I was at the Chandigarh bus stop waiting for a bus to Zirakpur. Due to some issues, the number of buses plying on that route were very few that day, and hence every bus was overcrowded. As I was waiting for the bus, the number of people waiting along with me started increasing and as soon as the bus arrived, people literally flung themselves upon it. Before I knew, I had also been pushed on board.
Five minutes into the journey, I felt someone touching me from behind. Since the bus was so crowded that we were literally squashed against each other, I just ignored it. But it happened again. This time, I felt a little uncomfortable. I decided that if it happens again, I would turn around and see who was behind me. And it did!
This third time I also felt someone pressing against me, so, I did turn around to see who it was. It was a middle-aged man staring back at me with a blank expression. I just gave him a semi-intense look and turned back, cautious of another move from him. For around 5 minutes after, nothing happened, and I relaxed. But then again, I felt his crotch against my hips. And this time it wasn’t just a brush, he was literally pressing it against me. I glared at him and sternly, yet politely asked him to stand a little away from me. I thought that if I made it clear that I understood what he was doing, maybe he would back off. He stared back at me for a few seconds and then started looking around as if he had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to shift a little towards the left - however, I couldn't move much due to the lack of room.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I was 14, and I had never experienced something like this before. I didn’t know what to do and there was this inherent hesitation regarding speaking up about it. The horror came back as he did it again with more force and for longer - something inside me just snapped. Without even thinking I stomped my foot really hard on his foot and heard him yell.
Though I was a little scared, I was also furious. So, I publically confronted him and as expected, he denied it saying that with the bus being so packed, it wasn’t his fault. He even had the audacity to say, “It was just a touch, why are you getting so hyper about it?”.
The fight escalated and the driver had to stop the bus. While a few people in the bus tried to make peace, most of the passengers just chose to ignore what was going on. The conductor intervened and I explained the situation to him. A person standing next to me also said that he had seen me getting uneasy and also warning that man to stand away from me. Luckily, the conductor believed me, gave the man his ticket fare, and asked him to get off the bus.
The man started shouting and refused to get down. He said I was lying and was just trying to frame an innocent man. After much hue and cry, he was finally taken off the bus. I thanked the man who had supported me in front of everyone, and had helped me get out of the messy situation. While some people tried to comfort me, others looked at me as if I had committed a crime.
That day I learnt something - we need to speak up in the right place at the right time. Had I not done what I did, he probably would have kept doing that throughout the journey and maybe even pursued me after I’d got off the bus. The only way a woman can protect herself is by learning to fight for herself. We have to speak up and stand up for ourselves, and for that, we have to make ourselves stronger - both physically and mentally.
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Published on Apr 28, 2016