When I was in college, I had to travel by bus for 2 hours from home. Now that the media is screaming about crime against women in public transport every other day I am compelled to write this post. Those bus trips to the college were no joy rides. To be seated was a feat achieved very rarely. Usually we stand in this rather uncomfortable position holding the bars overhead with one hand and managing our college bags in another and almost breaking our necks trying to turn away from sleazy guys standing so near you that their smell of sweat brought bouts of nausea. Though there was this rule that men were supposed to stand at the back, no one seemed to follow it. Taking the over-packed bus as an advantage, they would climb through the front door, leaving little chance for us to complain.
We had to face all kinds of men-middle aged working ones, college students, laborers and so on. It was very stressful. They used to stand on the steps, trying to get a full body rub, when we get into the bus. Then of course there were the jumpers, who just fell upon you when the bus braked. I always tried to fight and stare right back pushing them away sometimes even protesting with a ‘Chey’. But, they seemed unfazed by it.
Enter S, my friend from college, a small, petite girl at 5 ft, from an orthodox family. She seemed to be totally unaffected by what was happening in the bus. I used to see her get off the bus with not a hair out of place. Whereas I used to get out looking like I just stepped out of a washing machine with a dryer mode, pulling with all my might in an attempt to get my bag out which was still sandwiched between human toasts.
One day I asked her,’How do you do that?’. She replied,’Safety pin and high heels.’
‘Just come with me today evening and watch.’
So like an observant student with a professor on a field trip I walked with her to the bus stop that evening. When the bus appeared groaning and heaving with all the eager men, she removed something from her bag. It was glinting in the evening sun and when I looked carefully I saw this HUGE safety pin. Brandishing it like a sword and with a look of a soldier she ran (I almost heard a war cry) making her way into the bus, poking all the men who tried to rub their body against hers. I could hear cries of ‘Ows!’echoing when I meekly followed her. I bit my lip hard trying not to laugh. Incredibly enough, we had boarded the bus, without a man touching us. Then came the time when the bus reached a stop and was about to brake.’Stand close!’She ordered fiercely. Still holding the sword(the pin),she seemed to mentally calculate something and the moment a jerk tried to fall on her on the pretence of the bus braking,she lifted her leg and brought it down on his toe with such force that he yelped and howled like a dog.She was not finished yet, she sort of did this half twirl like a ballet dancer,with her huge platform heels that I feared his toe might get dissected.His expression was that of a constipated baby.And guess what?He literally pushed back other men in an attempt to stay away from her.’There,he will never dream of touching a girl without her consent’,She said smugly turning back to me.I watched the entire episode slack-jawed. Here was S, the most quiet girl in the whole of my college, who couldn’t even reach the overhead bars of the bus resorting to such violent measures to save herself from being groped. She shared an incident in which she was reduced to tears by a man who groped her in a crowded bus for 15 minutes continuously for 5 days. She felt so helpless and angry at her state that she decided to deal with it. Next day she plunged a pin into his fingers so deep that it remained in his finger when he pulled back. She never let it happen to her again. So much for my stares which only left people wondering whether I had a squint. And the other fact I observed is fellow bus riders act ignorant when someone gropes you, but so do they when you react back.
When I got off the bus I was intact, not a single strand of hair out of place. Seeing my dad’s car I ran to him and asked “Can we go for a little shopping before heading home?”
‘Ok. But what do you want?’
I replied with a smile,’Safety pin and high heels’.