We are, you know. Every other day, there’s this news splash, followed by outrage over molestation of women. Disgusting, I know. And of course, like every other woman/person reading these accounts, my blood boils and I recall incidents from my own life; sometimes I reacted, and sometimes I didn’t.
Yet, after the reactions to the news dies down, life goes on as before.
Women continue to be molested, publicly and privately.
At home and at work.
I remember that incident years ago. That evening, I came home all frazzled and shaken up.
I had to drop by a customer’s home office to collect an order as he was traveling and would return only around 4:30 in the evening, not giving him enough time to visit our office and finish the formalities. It was standard practice to offer to meet a client at a place of their convenience, so we could get the paperwork done before the deadline. I even recall what I was wearing that day. That red tie-dye sari with the matching blouse that tied at the back, and a top knot– my favorite look at the time.
At 4 pm, I set out from my office on my scooter and headed out to his office. I reached there at 4:25 pm. His wife welcomed me in and I sat in the living room waiting for the client.. Promptly at 4:30, there he was. His wife offered us coffee and after setting it on the table between us, said she had to go somewhere and left.
After the coffee, this man moved over to the sofa and sat next to me, supposedly to receive the papers he had to sign. He signed. I put the folder in my bag and requested him to make out the check. He did and held it out to me. When I reached out to take it, he didn’t let it go. Instead, he held out his other hand, palm facing upwards. My mind was all about getting back to office and completing the order registration, so I didn’t really understand what he expected.
Then, to my utter shock, he just grabbed my hand and smiled at me. And I’ll tell you why I was shocked. On the few occasions we had met before, I had never once felt threatened by his presence. To add to it, he was always polite and courteous, the kind of person one usually feels comfortable with, and even respects. Short, average build, bespectacled. But you know what they say, appearances are deceptive. This one certainly was. He probably used it as a shield to do the dirty stuff. Yes, that’s my angst speaking.
As soon as he grabbed my hand, my surprise must have shown on my face. I am disgusted to admit I was speechless. But I instinctively tried to pull my hand back.
And I said something stupid, “Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?”
He said, “My wife has gone out. We can have fun.”
Really, I thought. Errgh. I responded with “I am not interested. Please, I have to get back to office.”
What a weak response, right? Listen to this conversation:
He: Haha, I know you sales girls. You will protest and then enjoy.
Me: No! I am not like that.
As I said this, I had the sense to grab the cheque, pick up my bag, get up and move to the door. He probably still felt cocky enough to think that I was making a token protest.
I fumbled with the door handle and opened it on the third try. But I think, luckily for me, he simply stood up, hands in pockets and watched in amusement at my panic. He let me go.
I was taken aback by what had happened out as I rushed through the gate. I sat on my scooter and breathed, to calm down, half afraid he may just walk out and– who knows what he might do.
For now, I felt okay enough to start the scooter and ride back to office. I did. One look at my face when I entered the office and my colleagues knew I was upset. They always teased me about the permanent smile I seemed to carry. When I told them what happened, briefly, they were furious and wanted to go thulp the client to shreds. After much argument, they cooled down.
But the next time I had to go out of town to meet a client at his house, one of my colleagues and my then almost-boyfriend insisted on accompanying me. Stupid, but I had to let him and we took a taxi, since the town was only 150 kilometers away. The client was a Reverend and one of the kindest people I’ve met. I successfully finished my business with him and after a nice lunch, we started the journey back home.
Now, before you think how chivalrous my almost-bf was, let me tell you the ride back to office was not pleasant. We argued so much, we were almost on not speaking terms. He chided me for my behavior. The way I always looked for solutions to problems instead of standing back and letting the men take care of it. He scolded me for hanging out with a group of men-friends, back slapping and biking with them. He finally said I was not feminine at all, in spite of the way I dressed (provocatively). I almost hit him that day.
And so, by the time the ride ended, I showed my almost-bf the way out of my circle. Oh yes, we did eventually learn to be civil to each other, and even became sort of friends, but that bitter taste never goes away, you know.
So many incidents!
One of the worst perhaps was that boss. He seemed like such a pleasant guy. Then, one day while talking to his secretary, she told me that as soon as she seated herself across him, he would get up and feign a visit to the washroom, then on his way back, stop behind her and coolly put his hand down her neck and squeeze her boob. Disgusting. At first it was hard to believe.. But facts are stranger than everything. He tried the same with me, and did not succeed. Just the thought of that makes me throw up a little in my mouth!
Then there were those gropers in the bus. Some would just grope a woman’s back and manage to unhook her bra in one swift flick! I made it a point to buy only bras that opened in front! I avoided wearing anything that tied at the back. You know how that 27E used to be!
Sigh. I won’t even go into the cousins groping and pretending to be playful!
I am angry now to think of all the comebacks I could have directed at that client and the various people who molested me. And most of all, as T said later, first thing I should have done is raised my knee forcefully and connected with that part of him that would have freaked him out the most.
Will this being treated as a second class citizen or an object ever end?
I am guessing not. We are so afraid to even speak out about what happened, for fear of opening a mammoth can of worms. We prefer to let sleeping dogs lie, because we really do not want to ruffle feathers and be ostracized from a community that actually doesn’t care.
And domestic abuse? Who better than you to understand? Worst thing is, women don’t support other women, sometimes.
No matter where we live, how old we are . . . shit happens.
Never good enough.
The weaker sex.
Seen but not heard.
“It is not a job for women”
If she’s better than him, just suppress her.
Same jobs, different salaries.
But I am glad we broke free of all that bias, right?
I am proud of us for not giving in to the discouragement.
I am happy we believed in ourselves and did not kill our dreams.
I believe we have arrived, in our own subtle way!
“Since scamp or sneak or snake,
So often undertake,
A plan that does not thrive,
The world still wags on, alive.”