*Sheetal, 19, is a commerce student in Kanpur. She shared her story with our writer Anoop Kumar Singh.
A little celebration
I was so happy when I was declared the winner in a debate competition at my college. To celebrate my win, I decided to go out shopping in the evening. There was also an end of the season sale! I called up Sneha – my best friend to accompany me to the market.
Sneha and I tried out many dresses and shoes. Sneha picked up a pair of shoes. I loved one dress – a short, red, knee-length tunic, so much that I decided to wear it and go home.
It was past eight o’clock. We ate our favourite pani-puri before leaving. Sneha’s house was close so she decided to walk. I took a shared auto and headed home.
Mast dress hai
The auto driver dropped me on the main road close to my house. I had to walk for a few minutes to reach home. As I took the lane to go home, I heard some footsteps. I turned back and saw three boys. I did not know them.
I could see my house from the distance, so I started walking fast. They followed.
‘Kya mast lag rahi hai re tu. Mast dress hai’, said one of them and whistled.
I felt scared. I did not know how to react so I started running and they followed. In a flash of a second, one of them groped my breasts from behind and the other one pinched my buttocks. Before I could react or do something, they ran away – giggling and laughing.
Nuksan tumhara hee hoga
I was in a state of shock. I was just a few steps away from home, so I went in quietly. I told my mother I already ate something outside and went to my room. I tried to sleep but could not.
Next day I told my mother about what happened. She hugged me and asked me not to come home late from now on. She also asked me to be mindful of what I am wearing.
‘You are mature enough to understand everything beta. Kal ko nuksan tumhara he hoga, unka kuch nahi jayega’, she said. I did not know how to react.
Aapko darr nahi lagta?
I dumped all the short dresses I had in a suitcase and wore a long kurta and jeans to my college the next day. It must be my fault that I was groped on the street, I thought. After all, I was coming home late, alone and in a short dress.
I couldn’t get the incident out of my head and so I decided to skip the last two classes and head home.
Our domestic help Kamla di was dusting the sofas as I entered home. She is a fashionista in her own way and loves dressing up. That day she was wearing a beautiful backless blouse and a saree.
‘Sab theek hai baby ji?’ she asked me. I just nodded a small yes.
As she gave me some tea and snacks, I asked her, ‘Kamla di, you wear so many beautiful clothes every day and even have to stay out late at night. Aapko darr nahi lagta koi kuch kar dega?’
Be brave and prepared
She started laughing and said, ‘Baby ji, jo ched-chad karte hai, woh aksar darpok hote hain. Unki wajah se main kyu darr darr ke jiyun? Main to wahi pehnugi jo mera mann karega.’
She then narrated an incident where her last boss tried to kiss her. Kamla started shouting on top of her voice and gathered the whole neighbourhood. He was beaten up and taught a lesson.
‘Kasoor aapki dress ka nahi hai, gandi to unki aankhein hai. Bindas jiyo aur chup mat raho. Sharam unko aani chaiye, humko nahi’, she told me.
She always carries red chilli powder in her purse as she often works late evenings. Be brave and be prepared was her mantra.
I thanked Kamla di for her inspiring words. I felt reassured after listening to her and could finally sleep at night. While getting ready for college the next morning, I took out my suitcase and wore the same red dress I bought the other day.
*To protect identity, names have been changed and the person in the picture is a model.