Sunday, March 4, 2007

Rubbing me the wrong way

Blogged as part of the BLANK NOISE PROJECT BLOGATHON-2007.

I grew up in the big and crowded city of Madras. But, relatively speaking, I led a sheltered life with respect to this whole phenomenon of eve teasing due to the following reasons. I went to school by the school bus and stayed on campus in the hostel when I was in college. My home in Madras is near a train station and trains in Madras have a ladies compartment where the worst thing that can happen to you is that you might be yelled at by some lady with a heavy basket for moving too slowly! In spite of these facts, I have had five or six experiences involving “groping” of some form that happened when I rode the city buses in Madras. That should give you a feeling for how frequent an occurrence this must be! I am usually non confrontational (“Dhushtanai kandaal doora vilagu” philosophy) and even perhaps forgiving. I am narrating below the only one of these times when I lost my temper and actually hit back at the guy in question, literally.

This is a little less than a decade ago. But, it disgusted me enough that I still remember. It was summer, the month of May. I was waiting in the fifth main road bus stand in Nanganallur for the bus numbered 18C to go to Thousand Lights on Mount Road in order to go to the British Consulate library. Those who know Madras will realize that this is a 45 minute stint on the bus, made worse at the time as they were constructing the Pazhavanthangal subway and the buses were taking a round about route into the city, enough time for the drama narrated here to unfold. It is 8:45 in the morning on a week day. I am dressed in what I have come to think of as my Madras street clothes as I now wear them only when I am on the streets of Madras, which these days is very rare. Modest cotton Salwar Kameez that covers everything and a big cotton Dupatta on top for extra measure. 18C comes. It is already pretty crowded. I get in. We are on our way. Now, for those who don’t know, nobody gets off the bus on this route until Guindy about 40 minutes away from now. But people keep getting in.

Fifteen uneventful minutes pass by and the bus gets progressively packed. There is hardly enough room to breath, let alone move. The drama starts. I feel something on my butt. I move what little I can to avoid what I think of as accidental contact. Then I feel it again. This time, I recognize definite and deliberate rubbing. I try to turn around to see who it is. I am only able to turn my head and shoulders. Contact withdraws. I only find innocent looking commuters. Five minutes pass. Contact again, definite deliberate rubbing of what I have by now recognized as somebody’s boner. Eee…w! I try to squirm away. No room. I try to turn around and contact withdraws and I can’t recognize the culprit. This goes on for another ten minutes and I am getting madder and more disgusted with every passing second. The bus comes to a halt at the race course bus stop. Some commotion ensues with the conductor yelling at some guy for not getting off fast enough or something. In this distraction, I lean into a girl standing next to me and tell her to watch my back and tell me which guy leans into me when the bus gets going. We wait for the commotion to subside and be on our way again. I am half hoping that this whole thing is finished with and I can ride the rest of the way in peace, but at the same time hoping he does try it again so I can confront him.

We are on our way. Five minutes pass, and nothing. So I am beginning to think it is over when…again, rubbing, slow, deliberate. I stay still for a minute then turn towards the girl, my ally. She nods, yes I saw that. I lean into her. Checked shirt, dhothi, puny guy with a mustache is the description I get. We are at the Chinna Malai bus stop. People begin to get off. I turn around and there he was. Looking innocent and apparently minding his own business. Bus gets on its way. Five minutes. Then it turns into the Saidapet bus stop. I know a lady behind me wants to get off here. Under normal circumstances, I would have leaned into the seat near me and would have let her pass between me and the guy. These being extraordinary circumstances, I do the opposite. I move towards the guy to allow the lady to pass between me and the seat. Just as she gets behind me I pretend to loose balance, lurch towards the guy, use his shoulders for leverage and knee him in his groin precisely the way my Karate master taught me. My master would have been proud of me had he seen the guy go down. I hastily but vaguely apologize to the people around, not meeting anybody’s eyes and hurry behind the lady and get off the bus. Only then do I look in and see two people staring at me. The girl who was my accomplice and another guy who must have seen what actually happened. The girl’s eyes convey approval. I feel vindicated and rush off into the crowd to wait for another bus to complete the rest of my journey.


sou said...

wow.. i'm so glad you did that and that you knew karate.. i'm also part of BNP and the blogathon..but unfortunately i don't have any stories to share where i've actually fought back since all the "incidents" happened when i was in school. but i feel great reading about this. sad that i've come to think that every woman should know self defence techniques but this is the world we live in!

CuriousCat said...

Thank you sou. Most people dont react favorably when I tell them this for they think this causes more trouble than cures them. And even though I did learn Karate for a number of years, this is the only time I ever did anything with it..

tangled said...

I loved the fact that you did what you did silently and without resorting to yelling at the guy and drawing attention to him in public.
It's the surprise attack, nay?

Bully for you!

schizo said...



that was a very smart and fast thinking-acting. I wish more women take action instead of trying to squirm away from the ba*****s.

Also, I must congratulate the girl who pointed the jackass to you, dunno homw many would, believe me i have been shouted at by women when trying to shoo away wandering hands. (they asked me to mind my own buisness and not to make a scene)

silent attacka re the best.



CuriousCat said...

Tangled and Schizo : glad that you think that the way out I chose was appropriate. I feel good that I decided to share this incident. Thank you!

Laurie E. said...


When you can't get a knee into position, never underestimate the value of a pointy elbow. Ram your elbow backwards into his solar plexus, which knocks the air out of him, then stomp on his foot.

Laurie from the USA

CuriousCat said...

Laurie : Thanks, and I did not realize that Americans had to deal with such things as well (street harrassment I mean).

PS to schizo's comment: I put in enough info of when and where this happened hoping that in the off-chance that the girl who helped me sees this and I get a chance to thank her.

Laurie E. said...

From what I've heard from others, it's not as bad here in some ways, though it varies from city to city.

But things still happen, and some kinds of eve-teasing are epidemic everywhere here, no matter how much people try to pretend they're not.

Sticking up not just for ourselves, but for each other, can make a big difference in our lives and how we feel about them. There was a perv on the bus this morning that usually I would have just ignored, but thinking of all my classmates from India or from Iran who didn't grow up with some of the freedoms I did, I decided it was time to give him a subtle lesson in manners.

I was sitting at the front. He got on, looked me up and down, and sat across from me, blocking the part of the window I had been watching. I shifted my gaze to another part of the window, and he moved over to again sit right in front of where I was looking. I looked out another window, but watched him out of the corner of my eye. He sprawled out with his legs shoved across the aisle, taking up as much room as possible, legs waaaay apart in that stupid pose some guys use, and stared at my chest for a while.

I got my keyring out of my purse. It's a large brass ring bristling with keys and random blunt, heavy objects attached. I've gotten expert at swinging it in various threatening modes. I gave it a swing or two, and idiot-boy, straightened up a bit and quit blocking the whole aisle with his feet.

A pretty young woman got off the bus, and I watched him crane over and stare at her behind as she did so. When he straightened back up, I practiced flipping my weaponized keyring into bristling-brass-knuckle position and out again. He straightened up some more and started staring at the floor.

When I got up to get off the bus, he started watching me. I spun my keyring as I've practiced, and he leaned waaaay back to give me lots of room.

Stupid perv.

CuriousCat said...

Way to go Laurie!! Proud of you!

Abhipraya said...

Wow Curious Cat that is impressive. Was never sure if Karate really worked. Sure thing I am signing up for some Karate classes.

CuriousCat said...

Hey! you stopped by two posts! And in any case, what Karate does is give you confidence when you need it is a good thing.

Bullshee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bullshee said...

I know a guy saying "what u did was cool" wouldn't have a lot of weight.
But what you did was cool. Good for you.

CuriousCat said...

Bullshee, sure it counts. The more of us that think such nonsense should not be tolerated, the better it is!

deostroll said...

This post will truly be an inspiration to all women out there...thanx 4 sharing such an experience.

BaLA said...

Well, one of my friend had a worser story.. it seems one guy in the bus pulled down his trousers off, called her and tried to show it.. he got trashed by people in the bus anyway..I cant believe this happens in chennai!..