The night that changed my life…
It rained in mid-November. It never happened in Delhi. But that night, it did. And I don’t know why I had a feeling that it rained to increase my plight and nothing else.
Silver stilettoes, white full-sleeved button down shirt and a skimpy red skirt that ended a little above my knees made me look like a slut. Well, at least that’s what my boyfriend told me. Now as I was soaked in the rains and my shirt had stuck to my body, I did feel like one. Standing at the edge of a highway, miles away from home at four a.m. in the morning wearing what I wore, I felt like the most vulnerable creature on earth.
Delhi, the rape capital appeared like a giant devil at that hour of the night. It wasn’t the devil I was afraid of. It was a man with a penis. It wasn’t a safe city and I hadn’t taken necessary precautions. If something happened to me, it was going to be my fault. After all, I lived alone in the rape capital, dressed like a whore and had a jerk of a boyfriend. It was my fault that at an acceptable marriage age, I left my parents in the small town I grew up in and worked hard for my career. Obviously, it was my fault…
I was so bound get raped. In fact, I was mentally preparing myself for it. I was waiting for a group of disgusting men to arrive from any side, just done with their session of inhaling marijuana or alcohol or both and grabbing me by my tits, tarnishing my modesty and snooping down on me like hungry predators.
I was hiding behind a tree, trying not to grab attention of the cars that passed by. But I was mentally prepared that some hawk-eyed penis would eventually spot me, stop and do the same disgusting things but maybe in the back of the car or a low-key lodge.
Did I regret not letting my boyfriend do the exact same disgusting things to me tonight?
“You’re mutilating me!” I told him when he refused to let me go at the back seat of his car. A few drinks down and the monster in him had surfaced.
“Mutilating? I am mutilating you? You are mutilating me! I am your damn boyfriend okay! And after dressing like that if you expect me to put my hands off you, what are you thinking? You didn’t mind the attention you were getting at the party! But here you get offended if your boyfriend tries to touch you? It’s been three months since we are seeing each other. It is my fucking right to fuck you okay?”
“Right? You don’t have a right to anything. I made a mistake three months ago when I started dating you! You are a damn mistake and a potent rapist. It was my own fault when I thought of giving you a chance. And don’t blame my dress, you’re with me only to score and you would not care less if I wore a skirt or pyjamas! I am done with you, seriously!”
“Hell yeah! So you would rather be naked and mutilated by random strangers than your boyfriend? So be it, you whore!”
With this he asked his driver to stop the car and threw me out in the middle of the road on a highway!
“If you get laid, which I am sure you will, tell me how it was!” with this, his car sped ahead.
I stood there, in dumb silence. Trying to comprehend what had just happened in my life. How did I fall into such a mess? How did I let a guy like that into my life in the first place? It was my fault. All my fault. It was my choices that had landed me here.
It had been two hours since he had left and I had not attempted to go home. I felt safer hiding at one place till the night ended and anticipating danger rather than walking in the face of it. To add fuel to the fire I had left my purse in that jerk’s car along with my phone. I couldn’t contact anybody for help and even if I could, I didn’t know whom to contact. No girl would risk her own safety while trying to pick me up and even if she did I wouldn’t want her to. And I trusted no guy to drop me home safely in this situation. This was an opportunity. I was an opportunity. And no one was going to let that go.
I thought of hailing a cab home. I could ask him to wait in my premises while I walked up to my apartment to get the fare. But again, I wouldn’t trust him to take me back to the apartment safely. I could look around for a public phone and call the police. But something could happen in the way to find a phone, since they were so rare. Telephone operator could be a man and the policemen, well, they were men too.
The safest option was to wait where I was till morning and hope no one found a whore of a girl hiding in the bushes at the edge of a highway.
And I did just that.
I sat amidst the bushes and prayed that no one found me here. It was a winter night, long and cold. I was freezing. I was desperate. I wasn’t very religious, but I tried to think of the good deeds I had done in past and prayed to get rescued. As I closed my eyes, I didn’t realise when my tensed body relaxed and I started crying. With my head down, silent tears gushed out of my eyes and the world blurred around me.
It was the moment I had put my guard down. It was the moment when I had forgotten to look for rapists and murderers around and asked myself this question, why me? And it was the very moment when a cold hand landed on my shoulder bringing me out of my state of a mess and scaring the shit out of me!!
My reflex reaction was to brush his hand away from me. As I looked up I saw that he wore a kurta, had grown his beard and only needed a stroke of surma to meet the standards of a terrorist.
I gulped away my fear and started to threaten him. I felt like laughing at myself when the words came out of my mouth. What were my chances against this tall and heavy man? If he only held my wrists I wouldn’t be able to break free from his grip. But I threatened him anyway!
“You… you… stay away from me!! Just stay away okay! Don’t even dare to touch me!”
I waited for him to smirk. I waited for him to say that I shouldn’t have been here if I wanted him to stay away from me that I had brought this upon myself. But what he did, shook me to the core.
“Okay, okay, Madam ji! Hum kuch nahi kar rahe!” saying this he held his hands in the air as if surrendering to the police.
This calmed me down for a second. But I still couldn’t bring myself to trust him, even one bit. What if it was his plan to gain my trust first and then take me to some place distant where he would call his other friends and they will all have a merry party?
“Just… Just go away!” I spoke in Hindi because it was obvious he didn’t speak English.
“Madam ji, you look worried. Why are you here? Has something happened? Do you need any help?” he didn’t seem like the one to give up easily.
“JUST.GO.AWAY!” I screamed.
“I cannot go away. It is not safe here. It is four in the morning and it will stay dark and foggy till seven- seven thirty. Even then, this highway is not a safe place in broad day light. Where do you live? Tell me, I will drop you there!”
“I don’t need you to drop me anywhere. Just walk away!”
To my surprise, he didn’t. He sat down right in front of me. But he kept his distance. He was scared and anxious. It was funny and hard to believe that a stranger who almost looked like a terrorist was scared and anxious about my safety. And I didn’t believe it. How could I? My own boyfriend had lead me here, I had spent hours hoping to avoid any interaction with any man in the world. There was no way I could trust this man sitting in front of me offering his help.
He waited in silence. He didn’t even look at my face. He just looked elsewhere and waited. He didn’t give me those creepy vibes. It is a womanly-instinct. We come to know how a particular man is looking at us. And sure as hell, he wasn’t lusting after me. But hey, the same instincts had betrayed me when I began dating that gas-lighting asshole! Well, if I go to think; they had given me timely warnings. But I had accepted it to be in the nature of a man to look at a woman like that. It was something I had found in every glance, every stare of every man I knew; that it seemed like a thing I’ll have to put up with anyway if I wanted to find love.
Obviously, all my fault! He is a man. How can he be at fault? Isn’t it impossible?
The man in front of me showed more respect towards me than any other man I had ever come across. I still wasn’t going to go anywhere with him but it had been fifteen minutes since he had taken seat in front of me and I knew if he wanted to do something, he would have done it by now. His presence gave me a sense of protection and I remembered all those times when I said I didn’t need a man to protect me. Yes, of course I didn’t need a man to protect me from anything in this world but I did need a man to protect me from other men.
We women were created to make this world more beautiful. We were given a high will and a terrific inner strength. Our mind is an organised mess, where we can keep a hundred tabs open and manage all of them well. Our hearts are vessels large enough to hold oceans of grief. Our endurance is so high that we can bear every kind of pain with only a slight sigh. And hence, we were better candidates to give birth.
Men, on the other hand were created with physical strength. They had stronger covers, but weaker, less determined hearts. They are focused, but only on one thing at a time. Their minds and hearts need shelter and constant assurance.
And hence, men and women were meant to complete each other.
However, it so happened that men started misusing the benefits they were provided by the nature. They manipulated women and made them think of themselves as lesser human beings. They hid their short comings behind the facades of strength and ego. They thought, that if they are stronger on the outside, they are meant to be strong inside. They didn’t quite understand that it was okay to feel weak, it was okay to cry, to express.
In the process of becoming as hard inside as they were outside, they became stones. They lost their identities.
However, the saddest thing here, is that we women, accepted everything they made us believe. We accepted that they deserve some respect for being men and not for being the people they are. We grew up accepting their superiority and we raised them to feel superior. We raised them wrong, and now; we are standing here, trying to gain back all we rightfully deserve fighting for so many things; all at once.
At this moment, I felt weak and helpless and in need of someone to drive me home safely. Had I known some self-defence, I would still have felt as vulnerable as I did now. I could bring down one man with my techniques. But, what if I had faced a group of men? Well, frankly not even a man could have handled a group alone. But there was a very dim chance of an unwanted foreign organ being inserted into his privates.
The man sitting there in front of me was not giving up. It was four thirty. And I had no plan of action. As he had said, the highway wasn’t safe even in broad daylight. Yet, sun gave a sense of warmth and night just made you scared.
“Why are you waiting here?” I finally asked him.
“Because I cannot leave you here all by yourself. You are my responsibility!”
Responsibility? I thought of the quote I had read recently on a social media page.
“A woman in a vulnerable state is a responsibility not an opportunity.”
There was no way this guy had access to any social media. He wasn’t even educated. Yet he thought of me as his responsibility. The fact hurt my pride. It hurt to see that I was some stranger’s responsibility. It hurt that I couldn’t take care of myself.
“I am not your responsibility. And I need no one to take care of me. I can manage!”
“Madam ji, you became my responsibility the moment I found you here. Had God not meant me to make sure you reach home safely he wouldn’t have lead me here. And Madam ji, no one can take care of himself all alone. We humans live in groups because we need each other. It is simple.”
I couldn’t help but keep staring at him in disbelief. For him, everything was so simple. It was as if he was simply answering every question that popped up into my mind.
“What do you do for a living?” I asked out of the blue.
“I sell tea at the nearby stall. I was on my way to begin work when I heard you sobbing in the bushes,” he explained.
Oh! I wasn’t crying silently after all.
“You don’t respect me right? You think I am a whore. Obviously. Why am I even asking? You obviously don’t approve of what I am wearing. You obviously don’t approve of the fact that I am out here at this time!”
“I don’t. I don’t approve of these things. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t respect you. When my mother taught me to respect women. She didn’t specify that I had to respect women who wore certain type of clothes and were in specific situations. I was told to respect women in any situation, at any hour, in every manner.”
Here, an uneducated tea vendor was more emancipated than my qualified boyfriend. I judged him for what he looked like. I decided by looking at him that he would not have the concept of freedom or modernisation. In fact, I pegged him to be a terrorist! Just like the men who decide just by looking at me that I am available. Just like I decided looking at my ex that he was a decent choice.
This is where our problems begin. We judge. And we judge so openly that we don’t even consider that it is wrong to judge someone we barely know. We talk all crap against judging other people. But we all keep judging anyway!!
“So you don’t think I am a sinner?”
Here on the edge of day break, I was trying to look at myself from the eyes of an apparently orthodox tea vendor.
“Who am I to decide that, Madam ji? I am not God. I do know what a sin is but I am a sinner myself. All of us, all human beings make mistakes, blunders. I believe in hell and heaven and the fact that we are all giving a test in this world. I am sitting at the bench next to you, writing my own paper. How can I decide the right answers for you when I am struggling with my own questions?”
Spellbound. I didn’t know what to say. This man, with hardly any educational background, who strongly disapproved of the lifestyle I had, was making me feel good about myself and this whole world around me. He was undoing the deeds of the man who claimed to love me but had made me feel disgusted about myself and left me in the middle of the road with a hope that my modesty gets ripped apart and I learn my lesson for not letting him touch me.
“You don’t think I am an opportunity? You didn’t even feel for a second that you could do whatever you want here and no one would know? Your mind didn’t even waver once, looking at me?”
These questions sounded provoking even to my ears. But I had developed this weird faith in this man standing in front of me. I was curious. I wanted to know why in the same situation a man with such a background had behaved differently.
“You are obviously very beautiful, Madam ji. But I have a wife at home who would never even imagine another man within the two-foot radius around her. I have a daughter at home who wants to study hard and become someone so that I don’t have to sell tea anymore. If I will not think about them, who will? And even if no one would ever know, God always will.”
“Your wife is a lucky woman.” I said after his reply sunk into my skin.
So now, I envied a woman who I would have pitied a day ago.
“No, I am a lucky man. She has raised the kids so well and she also supports my children’s education by selling handicrafts. Whatever I earn gets used up in fulfilling basic needs. She is the one who sends our kids to school.”
And my envy immediately turned into respect. I started respecting the woman there who worked so hard to educate her children. And I did envy her for the respect she received from her husband. She was the one empowered in real sense.
“One last question, will you drop me home?”
“Gladly, Madam ji!”
He escorted me to his weary motor cycle and we rode towards my home. While I sat behind him, holding the back of his bike, the morning breeze touched my cheek and signified a new beginning.
The night had been the turning point of my life. I had learned so much about respect, honour and spirituality. I had realised that I will have to fight for my own emancipation. I will have to wait for the man who respected me irrespective of what he liked or disliked about me. I will have to wait for a man who would complete me and would want to be completed by me. A man who will fill my shoes where I fall short and a man whose shoes I will fill if he is incapable of doing something. And such a man will arrive, because though they are small in number, they do exist and they will have to exist if we as women stop accepting ourselves to be lesser beings!