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January 29, 2008

Posted by K in Bus rides.
Tags: , ,

Bus rides will never cease to fascinate me. (Ofcourse, that might have a lot to do with the fact that I do not, in the ordinary way, depend upon buses in order to travel, but I like,and hope, to think my fascination for them is not entirely dependent upon my class position)

Today on my way to college, I found standing space next to a woman who was reading a book. It looked like a library book, and on peeking into it ( okay, now I do not normally pry into such stuff, but on a crowded bus, such things are fair game 😉 ) I saw it was a religious book.

The strange thing about it was, or atleast, what struck me as strange, was that it was in English. And she was reading it out loud, mumbling to herself, unconcerned about the rest of the crowd.

I love coming across people who disappear into their own worlds in buses. I’ve seen it before. They read their religious books early in the morning, and tune out the noise and the bustle.

I wonder if I’d ever be able to do something as private in such a blatantly public space. I can’t even listen to music on buses! Apart from the noisome presence of conductors yelling out destinations, passengers pointedly asking for their change, others asking for thoda side etcetera, I just can’t seem to plug in my ears and drown out the world. I need the world, sometimes I hungrily suck it all in. I love how buses are, worlds seem to shrink and people aren’t strangers anymore.

Sometimes I wish it were possible for me to suspend myself in time and watch buses go by, both inside and outside of one. I would like to write…can you imagine the stories one can get from just half an hour of one bus ride?

(Yes, I do know the ugly side to buses and bus crowds, but perhaps because I have been fortunate to not have come across so many shitheads, I find myself focussing on its melting-potedness…)


July 6, 2007

Posted by K in Action, Bus rides, contemporary, Gender.

This happened a week ago, but I guess I’m still so kicked about it that I found it post-worthy 🙂

I am a female, right? I am (by virtue of my gender, and the country I live in) a potential rape-victim, right? I should therefore Take Precautions, right? Meaning, take the lighted road, or better still…take NO road when the requirement for lights become inevitable…right? I ought to keep-to-public-places-not-meet-strange-men-not-go-alone-to-new-places-keep-my-phone-handy-etc etc…right?

Well, last Sunday, I took a bus with two friends at 9:30 PM at night. We became Night-Time commuters.

I felt a sense of liberation. I felt as if the tethers binding me to my gender were snapping.

Nothing had changed. I was still in Delhi. I was still a potential rape victim. But you know what? It felt good.
I was under no illusion…I am aware of the horror stories. But it was time to decide that my life couldn’t be one big Precaution.

I wish people spent less time trying to prevent rapes (and by this, I mean the many million conjunctions and restrictions put on the rape-able gender) and more time figuring out what to do post-rape.

AFTER somebody is raped you may well tell them it was not your fault, poor girl, etc etc, but the point is a) You’re probably crying your eyes out while you say all this, leading the person to wonder why exactly it is that you are crying (Lost virginity? Loss of face in society? Fear that *I* won’t recover? Shouldn’t that apprehension be left to *me*, the victim? Shouldn’t your job be to tell me that *I* will indeed recover?) and b)How is someone supposed to swallow that? All her life she has been cautioned, warned, and made afraid of an event that has finally come to pass. And now you expect her to believe that it is actually nothing, not her fault, move on ,child?

Why can’t rape be treated as a violent crime, and just that? Why must we create extra- hoo-haa about it? It rubs off on the victims, doesn’t it? We are ingrained to see it as Different. Hence our reaction becomes different.

Why can’t we, as a society, work at building a non-sexual image of it? It ISN”T sexual(and here I define sexual to mean anything to do with sexuality and sexual intercourse, and by my definition, both these things would be primarily about the individual in question)….the victim never had anything to do with it! The body is violated, just as it is when someone knifes your neck or breaks your jaw, only this could probably be treated as the most violent crime, second only to murder.

It is time to stop making a victim of the victim. Or a potential victim of a potential victim. Or is it?

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.