Joined: 13 January 2012
I stared at my mess of a wardrobe, looking for something appropriate to wear. My monthly orthodontist appointment, I wasn't blessed with perfect teeth genes you see. I pulled out a top and discarded it ,considering it too 'fitting'. I kept aside the capris and looked through jeans or leggings which would cover my legs 'fully'.
Pathetic. I stared at myself in the mirror and questioned the stupidity I was carrying out. Why was I acting like I was living in a country where skin show is forbidden? I live in a democracy. The largest in the world ,the Civics book said.An entire chapter on women rights , on gender equality was sadly constricted for classroom teaching.
I contemplated my actions. ''Don't teach me how to dress, teach men not to rape'', a voice shouted in my head. Another voice hinted to that classroom discussion we had on the safety of girls, where we concluded that we all would try to dress in a way which was appropriate for the place we were visiting.
I am a confused teenager. I can't decide between dairy milk and kitkat, let alone what I should dress up in.I decided to go with the ''middle'' way, not that Robert Frost ever mentioned such a path. That included a T-shirt loose enough but a capri to go with it. ''Get a Burqa'' my mother had jokingly suggested.She didn't get why I was getting so paranoid over dressing. Neither did I.
I just was.
I slid my feet into the pair of black floaters, set my hair into a ponytail and was ready.
I stepped down the stairs. Mine isn't a posh colony, which means you are bound to find stray dogs at every corner and haphazardly laid out buildings.
''Metro or the Autorickshaw?'' I asked mom and she suggested that Metro would be a better option since we had less time.The nightmare began, ironically early in the morning. We took the shortcut, ala the 'village' road as it is known as.
There are different sides of Delhi like any other city and life is different for each of these. Having had the privilege or the opportunity to see them both, I can assure you that there is a stark contrast between these sides.This side of Delhi is the rural population, who live in cramped houses and sell vegetables by the roadsides. The journey takes you through narrow alleys where drain water trickles beneath your feet. A lazy cow will saunter past, taking up three fourth of the space. Houses are stuck together, their verandahs open for everyone to see.
All this might rather remind one fondly of small town neigbourhoods and homely atmospheres. But I haven't come to the bad part as yet. Any girl walking through that road will be stared at, mercilessly.
I might be imagining the pairs of eyes even as I walk with my head either held up or looking down to escape the frequent garbage. Imagination or not, I still feel uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable. The tailor shops, the samosa shops, everywhere there are these eyes which don't move away. They are not passing gazes, nor are they looks of interest. They bore through you, they stare at your entire body. I looked back at the ones I spotted and stared back, anger raging in my eyes. Sometimes they looked away and other times, worse, they kept staring back and a sly smile would spread across their faces.
I grit my teeth and increased my pace, boiling in rage. I felt like screaming back when a few men purposefully walked by too closely. After many a stare, many a stare back and my level of patience reaching its limits, we were out on the main road again.And would you know it, there was an entire row of scruffy looking boys sitting right outside the metro station entrance. I walked by really fast, causing mother to glare at me suspiciously. One would wonder why such paranoid behavior.
Ah! If only you could see them staring at the part of your legs which was bare, you would know the sick feeling rising inside you. I looked back angrily and they turned away, probably to fix their eyes on another 'object'.
That is all women and girls have turned into.
I finally breathed in relief as I enter the women's compartment in the metro. Not having to stare around, not having to be on guard, just sitting there relaxing is a beautiful feeling. And as the soothing voice of the operator announced the names of various stations, my heart sank deep down. Why can't I feel like that throughout the day, wherever I go? Why can't I simply walk on a street without feeling uncomfortable? Why can't I wear what I want without having to think twice about it? My parents have taught me to walk in pride, to be able to live in the city and travel on public transport. Why the luxury of a car seems so enticing? It left a sickening feeling inside me. Despite the independent spirit, despite the constant effort to make me endure every sphere of life, I still felt caged.
Yes, after all those horrifying incidents, I have become conscious of every stare ,of every sly smile. 'Ignore', normal people would say. I have agreed on most instances but suddenly it isn't working anymore.
I won't ignore. Why should I? Why can't I be walking in my own country without the fear of rape abduction or kidnapping on every corner? Let that alone. Why the stares? Why the smiles? Why the leering? The next time they boast of more than 60 years of independence, I have a question to ask.
What kind of independence is it when a sixteen year old can't move around in your country's capital? Don't give me those looks of disbelief. Try enduring a journey in a public bus, a crowded market or a street shop all as a woman or a girl. Chances are, even the police would tell you to be happy that you are alive.
I don't want an India shining under the pretentious veil of 'Incredible'. As much as I am proud of my country, no matter what I wear, a burqa a T-shirt or a salwaar suit, I will continue to feel naked under the scrutiny of those eyes.
Unfortunately, sickeningly, helplessly naked.
Author's note - Well, I don't know where that came from. The recent happenings in my country have just left me speechless. It's not a Oneshot or a plot story or anything close to it. This is simply a rant of what one goes through in that ten minutes walk through a street. Some of it might seem like I am over reacting but somehow nowadays something snaps inside me when I am walking anywhere in my own city.
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