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Mumbai Molestation

04 Jan

 

By now all the world and his granny have heard and endlessly discussed the case of two women who were molested by a large group of men in Mumbai on New Year’s Eve. Out of this glut of articles dripping righteous anger, the story that caught my interest was that of one of the accused, 18-year-old Nilesh Bhyatkar. His poor parents switched on their TV on the first of January 2008 and beheld their son’s mug plastered across several TV channels as one of the molesters.

[Nilesh] Failed SSC, father does paint jobs in buildings. He surrendered after his parents and neighbours held a meeting on the building premises and decided to hand him over.

I don’t know many people who’d have done that. Every time kids make the news, there’s always someone stepping up to shield them from the consequences of their actions – from Bitti Mohanty to Rahul Mahajan. On the other hand, here’s a kid who’s being made to take responsibility for his actions and who’ll now always think twice before participating in a mob scene or even whistling at a girl. It’s what a lot of people sneeringly call “middle class values” at its best. It’s also extremely good parenting.

If more parents took the kind of action this couple did, however unpleasant they found it, perhaps the world would be a better place. Shame is a powerful weapon.

But what of the other side of the equation? The victims in this case say that they’d rather not press charges and just want to forget it ever happened. Well, I have news for them: they’re never going to forget it. Anybody who’s ever been in the slightest bit harassed can tell you that it is not necessary that one be clinically raped – assault in any degree leaves an indelible mark. Every single woman that I know who’s ever been at the receiving end of an inappropriate comment or act can recite the time and place of the incident with extreme accuracy. They could probably tell you what they were wearing, what the other person said/did, who was with them and sundry other details as well.

I do, however, understand where these women are coming from. Personally, were I in their situation, I’d want them all to pay through their nose whatever the effort I’d have to put into making that happen. But to press charges would mean going through reams of red tape and as they live outside the country, this is a nightmare that could stretch on for years. Besides that, the media glare means that they’d automatically gain a degree of notoriety that anybody’d find uncomfortable. On the one hand, the media is doing a laudable job by making it clear that somebody in society is going to hold up a red flag if you cross a line; but on the other, it’s basically hounding these two women into giving statements they don’t wish to give and reliving an experience they don’t wish to remember.

***

Anyway, in the middle of all this, I read Sakshi’s post about the same incident and she makes an excellent point about being smart about one’s safety. Personally, having grown up in Delhi, I’m positively paranoid about safety and don’t trust anybody or anything. If it moves, I want it to die before it gets near me. That’s how I function. And I have no qualms whatsoever in saying as much even at the risk of hurting somebody’s itty-bitty feelings as one taxi driver in Mumbai found out.

Hum waise log nahin hai, madam,” he told me when I refused to get into his car. (“I’m not a person like that, madam.”)

Main bhi waisi larki nahin hoon,” I replied and hightailed it out of there. (“I too am not a girl like that.”)

So here are some of my tips for the successful partygoer of both sexes. I draw upon my own experiences as well others’. If you know something you’d like to add to the list, please feel free.

 

Friends: Never go to a party without at least one friend to tag along. Make it a rule that you leave with the people you came with. This way everybody knows what to be on the lookout for and if anything goes wrong, alarms will automatically be raised.

Ego: Check it at home. If you’re in a situation where caution wars with testosterone/indignation, choose caution. Your pride will recover from a blow much faster than you would from physical blows or sexual assault.

Drink: Responsibly. If you’re planning on getting completely trashed then make sure you have a friend nearby who’ll play designated driver and valet. At the very least, you’ll need somebody to make sure you don’t fall headfirst into the toilet bowl or wind up in your neighbor’s apartment.

Drugs: Ideally, you’re not that big of a fool. If you are, then that’s your choice but a stranger’s party is never a good place to start experimenting. If you’re hankering to tread on the other side of the caution line, read up on what you’re putting into your system (the number of people who think E is some sort of “safe” drug and don’t realize the dangers of dehydration and the effect it can have when mixed with alcohol, or the supremely addictive and destructive qualities of meth, are truly astounding) do it with a friend and take precautions.

Parties: If you leave your drink unattended at any time, never touch it again. I got this tip from the first date rape victim I ever met and I think it’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received. Also, don’t accept drinks from strangers or even casual acquaintances, whether male or female, unless it comes in a bottle with its cap still on. Or else, go up to the bar and order it yourself. It sounds paranoid but it might just save you some grief.

Location: Find out where you’re going and what it’s like in that area, whether it’s another city or neighborhood. Never assume anything. A lot of people seemed shocked that this incident went down in Mumbai – they shouldn’t be. A city is a city is a city, especially at New Year’s Eve. A guy at my dorm once advised me to stay off the streets of New Orleans when I told him my friends and I were planning a trip for Mardi Gras (this was way before Katrina). Similarly Cancun for Spring Break and New York’s Times Square for New Year’s Eve. So you could be in any country, in any crowd, but there are certain things you should take into consideration.

Knights: Don’t exist. In or out of shining armor. I figured this out very early on when my best friend and I got into a mega fight with a couple of creeps in a theater when we were 16. It’s not like we needed back up (hell hath NO fury like my best friend when pushed) but it would have been nice if those big strong navy officers sitting one row down had done something more than look up, get nonchalantly to their feet and slink quietly out of the hall. The only ones who took any interest in the matter were these three girls in the same row who got up and walked over to support us and even escorted us out to our cab when the movie was over. Psychologically, however, it’s a good move to kick up a dust as we proved with those two creeps. Just don’t expect anyone to come charging to your defense. Which brings me to the next point:

Defense: If you are planning on wading into huge crowds, take some sort of defensive precaution. Pepper spray is a good option and I believe it’s now available in India as well. If you can’t find any, you can always rig some at home. Or buy a small spray of deodorant or hairspray – dual purpose weapon! And remember, offense is the best defense. Use that sucker the moment you feel threatened, don’t wait for them to lay hands on you. If you turn out to be wrong, you can always apologize. If you turn out to be right – VICTORY!

Run – When all else fails or perhaps even when all else has succeeded. There’s time to be a hero. When you’re outnumbered and being attacked is not it.

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18 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2008 in Life, Newsmakers

 

18 responses to “Mumbai Molestation

  1. Rahul Sharma

    January 4, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Very valid points you raised there!

    Yes, our famed red tape is the strongest deterrent in pressing charges / following-up on justice.

    Ra.

    P.S. And if one has to scream for help, “FIRE” would be a better option than “HELP”…

     
  2. Kokonad

    January 5, 2008 at 12:49 am

    Whoa! Nice post Mademoiselle! You should think of giving it to the government!

    By the way, after a month long hiatus, here’s the TAG“>.

     
  3. Saakshi O. Juneja

    January 5, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Finally, someone got the point. 🙂

    Happy New Year babes.

     
  4. Aditya

    January 5, 2008 at 2:43 pm

     
  5. ish

    January 6, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Excellent post indeed. Lot of good tips there and good to know at least the parents of one of the accused took some action. I heard somewhere that the parents of one of the other accused were actually blaming the girls for luring their son. Yeah, right.

     
  6. Amey

    January 7, 2008 at 12:21 am

    The safety precautions should be taken. But still, I agree with people who ask why there should be different rules for men and women.

     
  7. Amrita

    January 7, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Rahul – ha! point noted.

    Koke – they’d say nice wonderful indian men love their mommies and so would never dream of molesting women so this is all rubbish.

    Saks – getting it on all sides arent you? 😀 Happy new year!

    Aditya – thanks 🙂

    Ish – denial is long upheld form of parenting for some people, unfortunately.

    Amey – so do I, which is why I think feminism or the equal rights movement is an ongoing process. A lot of people have their hearts in the right place but it leads them to making ill-thought out statements. For example, nine out of ten people here would say men and women are equal. But it would be more correct to say that men and women are still trying to bring about equality. just because you and i (i’m talking generally here) move in circles where equality is the norm does not automatically mean it is the norm everywhere, not even in our neighborhood probably. so taking precautions does not mean you’re somehow resigning your right to be equal, it means you’re taking care against other people who feel differently. You’re still doing whatever you want, but you’re keeping an eye out for those who might want you to pay for doing so.

     
  8. Amey

    January 7, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    True, the equality is just not there as yet. In fact, there are very select circles where there is a semblance of equality between genders. I was just talking ideally.

    That said, the precautions are valid for all, on every occasion. At the cost of sounding callous, these kinds of things happen all over the world with disturbing regularity. In last week (since this episode), I have read at least 4 such incidents in different cities of India. I am just not sure whether it is increasing trend or increasingly reported trend.

     
  9. the mad momma

    January 8, 2008 at 3:52 am

    I agree with the way you’ve put it Ams. I disagree with Sakshi’s bit on women getting drunk out of their heads. Drunk as I am – no one, but no one, has a right to molest me. And this is nothing new. I posted abt it here. http://thebratthebeanandbedlam.wordpress.com/2008/01/02/

    What excuse do mumbaikars have for molesting a woman returning from work – on a busy station? and yes, being a Delhi girl, I too am very careful, but this is the limit. they were in front on a five star, with men to take care of them. not in a shadey side alley…

     
  10. Amrita

    January 8, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Amey – i hope its the increasingly-reported trend 🙂 And yes, a lot of men dont seem to realize that men and boys get victimized too. it’s not just women.

    MM – Saks just expressed herself very badly 😀 and she’s caught a lot of heat for it so all square, i think. i read what you’d written and agreed completely. the whole “mumbai is safe” thing sounds very nice but people need to remember that it’s a city like any other.

     
  11. rAm

    January 12, 2008 at 10:05 am

    i can’t agree more with you.
    One thing you might want to add is “Time”. every place has some time after which it is simply not done to be brave(includes guys).

    It’s been a long time since I am off your blog. (or from rather the world of blogging).
    One thing I notice over the last year is the quality of posts has gone up considerably (not that it was lacking earlier). keep blogging.

     
  12. Amrita

    January 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Ram – that is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me all year! Thank you 😀 and welcome back!

     
  13. SHWETHA

    February 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    a very gud post indeed and very helpfull too…
    i wld also like to add a point to it.it was sumthing a frnd once told me…
    always walk in the direction opposite to which the vehicles r going.in that case you can see any vehicle movinh towards you as compared to when your walkin in the same direction as in that case you wont know when a vehicle pulls up all of a sudden.

     
  14. Amrita

    February 5, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Hi Shwetha – thats a pretty good tip. it would also cut down on accidents coz people are more likely to see you in time to swerve.

     
  15. Roop Rai

    April 21, 2008 at 10:18 am

    very wise post!!!

     
 
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