It all began with eve-teasing, a curse which has become part of every Indian girl’s life.
No one would have thought even in their wildest dreams, that it would spark an avalanche of incidents which changed this idyllic town of mine, forever.
I decided to settle down in this quaint little town, nestled between mountains, for its picturesque hillside setting and its vibrant populace.
I answered to an advertisement for a teaching post with little hopes. Who knew, they would choose a big- city girl over the local applicants. The moment I set my foot here, I fell for its charm. I willingly gave in to its spell, bought a little cottage overlooking a lake. From my window, I could see the dark green mountains beyond the lake.
It happened on a cold Friday evening. Sun was making a slow descend. The light of the day was slowly giving way to dusk. My kitty was in the yard chasing the dragonflies on the lawn. I was burrowing my feet in the softness of the grass, observing the twilight, turning the gossamer wings of the dragonflies to a golden hue.
That’s when she came hurtling through my gate. She was my student, a ninth-grader whose name I shall withhold.
She didn’t stop till she entered the safety of my patio. She was sobbing, hiding behind the pillar, peering out into the road as if she was expecting her pursuer to follow her in.
It took a while for her to calm down.
She was on her way back from her Kathak class. The dance institute near the town’s library attracted the attention of jobless young men and teenage boys as bees to a flower. They buzzed around, making passes at girls moving in and out.
The shop owners around accepted the group of eve-teasers as a part of their landscape. Parents advised girls to ignore them and urged them to always walk in groups.
She had her friends for the company when they left the dance institute. The girls were engaged in their regular chin-wagging, oblivious to being followed by two of those eve-teasing youngsters. The boys kept their distance waiting for the right opening. The road dog-legged towards my lane and her friends parted one by one. She hastened her pace well aware that she had another 10 minutes walk alone, to reach the safety of her house.
It was the jingling of the cycle bell which made her turn back. The boys were close and the one, pillion riding, extended his arm as if to grab her.
She ran, her panic clamping her throat.
That is when she saw my open gates and scurried in.
She did not know the names of the youngsters. Hence I urged her parents to register a complaint against the eve-teasing nuisance outside the dance institute.
I accompanied her parents to the Police Station. They informed us about the loopholes of filing a case against unidentified persons for eve-teasing but promised that they would try to patrol the area.
When I explained the situation to her, I could feel her disdain and disappointment in a system that could not guarantee her safety.
She asked me, “Miss, when nature has given us so much power as women, why our law has given us too little? Why can I not walk on the roads of my town without fear of being molested by obscene words and gestures?”
I did not have a satisfying answer to give this brave young girl and I did not want to stifle the courage and her fighting spirit which sparked within her.
That’s how I decided to polish my self-defense skills, which my late father had forced me to take as a girl. My student brought more friends every week and the training gained momentum.
The police patrolled for a few weeks and hence there was a respite from the gathering gang of trouble –makers.
But no one knew that it was calm before the storm and the incident had awakened the Goddess Kali dormant within her. The rage which sparked due to helplessness grew into a feral fire, as a need to protect herself as well as her friends.
She was the brain behind the strike. She did not share the fact that the boys have begun following her again, waiting to exact revenge for the police complaint. Instead, she equipped herself with a DIY stun gun, pepper spray, and a weapon.
That day, she and her friends deliberately dilly-dallied after the dance class. As she turned to the lane, she slowed her pace, by design. She wasn’t scared by the bell this time. She waited for the arms to touch her. The boys did not know what hit them. Stunned and pepper-sprayed, they lost balance and fell. She wanted them immobile, till the police arrived. She hit them hard on their head with her weapon, her stocking which was filled with rocks.
She called me first and then the police. Her friends arrived with their family to guard the boys until the police took charge. The eve-teasers finally had names and their head wounds needed a few stitches.
The boys were arrested under IPC section 354 as the girls testified that the boys tried to assault them hurling abuses about “teaching them a lesson” and that they acted in self defense. No one knew that, she had the leading role and the girls were supporting actors.
The town was shocked by the turn of events. There were people showering praises, appreciating the act of courage .There were also others, who questioned the upbringing of the girls, and who blamed the parents for letting the girls run amok and attack boys.
The self-defense classes continued and discussions about the incident lost steam. She became a legend and a role-model for many young girls in the town.
Her parents knew that the ordeal was not over. The reports on girls getting stabbed in Indian metro cities as they dared to raise voice against eve-teasing, gave them nightmares. They also knew that they have raised a take-charge girl who would try to empower the girls around her .
The boys were out on bail and the law set on its course as slow as ever.
As I sit by myself, writing my journal and looking out of the window, the mountains look taller than ever. A calm sense of serenity prevails in nature outside. Yet, on the inside, I feel the ominous foreboding of something big and unknown approaching this rustic town. I try, to reign in my prognostications by listening to my kitty in the backyard purring louder than ever.
Categories: Flash Fiction