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Blank Noise Project March 11, 2006

Posted by K in Blank Noise Project, Bus rides, contemporary, Life.

I must laud the efforts of whoever started this project( forgive me, i’m too lazy to look it up)
I’ve read what a few people have to say about it, and i’ve read some responses. I could try to clinically analyse the menace of sexual harassment on the streets, but I cannot. I cannot step out of the woman in me while observing the situation, and i can only account what runs through my mind when I’m out on the street everyday.

I travel by buses(the past few weeks have seen the spoilt brat in me getting ferried to and fro). I remember my first time: heart thumping, newly into college, a failed attempt behind me. I was so glad to find a classmate of mine, a seasoned warrior, waiting for the same bus(864). She got off at South Ex; my stop-far far away in Sector 1, RKP. It was a relatively empty bus: but I was not to know that at that time. To my virgin eyes it appeared full enough, and I was a mass of nerves, watching out for the bastards I’d heard about from every woman I knew who travelled by buses, and constantly, timidly, pestering the conductor with ‘Stop aane walla hai kya?’ (poor guy, he finally said, bata denge!)
After a point, I was curiously at ease. I didn’t find any lecherous glances directed my way, no one paid any more attention to me than they did any one else. My stop came on time, and my switch to a 623 and the consequent ride was as eventless.
My conditioned fear of buses disappeared after that day. I even began to enjoy my daily rides! Soon i was unafraidedly stepping into buses almost bursting at the seams (okay, okay, not quite! But full enough, i assure you!) And till date the only dubious incident that I was subjected to remains a ‘bhonda’ type of a man sitting closer to me than I thought necessary. It was remedied easily. Doubtful of whether his intentions were to harass me, i moved seats; i didn’t feel like accusing him of something that he actually might not have been doing.

But I have been lucky. I have friends who have been molested in buses. A friend of mine from Gargi tells me that everybody there avoids buses as that route is frequented by lecherous drunks. She shells out close to 75 bucks daily, travelling by autos: not the safest of vehicles.
A friend of mine was molested more than once while still in school, as she travelled a short distance to and from her tuitions.
Many other friends are always conscious of eyes on them in buses, on the streets, and even at the anti-Bush Rally.
I personally have never felt eyes on me. That could be because of a multitude of reasons; because I’m not the kinds that catch men’s attention, because I’m generally spaced out and/or lost in thoughts. Because I dont really ‘look’ around me much. My time on the bus is spent absorbing the many wonderful people who often get on. Interesting, if not wonderful. I see little children, toting school uniforms and bags, get away with not buying a ticket because the conductors are so amused by them. I’ve seen a conductor utter a muhavra out of my hindi text books, I’ve seen a grandmother handle her (i think) mentally challenged grandson encouragingly normally, and talk uninhibitingly to me about him. I’ve had people voluntarily give me their seats on days I’ve been sort of tired, offer to hold my things for me if i’m standing. I seen a lot of normal people on the bus. and I think I like to kid myself that this is how all buses are like.

I have been molested; at a railway station as a child, at sarojini nagar,on a tourist bus in cherapunji. I am aware of the molestation that goes on on buses, streets, offices,with just as much regularity as the sun. I’m aware that I have become conditioned by this; to avoid smiling at strangers when I’m happy, to move two steps away from groups of men, to look suspiciously at men who walk my way. I’m on tenter hooks when I walk in crowded places. i constantly check the top of my shirts-no matter how high they go- to ensure that its in place. Even my premature excitement at attending a Maiden gig is tempered by questions of the behaviour of male gig-goers.
I don’t want to become paranoid. But I have.