Sunday, March 05, 2006

Wipe Off The Monster

Street harassment, eve teasing and sexual harassment are these signposts of a cultured society,definitely not …but we can see,hear and feel about the spread of these dreaded tentacles in our day to day life.

Across boundaries of age, sex and locality, crime seems to be penetrating into the veins of my City (the pensioner’s paradise), or at least, that is what the ordinary Bangalorean, who is unaware of the geopolitics of crime and terror, feels. People seem to have become jittery about the happenings. The city newssheet of “The Hindu” or “The Times of India” or any newspaper abounds with reports relating to crime/assault/abuse/theft. Slots on prime time in TV channels have added to the mayhem. Police blame "sensationalism" and "excessive" coverage by media as the reasons for fear psychosis among people. Media seems to focus only on crime because it makes interesting reading and viewing, complain many.

But then there can’t be smoke without fire. I do agree that media makes the presentation a bit more exaggerated but then these incidents of wrong doings do happen and that’s a fact.

Street harassment has become a common activity in B’lore these days. The soft targets are college girls, workingwomen, elderly people, call centre and IT/Tech firm employees. For females it is generally mobile phone/chain snatching, which was unheard of a few years ago, now tops the list of crimes reported in the city. This incident happened with one of my friend’s brother on the night of 25th Jan’06 in the Arkere locality, which is right behind the IIM Bangalore, campus off Bannerghatta Road. My friend’s brother who works for Wipro was returning late that night from office. He was stopped by a three-member gang who first hit him and then robbed him of all his money and other valuables. The miscreants had covered their faces with masks and were carrying iron rods and crude knives. They threatened of dreadful consequences if he lodged a police complaint and then left the place driving the fellow’s bike. My friend’s brother had cuts and bruises all over his arms and legs, some parts of them swollen. (Note: This was later informed to the police and it had come in the B'lore edition of TOI dated 26th Jan’06)

The powerlessness to deal with the situation had pushed the individual over the edge. He is a strong man but this incident traumatized him to the extent that he was planning to move out of B’lore and re-locate to Pune. I could understand the rationale behind his decision as of late his wife, a workingwoman had delivered a baby and for any person the security of his/her family members and near and dear ones is of utmost priority. After going through long hours of thought process he decided to move out of that place and has shifted to a locality called “Malleswaram”.

There's something really scary about the state of public transport in Bangalore. Few of bus conductors are also totally evil. The reason this is unnerving is because Bangalore offers two modes of public transport to the common man - auto rickshaws, and buses.

Few auto rickshaw drivers are totally evil down to the bottom of their soul, with their primary mission to cheat and loot every customer. Among the many interesting experiences I often have after work-hours, the most intriguing ones are my interactions with the famed auto-wallas. Intriguing because it is kind of a love hate feeling that I have developed towards them. And they represent, to a good measure, of what defines us as human beings as well as proves how we are still a part of the animal kingdom. I had missed to drive back home with my colleague and hired an auto agreeing to "10 rupees extra" for no apparent reason whatsoever. OK, so far so good, mind it,its only 8:30PM now and I am heading towards Koramangala, a locality which auto wallas are fussy to drive to, so the I agreed for the extra amount.On the way I spotted another hapless colleague and asked her to get in as she lives near to my place. We reached our destination and the driver asks double of what I had agreed upon – a part from me and the other part from the other lady. “Bull Shit”, absurd reasoning, now there were two passengers but when we made the deal there was only one,thats me. But my colleague whom I had invited for the ride gave what was demanded from him and left me to deal with the idiot.

There are various incidents that can be cited to make the points as above. All their unethical charges above the meter, absurd, doctored meter readings, the fleecing of newcomers by taking a longer route, asking for one half/double before/after the appointed hour, have grown like horns on their heads shadowing the occasional halo. My point is not all auto wallas behave in that note, but the actions of few leaves an impression in our minds that all belong to the same cadre.

On crowded buses, women are subject to every kind of indignity and invasion of their personal space. And if the numbers of such cases on the city's transport system is low, that is probably because Bangalore lacks an effective public transport system like it is in Mumbai and Chennai, forcing regular commuters to depend on two-wheelers or three-wheeled auto rickshaws. A small number use cars to move around. On Dec 13th, 2005,the rape and murder of a call centre employee, a 24-year-old woman Pratibha, by a person pretending to be the late night driver of her company transport has sent a chill down the spine of the BPO industry in Bangalore.

Eve teasing is a term that refers largely to sexual harassment of women in public spaces, thereby constituting women as 'eves', temptresses who provoke men into states of sexual titillation. Considered a growing problem, eve teasing ranges in severity from sexually colored remarks to outright groping. In India, people say that the way a girl/woman dresses is to an extend responsible for drawing the attention good or bad. I feel this is crap reasoning as like males, females do have the right to dress the way they want. More so the females whom I have met and interacted so far in life, all dress sensibly and smartly and feel more than 80% of B'lore does that. I can’t brand a female colleague of mine who comes to office in pants and suit as doing something to grab attention. Com'on its part of the business attire. I had read this article last month as to how Jasmeen, a graduate from B’lore, is collecting old clothes from across the country for her project. Not just any clothes. Clothes that carry with them tales of harassment.(Read more here)

I feel one of the causes of this horrific behavior is the images being splashed across the media.Indian Movies play an important role in propagating this behavior. Many Bollywood movies depict scenes of eve teasing showing this behavior as a way to win his "mehbooba's" heart. Others show this as a behavior for men to indulge in some 'fun' at woman’s expense of course.

Many psychologists believe that sex, love or fun is not the only motive that men indulge in this behavior. Eve teasing is closely related to the patriarchal mindset of Indian male. Men are raised to believe that they are more powerful- physically and emotionally than women. They feel that they are doing nothing wrong - having some fun! Women on the other hand are made to feel vulnerable and the ‘weaker sex’. It sounds so cheap and at times I feel shame that I am part of the same society and what have I done so far to wipe off this malice.

I think the Indian society will be looked upon with skepticism, one with fake values, and highly hypocrytic, if we don’t take corrective steps. India is a place where women are worshipped (in theory) and women don’t have enough security to be on her own (in practice). So how can this change happen,Is it through laws/rules, etc etc, can any law cause a change in mindset? Men have to be sensitized into respecting women as individuals in their own right with the freedom to live on their own terms, earn, be educated and enjoy an existence without fear.

What I think is that, women cannot expect anything from society. Our society is both blind and deaf but is vocally extravagant. The emancipation of women lies among the people itself. The guts and the will power to stand up for one self. Do not even dream of being bestowed with independence, freedom and respect by men. You have to fight and earn for yourself and at the same time support your fellow people, not bowing to society at large. Well society matters, but what if the values held by the society are fake and is practiced hypocrisy.

(Thanks to Sujatha (Blogs) for inciting me to write this blog, this one is for you.)

Make this world a safe place for my maa, my sister, my co-worker,my friend,my colleague,my wife, my daughter, my sister-in-law, and my aunty……Keep reading and remain connected.


At 12:26 AM, Blogger Sujatha said...

Very good post Tanay.

At 1:33 AM, Blogger Jasmeen said...

keep writing tanay!

looking forward to reading more!

more about what men can do to deal witht he issue, what other men from Your side have to say about this....

keep me posted

At 7:33 PM, Blogger remainconnected said...

Sujatha : Thanks for your comments.
You are kind of catalyst for me and your posts on your blogs are awesome.

Jasmeen : Thanks again and I do appreciate the cause you are supporting. Remain connected and happy to learn that you read my posts


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