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A body of one’s own

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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SOCIETY Many men continue to assault women in public and private spaces assuming that theywill bear it silently

Let there be lightA man takes part in a candlelight vigil to pay homage to the Delhi gang rape victimFile Photo: Thulasi Kakkat
Let there be lightA man takes part in a candlelight vigil to pay homage to the Delhi gang rape victimFile Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

As Tarun Tejpal spends time behind bars in Goa — apparently not ‘atoning’, considering he is trying to turn the tables instead on the woman journalist — I feel comforted and angry all at once. Comforted because the law seems to be taking its course and angry because I am reminded of the day a man called me a W***** when I confronted him for touching me inappropriately. It was a warm winter afternoon, when I was aboard an almost empty DTC bus, going to my college. Occupying the window seat, my head leaning against it, I just closed my eyes before I ‘felt’ something. That ‘something’ was the touch of the man seated right behind me. His hands had slid discreetly into the gap and it was long before I realised what was happening.

I took time to process, to take action, because what was happening in broad daylight, in a public transport vehicle, was unthinkable. So all those who have even an iota of doubt over why a woman does not necessarily react at the first instance, the first moment anybody lays his hands on her, need to know that when a situation like that hits a woman, the first thing she experiences is shock and disbelief. That feeling of being forcibly touched by a man is unexplainable. Believe me, it takes time to recover.

I took a few minutes to get up from my seat and confront him. But he was already prepared with a set of expletives not just for me but for my mother as well.

It wasn’t the first or last time my body integrity was violated. Women go through this so often that there comes a time when we become ‘immune’ to it. I haven’t, so I continue to react. I still don’t walk with the bubble a friend advised me years ago to cover myself in, when stepping out of the house. I grapple with the issues of bodily integrity every time I feel his hands on me and I feel it quite often. I still look for that man and wish there could be an FIR lodged against him and all those who have violated my bodily integrity. That Canada-returned man who showed me pornographic magazines when I was all of seven and asked me to give him a practical illustration; that uncle, husband of my mother’s colleague, who left me scarred for life and all those men in DTC buses, in metro stations, on streets, who continue to assault us…I wish they could be brought to book and told that a woman’s body is her own. Nobody in this world except her has a right over it.

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

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