Eve-Teasing – Assault of Another Name

It was always my fault. I wore full sleeves and was covered head to toe barring few instances of wearing long skirts, jeans and T-shirt. My freedom as a girl was confined to my expressions through my eyes and speech. My father was also increasingly conservative, not because he is one but he feared that something might happen to me. Eve-teasing at that time was the pandemic that killed many young girls’ characters. And there was nothing anyone would do besides blaming the girl.

I learned how to ride a motorcycle when I was in 6th grade and 4 feet 9 inches tall. My dad who was barely 5 feet 2 inches not only took the risk to teach me but also made sure that I was overly independent by the time I was 13 years. Perhaps because of that I didn’t have a conventional good girl reputation through high school. Not that it is any now, but I learned to take immense pride in my noteriety for the last two decades, thanks to coming to the United States without any support besides from my parents.

My parents let me ride my dad’s Priya (similar to a Vespa) until my 11th grade and then bought me my own. Those years were the toughest because my dad suffered from gout and I became the only means of transportation for all domestic chores, picking and dropping off my mom at train, bus stations when she traveled for work. And I even gave my grandmother rides to our relatives homes whenever she wanted to. While it was thrilling to experience riding at such a young age, I might have grown up sooner than I should have because of the experiences that came after.

We lived in a community that was infested with utterly narrow minded families with mostly lads who were established male chauvinistic pigs. And because it was a government provided housing, and was free, my parents may never have had the thought of moving to better accommodation. It was hard to pinpoint to the harassment as it was done in groups, in dark and usually discreetly. Those who grew up in very protected households or those that never understood freely blamed me for being in these situations.

The extent of eve-teasing at one point became a threat to my life and my family My parents were older and I tried not to bother them. On the other hand, there were many that insinuated that my bad character was the reason why I was being eve-teased. These guys from the community or someone who loathed my spirit used to fill my gas tank with sugar or sand or water almost every other day. When the motorcycle stalled, I would push it on busy roads for miles at a time. My 11th and 12th grades were a disaster. As any teenager would, I survived that too.

This one time we had torrential downpour and I had to drop my mother off at the bus station. She couldn’t cancel or postpone her plan to travel to another state. Little did I know that someone had punctured the petrol tank and it leaked all the way. I still thank my stars that the vehicle stalled after I dropped her. Lugging it against dirty down drift of gushing waters was the most difficult physical task I could’ve ever done. I lost my sandals too, had bruises from the sharp objects on the road and I barely escaped an open pothole.

Sometimes, I used to cry myself to sleep not knowing why someone would do this to me and so often. Once, I surrounded myself with guy friends from outside the community, the things to the motorcycle stopped but physical abuse had begun. I still look at my bruises in great honor because not once I gave up on myself. To live, despite the disgrace was the best gift of life I gave to myself. I could have thought of ending the eve-teasing many other ways but I didn’t. But I did skip town for my undergraduate the first opportunity I got to get away from the tormenting.

Eve-teasing was not identified as a crime back in the 90’s. While it was harassment, it was much harder to prove than a physical manifestation of an abuse whether be sexual or domestic. And the offenders would be discreet with their harassment. To date I don’t know who those people were. I suspected many around me and believe in all sincerity that karma may have caught up to them. But I do regret not seeing a face, and teaching them a lesson. There were no cell phones back then and I never had a camera either.

Eve-teasing diminished my morale those years and it took me decades to build it back. It impacted me emotionally and psychologically. For many years, I couldn’t stand up to other forms of abuse because I was reeling under the effects of what those men considered as flirty and fun. Positive thinking ended up being a superficial mechanism of coping and much later in adult life, I had to take deliberate measures to address the real problem. “Step into my shoes and walk the life I’m living and if you get as far as I am, just maybe you will see how strong I really am.” Raise your voice against the menace and call it what it is – Sexual Harassment.

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