatever happens to each person is their own experience, just because it happens to everyone everywhere does not make it a lighter issue.
      Secondly, again, I’m not a teenager. I think you have your teenage daughter in mind when you say “don’t be ashamed”. Please read that line again, I urge you. It’s not what you think I meant.

  2. Each individual is a respectable “Self”. It’s a realization to evolve in the indian society. The traits of centuries-old slavery still lingers in the indian gene. It is this ugly genetic tradition that sees, perceives a woman to be having no self-esteem. The curse is, many indian women themselves lack this self-esteem. This loss of self-esteem, which often women themselves portray as “respect to father/husband”, “love and endurance towards children” or “in the best interest of the family” needs to be corrected. Let them stare boldly and say, “I’m a respectable girl, woman, mother” to their father, brother, husband and children, atleast. This needs to start from the family, if not immediately from the friends or social circle. Let every woman in India, make the first, firm, stead-fast cry: “I’m a respectable individual”. Society and tradition had the first expression in the individual “Self”.

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