Vanita, 24, is a content writer with cerebral palsy. She lives in Delhi.
My happy place
I was in school when we had to move house. After looking vigorously for years, we finally got a perfect home for our family. The only drawback of the house was that it was far away from my school.
As a girl with a disability, I knew the value of education in my life and wanted to get educated at any cost. My parents wanted the same. But transportation was a problem.
After looking for a van for so many months, my parents finally found the one with a driver, who would help climb in and out of the van. We couldn't be more happy about this because I could go to school every day now.
The van was usually very crowded but I loved interacting with everyone. I became good friends with several people within a few days. We all used to sing and talk our hearts out during the journey to school. Slowly, the van became a small place of happiness for me.
Shocked and hurt
One morning, as I was climbing down from the van, and the driver was helping me out. I felt his hand on my breast. At first, I did not understand but gradually realised, he was groping at it. I could not move and went blank. I held still until he put me in the wheelchair.
That day, I couldn't concentrate on studies at school and kept thinking about this incident. My breast was still hurting from the assault.
I couldn't get this incident out of my mind. My brain was telling me that I should at least tell someone about it but my heart was telling me that if I told someone, I might never go back to school again. My parents would think that it is too unsafe for me to attend school.
However, I feared going back home in the same van. I really wanted to get this thing out of my head, but I couldn't tell this to anyone. That incident played in my mind, again and again.
Just then, Ayush, who was my good friend in the van, saw me crying. He asked me what is wrong with me? I had no choice but to tell him about it.
Enough for now
Ayush heard me and calmed me down. He hugged me and told me that he won't let it happen again. What are you going to do, I asked him. He told me that I should not worry about that.
I became uneasy and worried that he might talk to the driver about it. I pleaded to him that he should not talk to anyone about it.
When the school got over, Ayush helped me get in the van and even helped my wheelchair out of the van when I reached home. He told me that from now on, he will be the only one who will help me in and out of the van.
Even when he took a day off, he would tell one of our other friends to help me out. After that day, Ayush never let me go alone with the driver after that incident.
I did not fight the driver or file a complaint against him. I guess many of us stay quiet for some reason. I had mine. I desperately wanted to continue going to school. But I had found a solution and I was really thankful for it.
Vanita shared her story with Love Matters India for the #It’sTimeToAct campaign to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. #It’sTimeToAct aims to raise awareness against gender-based violence and harassment and bring to light stories of women’s fight back against such violence or harassment.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.