I head straight for the spot behind the driver’s seat whenever I enter a bus, even if it is not too crowded. Experience teaches me that is where I am safest – away from the groping hands of men standing behind.
Outside the ‘safe zone’, every nerve in my body is on high alert expecting a poke here or there. In the morning rush hours, like every other woman around me, I push and shove to get to the safe zone. Where the ladies’ seats end is a danger zone and I try to stay clear away from that. Every time the bus brakes, it is an opportunity for the gropers.
Then there are those who lean on the bars of the ladies’ seats, making the women cringe. Every time I get into a bus, I pray only to get out of it with my dignity intact.
What the man perhaps dismisses as a pastime is for the woman a trauma that stays with her forever. Every incident where I have been groped, touched or brushed against is a memory that remains within, no matter how hard you try to forget. Every time I am in a crowded public space, these memories make me alert to the dangers lurking around.
These are perhaps the feelings of every woman who has stepped out of her house at any time. As a student in school and college and as a working woman, the feeling of danger around me etched in my mind continues.
I have always managed to give voice to my fury when my dignity was violated. But I also see women who fail to react out of fear. While I wish to react to every such happening, I was afraid what the reaction would be to my call to protest.
Every woman perhaps has the same story to tell.