Samir is a 17-year-old school going boy in Gurgaon.
I live in a patriarchal, joint family, where no female member has a say in the decision-making of the household except my paternal grandmother. Women were just meant to serve, take care of the home and only the girls of my generation had or were allowed an education.
My grandparents would always favour the boys and nothing was ever too expensive or too good for us. We were made to believe that we could have and do anything we want without any consequences.
In sharp contrast, the girls in our family were taking care of the home, learning skills such as stitching and making achaar (pickle) and if nothing else then catering to our needs. If one of us boys made the effort to help our sister’s out then we were met with response like, “You shouldn’t be doing that, you’re a boy!” or “That’s her job, let her learn, don’t get your hands dirty, my son.”
There were times when my Dadi (grandma) would shout at my mother and no one would stop her verbal abuse. And as much as I love my mother I didn’t protest either.
Eve teasing came naturally to me. My whole life I had grown up being told that women were supposed to be tolerant no matter what they were going through. And I had seen that first-hand my whole life! So when my friends were eve teasing a girl I thought it was fun.
We’d typically zone in on a girl who we all thought was “hot” and start staring at her. Then the disgusting sounds and finally the barrage of lewd comments would start. The girls would walk away as fast they could and sometimes we would follow them. And nobody stopped us, ever! It was fun. Here were these pretty girls and we could say and sometimes do anything to them and it was not a problem. Like an animal toying with its prey it felt exciting and powerful.
Hell broke loose
One day my friends had started the daily harassment of the local female population when I realised they were eve teasing my sister! She gave a sad, disappointed and how-could-you-do-this look, aimed directly at me. I told my friends to stop but even after knowing, it was my sister they still kept teasing her. I lost it and slapped one of the guys and hell broke loose.
My class teacher, who was passing by, broke up the fight and then took me aside. She said, “You’ve been harassing other people’s sisters or daughters, it was just a matter of time when the tables would turn! Treat women with the same respect you want to be treated with! Today it’s your sister tomorrow it could be your wife! How would you feel if someone kept shouting abuses at you or tried to fondle you? ”
This was enough motivation for me to get my act together. I went home and apologised to my sister, my mother and told my father everything. He took one hard look at me and said, “It’s about time things changed in this house and everyone is treated with respect.”
Little changes have made our home more female-friendly. We share chores, go out together as a family and all the girls can study as much as they want. Our home feels warm and I have the most amazing bond with my sisters and cousins.
Sometimes I wonder how I could have been so vulgar, crass and insensitive? What if I had ever harmed a girl or worse – tried to force myself on her? These questions will haunt me for a long time but thankfully I had people to open my eyes. And although it may take some time for a complete overhaul in attitude (I mean the girls in our home aren’t free to pursue a career), I’m positive we’re headed in the right direction.
Have you ever indulged in eve teasing? Tell us what your motivations were. We’re waiting to hear from you. Leave a comment below or start a discussion on Facebook.