Earlier this month, celebrity Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter to India’s “most powerful and influential men” caused a ripple and soon after got buried in the Internet search engines.
In the letter, she writes about being groped by a man in a vegetable market when she was 13. She was accompanying her mother. And then began a series of non-stop such experiences, she adds.
One day, a man shoved his hand in her sister’s “tee-shirt through her sleeve, the entire bus ride”.
Her friend was raped in the ladies coach of the Mumbai local train. The rapist used her scrunchy to wipe himself off and fled. Bleeding, she limped back home in Bandra. She was 16.
Many attributed various reasons to Treasurywala’s out-of-the-blue revelation, including a promotional bid ahead of a film release. Some wrote by urging men to come to their rescue, she sounded “regressive” and reinforced stereotypes that women have no agency.
I didn’t scrutinise the letter so much, except that it left me speechless. And then, I read another revelation on a WhatsApp message – not by another celebrity, but by a close friend. While sharing her experience, she has chosen to remain anonymous. Here’s her account, lightly edited:
Shenaz’s open letter has encouraged me to share my own experiences.
I must have been in Class 6. I was walking to the bus stop at 6:30 am when a guy approached me. He was holding his penis and said something which I don’t remember because I was stunned. I was numb for the rest of the day.
In another incident, I must have been 8 or 9. I was in a market with mum. We were at a shop, and the guy standing there kept touching. I was too scared to say anything to my mom and asked her to leave.
Last year in Pune, I was going to office when a guy stopped his car near me; he was masturbating.
Last month when I visited Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajasthan, I was almost groped by a guy inside the shrine’s main hall. When I stopped and said, “sharam hai? dargah mein ho?” (have you no shame? you’re in a shrine.) “Dargah mein to ichha poori hoti madam (it is only in a shrine that all wishes are fulfilled)”, he replied.
There have been many other incidents in buses, trains when I’ve felt disgusted with my own body.
It’s not just the touching; we get raped every day – raped by your eyes, raped by your words. It’s not just the comments we hear on the streets, but the gossips in offices, house parties etc. I’ve heard you discussing girls and it makes me sick most of the time. If we see a girl in a short dress, drinking, smoking or travelling alone we assume things. I’ve been asked to stop traveling too much because it might not get me a good guy. I’ve been told – “tumko kyun darr lagta aisi cheezon ka (why should you fear such things?), travelers are open to things.”
It is sad that we have accepted it now. We hear about it, post on Facebook, discuss over meals and then we move on.
I felt sick today when I asked my driver twice if he has GPS installed in the cab. You should be ashamed for your women feel like this.
A friend, who teaches at an NGO, told me: A girl was gangraped few years back and they tried to kill her with acid. Her parents disowned her as she was a burden. She now teaches at an NGO with my friend. One day, a guy visiting the NGO asked the girl to come with him to his place. When she refused, he said, “ek baar to ho chuka, ab dobara mein kya problem (it has happened once, so what’s the problem).” My friend punched him in the face.
The worst part is that her culprits are now out of the prison and living a normal life. She, on the other hand, is homeless!
I partially agree with Shenaz here, when she says:
It’s not our shame, it’s their shame.
Who are “THEY”?
“THEY” are the men in our country.
Not just the rapists and the sexual offenders and gropers but also our Fathers (sorry dad) and Uncles and Brothers and movie stars, cricketers and politicians for not saving us or protecting us by insisting and protesting for the laws to change and Rapists and Gropers to be punished severely!
But is it just THEIR fault? Most of us women have accepted it in our daily routine. When I shared my experiences with my girl friends, they said they have had similar experiences too, but they don’t bother to bring such small things to notice. Probably that is why most of my guy friends don’t know that every single female friend of theirs has experienced such things at some point.
We are at fault too!
This is from a friend who tried to help: “After the 16th December gangrape among all the candlelight vigils at India Gate, we planned to give a free self-defence session to girls. We chose a place in Hauz Khas on a Sunday and barely a month from what had happened and people were still angry. We used the social media to inform people and we received no less than 200 calls just appreciating what we were doing and a lot more calls for more information. We reached in the morning all prepped up, thinking we might be able to bring 0.01% change. Only three girls turned up! So much for standing in the crowd at India Gate and talking about it. What has changed since then? Nothing.”
I blame everyone for this – mothers, fathers, brothers, friends, victims and culprits.
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