Sheetal, 20, is a student in Delhi.
My board exams were around the corner. Even after being taught at school and by my elder sister, mathematics continued to haunt me. So, after school, I joined a private coaching class. I would run to the coaching centre right after lunch everyday.
One day, as I was on my way to the coaching class, a group of boys started making obscene gestures towards me. I ignored them and continued on my way quietly. But they did not stop. Soon it became an everyday torture.
So, just to avoid them, I changed my route and started taking a longer route to the class. I was relieved for a couple of days. But this did not last long. I don’t know how but they figured out my new route and would show up everyday, commenting 'woh dekho maal. 'teach us too' 'oh, aaj neela dupatta, 'at least tell us your size' and many other such rude phrases and offensive remarks.
‘Don’t go alone anywhere’
I could not concentrate on my studies and kept thinking about what they would do next. I started feeling really stressed about it. One day, I decided that I had had enough and that I needed to do something about it.
The next day, on my way to the coaching class, those guys made their usual remarks. I gathered courage and went up to a guy and asked him to stop this nonsense. People gathered around me and instead of asking those guys to pipe down, started explaining things to me.
One woman said, ‘They do this everyday, You let them be’. Another uncle said, ‘You must bring someone with you, then they won’t have the courage’.
Then one of the guys started singing loudly, 'Akeli na bazar jaaya karo' and the others in his group started whistling and laughing loudly. I was so upset that day that I went straight back home.
After missing my coaching classes for two days, my family started asking questions. I was afraid to tell them anything - either they won’t believe me or will stop me from going anywhere!
One day, I was sitting with my sisters Monica and Kiran. They asked me about my preparation for mathematics and I could not control myself. I started crying bitterly. My studies had never given me this level of mental stress.
I told them everything. They got really angry. They decided to teach those boys a lesson.
Just joking, didi
At first, I told them not to make a big deal about it but the next day, instead of going to the office, both of them accompanied me to my coaching class. They let me go ahead and followed closely. As expected, the scooty gang started whistling as soon as they saw me.
Before I could react, both my sisters went up to them and asked them to step down. Monica then punctured the tires of their bike.
‘This is our sister, she goes to her coaching class through this route everyday. And she will use this way whenever and however she wants. Because of the way you behave with women passing through this route, we will file an FIR and maybe even call 100 right now’, Kiran threatened.
All this chaos caused people to gather around. Everyone, who had been a mute spectator to their antics so far, now came forward and started slapping the boys.
However, my sisters asked them to step back.
‘Uncle, these boys have been misbehaving with women in front of you and your shops and you waited for this moment to teach them a lesson? There is no need for slapping these boys. We will file a police complaint against these boys for sexual harassment’, they said.
On hearing this, those boys started pleading for forgiveness and said, 'We were just joking, didi. Why are you involving the police? If you don’t like it, we will stop it from now on.’
Monica Didi was very angry and said, 'It may be just fun for you. But it is a crime. And so we will report’.
The younger of the three boys begged, ‘Please do not call the police, it will not happen after today.’
The news of this incident spread like wildfire. The parents of the boys also came down to plead on their behalf.
My sisters agreed to spare them and not call the police on one condition - if they were found doing this again, with any girl, they would not be forgiven.
I did not see those boys ever again. And to top it all, I secured second rank on my math exam. That was the icing on the cake!
Sheetal 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 bring to light stories of women who fought back against such violence or harassment.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.