Ever been flashed? Well, I have and I thought I would share it with you.

One lazy Sunday afternoon, walking towards the end of the street to buy some stationery, I spotted a lonely auto driver. Full disclosure, in case the moral police are watching: I was clad in a pair of old-fashioned, boot-cut jeans and a very loose, unflattering kurti (it was in the 2000s, I wasn’t all that stylish) that somehow seemed to make me look bigger than I was. Keeping up with my faithful habit of looking around when I am alone, I threw a look in his direction only to see a hand dart near his crotch and a long sausage-like thing pop out. And then it hit me. I had been flashed for the very first time; an experience that now seems trivial compared to the exasperation of travelling long distances unaccompanied.

However, what really irked me was not that I was subject to something downright disgusting or the fact that I couldn’t reach out and slap him, but that it was an act he really enjoyed. To top it off, he was stimulating himself with one hand and beckoning me with the other. My current self would have perhaps used profanity in a way that puts Tamil film dialogues in the shade, but at that moment I stood rooted to the spot. Not because I was unable to call for help but because I could not actually believe I would witness something rather ghastly. How could my parents not warn me of such creeps? On the other hand, though, I am oddly comforted that I am not alone in this debacle. Friends, cousins, co-workers have shared their ‘flashing’ experiences and we have all had intense conversations wondering why some guys are more than eager to share their manhood with us; an incident we all could definitely do without. We have emerged none the wiser, we have not found even a clue, let alone a solid answer. Fourteen years have since passed and it only seems to get worse every day.

Recently I had to drop a friend at the Nungambakkam Railway Station. As I was taking a U-turn in the middle of peak-hour traffic, a well- dressed man, who appeared to be in his mid-thirties, caught my attention by madly grinning at me. Wondering what motive he had, I looked at him pointedly waiting for him to speak. Instead, he smoothly slipped a hand to his crotch, unzipped his pants in one swift moment. and just like that, flashed me. It would be melodramatic to say this triggered a range of emotions in me, but it took me back to all those numerous times I had been flashed. At bus stops, underground car parking spaces, in beaches and parks…

If you are a man who is reading this and can make sense of why other men do this, please, please write to us and explain what lies behind this. If you are a woman who is reading this and have cracked the answer, we would be glad you found it first.