I have a confession to make; I feel its bad being polite. I’m miffed with my school and teachers that they have taught me to be well mannered, to not raise my voice while talking, to respect elders and to not back answer.
When I see men leering, whistling, singing or passing comments at women, on the roads or while travelling by public transport, I feel a terrible urge to back-answer or to shut them up, but I find myself at a loss of words. Since I have been conditioned to ignore, I can’t fight it out.
It was 6.10 in the morning and I sat at the bus stop, alone. My eyes half drooping, clearly reminding me that I’m not a morning person. How I wished I could crawl back into the comfort of my fluffy bed and its cozy sheets.
The streets were empty, except for an occasional morning walker or the municipality sweepers; vehicles too were scarce on the road. I pulled out my water bottle and drank the cold water, hoping it would keep me awake in the class atleast till the break time when I could get coffee.
I looked to my right to find the man sitting on the adjacent bus shelter moving, towards me. I cursed my fate, how can people think of eve teasing at this ungodly hour! I had consciously avoided that bus shelter but it availed me no benefit. I mentally decided my next course of action, either I would make a call home and pretend having a conversation or would wait for another 5 min for the bus to arrive, if it didn’t, I would walk towards the next bus stop which would thankfully have a few more people owing to the temple present right next to it.
The man reached where I was sitting, I firmly held the knife concealed in my bag and acted cool, as if his presence wasn’t bothering me. He leaned against a pole and stared at me, I could feel his gaze, but I focused all my attention at the opposite direction.
Suddenly I noticed two girls, around 14-15 years of age walking together, giggling. They wore tattered slippers and their clothes were ragged. The man diverted his attention from me and decided to have a go at them.
“Aye, where do you think you are going this early morning? Does anyone even know where you are?” he barked at them, grinning slyly through his paan (betel leaf) – stained teeth.
The girls ignored him and walked a few steps forward, and then one of them turned.
“What does that have to do with you?” she questioned.
“Yeah, what is your problem?” the other girl chimed in.
The man was now taken aback; he must have expected to ignore him. The girls held their look at him for a moment.
“Ah! He doesn’t deserve this” one of the girls commented, they laughed and continued walking.
The man now furious that he was confronted at, screamed, “I will see you one day.”
This time both the girls turned back and mocked him, “Why wait for the next time? We are here now.”
I felt a strong desire to applaud the action of the girls, but refrained and stared at the man, in anticipation of what his next move would be. He gawked around for a while to avoid them, then muttered, foolish girls and gave me an idiotic smile. I continued with my cold stone glare.
Visibly ashamed, he got into the very next bus that came for his rescue.