of revelations: the shoes and the potential rapist

Nobody thought I could be lying about being obsessed about shoes, or about a blogger who wanted to date rape me? You were right. I don’t make jokes about rape. Or shoes.

So here’s the truth, and nothing but the truth.

The shoes

In 1999, just before I started college, my cousins decided to take me out shoe shopping. I had saved exactly 1500 bucks (that’s roughly $24) and I specifically told them this was my shoe and clothes budget. They were a bunch of brand conscious kids so they didn’t care about my budget and took took me to a Nike factory outlet anyway.

The moment I entered, I saw a wall full of white and blue, white and yellow sneakers. My head reeled. All I owned at home was a pair of dirty blue-grey hawaii chappals, a pair of white canvas shoes (the school uniform ones) and a pair of black ballerinas (again, school uniform shoes), and a pair of red sandals for parties, etc.

So I inched closer and closer, when one of the bros stopped me and said – this is the men’s section, and dragged me to a scantier wall, where I saw pink and blue shoes. One pair clearly stood out – black canvas with red laces – and I fell in love. I paid 750 for it, and on my way home I was wondering if I should’ve bought another pair, just in case. I never stopped buying them.

This was 1999, people. I think I may have started the canvas shoe fetish.

Do you wear canvas shoes too? Ever realize you have a similar obsession about something?


The date rape

This is a story from two or three months ago. I was new to IndiBlogger, and was done lurking in the shadows, so I gingerly entered the group chat. I made “friends” with a blogger, who then proceeded to chat me up via IndiMail, the personal messaging system on IndiBlogger. To be honest, I knew that if I were a man, he wouldn’t have done that, but you know how I am about wanting to fit in, so I responded to him once in a while.

Soon he started following this blog, and left random comments that reeked of I know you so well. I do not like people who try to act over-familiar, so my responses to him became delayed and scanty and mostly contained smileys and thank yous.

On IndiBlogger, it was difficult to ignore him. He kept talking about the fact that he used to write soft porn, to which I never responded. Then he asked me if I wanted to be interviewed on his blog – I didn’t really want to, but politely said sure. He sent me some grammatically incorrect questions, very badly framed, and I asked if he wanted me to correct the English for him, and he didn’t say anything about it, so I was pretty relieved.

Two months ago, he realized that I had said nothing about the interview. So he sent me this:

DVD

Of course I already knew he was saying this in jest, but I just couldn’t let it slide. So I confronted him, saying I didn’t appreciate jokes about rape, and he said he only meant it as a joke.

I blocked him. Then I thought some more, and reported him to the IndiBlogger team. Not because I felt threatened by him. I’m sure he didn’t even mean it, but it angered me. What kind of insensitive person jokes about rape?

What would you have done? If you could address this guy directly, what would you say?  

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of perspectives

We used to spend a lot of time together, and as any other twenty year old, I developed feelings for SN. I knew he liked me too, and we came really close to making out one day, but didn’t – because it felt wrong to be the other woman in his girlfriend’s life.

Besides, he was just so wrong for me. He used to drink and smoke and make dirty jokes I couldn’t even understand. And he claimed that he had had sex with his girlfriend but didn’t want to marry her. That last bit gave me a little hope but I knew he didn’t want to marry me either.

I once told a friend, incidentally the same friend who came to pick me up from outside SN’s house when he tried to rape me, I’m in love with the wrong type of guy.

But you know all that. I told you before. What you don’t know is why I pulled these posts out of my drafts now, ten years after this happened.

It was because recently SN contacted me, out of the blue, and I couldn’t deal with it for a number of days because he seems to have a completely different memory of what happened that day.

Picture1

After I got his messages, I didn’t know what to do.

I told my ex-husband, who asked me to either ignore him, or meet him and listen to his side of the story. I couldn’t do either, because I thought I had forgiven him and moved on.

But I was wrong.

I’m still angry. It has taken me years to get over what he did to me that day. For the longest time I couldn’t trust anyone or look at a man. It took me years of counseling for it to finally sink in that it was really not my fault.

And the fucktard thinks it’s okay for him to come barging into my life and discredit my memory of what happened that day?

He says I thought he tried rape. He says it was an easy word. He says he is disgusted and that I spoiled his life.

I say he’s a lunatic. 

of betrayal

Memories of abuse that I couldn’t deal with made me start this blog exactly a year ago, and I thought that it was only fit that I end the year by talking about this episode that left me emotionally crippled. For the longest time I put off writing about this, but I also know that if I don’t get it out now, I never will.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for all the love.

 


 

Ana?

S! How are you!

The words had barely escaped my lips when he consumed me in a giant bear hug. God, I haven’t seen you in years! How are you?

Asphyxiated, I wanted to say. But I said engaged, just to see how he would react. I thought I saw a flicker of emotion in his intense brown eyes and a bead of sweat on his forehead. Was he this short back then?

That’s great news! Tell me all about the lucky guy! 

I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t pass up that opportunity to rub my awesomeness in his face. Let him realize he misses what he was too chicken to claim. I went on and on as he sipped his coffee. He was awfully quiet, and I was insanely happy about that.

Does he like to dance, he finally asked.

So you remember my checklist! Yes. He dances really well. And he cooks and is very patient. He never gets angry. He’s perfect! 

He was obviously jealous. Have you guys had sex yet? Or are you still waiting for the right guy?

Actually, yes, I said. And then I realized I shouldn’t have.

After a moment of awkward silence, I got up, saying I had to go to work, and he asked if I was still working in Gurgaon. Yes, I said again, surprised that he remembered that little detail about me. We hadn’t been in touch for two years save one birthday phone call.

He told me he was headed home (which was in Gurgaon), and that he could drop me to work. I was about to say no, thanks, my shift doesn’t start until 5 pm and I’ll take the cab, but he mentioned his bike, and my face lit up like a fucking house on Diwali (yes, I know I’ve said that before, but in an entirely different context – my face was on fire that night).

I agreed to go with him to Gurgaon. I just have to go home and change. That way I can just go to office right after I drop you.

Sure!

Big mistake.

An hour later, I was at his house, sprawled on his bed like a dirty bed cover. And there he was, sitting on my chest, his knees holding my arms down, his crotch dangerously close to my face. All I could hear was the thumping of my heart and a few incoherent words.

You bitch! How could you let him touch you!

Then I felt his hands on my crotch. Did he touch you like this? What else did he do to you?

Let me go. Please! My head reeled as he moved his unwanted fingers all over my body. I tried to cry but the tears just wouldn’t come. I trusted you, S. Why are you doing this to me?

I loved you, you cunt, and you never once let me touch you. 

I knew it was true. He and I had become friends after I bumped into him at the graduation party. We had hung out at his place many times, and had developed some sort of feelings for each other. I knew he liked me, but I also knew he had a girlfriend back in Kanpur. His face came very close to mine one day, and I asked if he intended to marry me.

Sure. But there was a hint of hesitation in his voice that I couldn’t ignore.

And now, there he was, trying to rape me. Take what I wasn’t willing to give him readily – not then, not now. I had to do something.

I didn’t even know you loved me… you never said anything, I said as he unbuttoned my jeans with one dexterous move. Carefully, slowly, I whispered the words I loved you too, but you never said anything!

As expected, he paused. You’re at an advantage when you know your potential rapist.

I tried to tell you that day, but I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t know how you would react! I felt ashamed of myself for being such a lying, conniving, manipulative bitch, but it was me or him, and I chose me.

He eased his weight off my body and slowly got up, sobbing.

I got off the bed, hugged him, and wiped his tears. You can’t marry that guy, he said.

We need to talk about this S., but first you need to calm down. Go, wash your face.

As soon as he entered the washroom, I sprang off the bed and bolted the door from outside. I picked up my bag as he pounded on the door, demanding that I unlock it, or else.

I slipped on the stairs, twice. I called the first friend I could think of who lived in Gurgaon.

I said in as calm a voice as I could: Listen, I need help. S. tried to rape me, and I ran away. I don’t know where I am, but I can’t be far from his house. Can you pick me up?

He found me under a tree, sitting quietly, staring at the road.

Oh my god, are you okay? What happened?

Nothing. I’m fine.

He took me to the nearest coffee shop and we sat down, and I told him everything. But the tears wouldn’t come.

That bastard. Promise me you’ll never speak to him again.

My phone rang. It’s him.

I didn’t answer. My phone rang again and again. I didn’t answer.

Then, a message. I’m looking for you so I can drop you to office. Answer your phone, goddammit!

Leave me alone is all I could type.

I couldn’t go to office. I called in sick and went to my future (now ex) husband’s office. One look at me and he knew something was wrong. What happened Ana, he asked.

I told him. I saw anger in his otherwise passive eyes – I saw him tremble with rage. Give me his phone number is all he said. I handed him my phone.

And then I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

 

of feminism and checklists

You’d remember that I wrote about an IPS officer’s friendly checklist for women who want to stay safe.

Someone left the following comment for me there, and my response was so long-winded, I thought it might just be better to write a new post.

And then there was the fact that this way you can actively engage in the conversation and tell me what you think.

Here’s what TheKomentor had to say:

Though I can sympathize with the fact that you were injured in an accident, I really don’t find anything wrong with that police list. Those are just common sense instructions that every woman can follow to have a better chance of staying safe in public places. And it isn’t like the police are shirking their responsibilities; they are just saying you can stay safe even without them if you do those things. Of course everyone of us wants the freedom to dress and behave and live our lives the way we want to, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is oftentimes just a word — we, both men and women, are living under limitations, and we are safer when we stay within those limitations. It is like saying I should have the freedom to touch fire, and then blaming others when I get burned.

Let’s talk about her perspective, point-by-point.

I really don’t find anything wrong with that police list.

Take a closer look.

Police

  1. What does he mean by ‘dress decently’? What is less provocative? A saree that leaves my midriff exposed or jeans and a t-shirt? Who is to say rapists will have exactly the same sense of fashion and modesty that I do?
  2. About being well-behaved – should I be greeting potential rapists with my hands folded? Or is he implying that women walk around “inviting” men through provocative gestures?
  3. If I can’t travel in crowded buses/trains, should I be boarding nearly empty buses/trains? Isn’t that what Nirbhaya did? I’m confused. Are you?

Those are just common sense instructions that every woman can follow to have a better chance of staying safe in public places.

Yes. I agree. I proactively do most of the things on that list. These things are not necessarily making us safe, because we do get “eve-teased” in broad daylight and in groups, but I’m with you on this one.

Most Indian women would agree that we’ve been forced to become street smart. We know, just by means of a quick glance, who is looking at us and how. We don’t go to ‘wine shops’, we don’t step out in the dark without male escorts, and we wear shrugs and leggings with dresses when we step out even if at the cost of looking like buffoons. We’re already doing all that.

But we don’t need a police officer to tell us these things. Unless, of course, they are talking to a specific woman who likes to walk around naked and dances provocatively in a crowded bus full of lusty men in the middle of the night, and then asks why she got raped. That woman, my friend, should be the poster girl for this checklist. Do you know her?

And it isn’t like the police are shirking their responsibilities; they are just saying you can stay safe even without them if you do those things.

Ummm… nope. What they are saying is: boys will be boys, and women just have to work around that.

They are making it our responsibility to stay safe. If something untoward happens, the same guy will first ask the victim where she was, what she was doing there at that time of the day/night, whom she was with, whether her family knows she hangs around with boys, etc. More questions will follow, centered around this checklist – ‘what were you wearing’ will be something that will finally make it the victim’s fault.

Of course everyone of us wants the freedom to dress and behave and live our lives the way we want to, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is oftentimes just a word — we, both men and women, are living under limitations, and we are safer when we stay within those limitations.

I disagree. Vehemently.

Just because it’s a bad world does not mean we have to live with it. Things will only get better if we take a stand, and I don’t mean just women.

We ALL have to stop saying these checklists make sense. Because they don’t make any sense because when they come from other people, they’re coming from someone who believes in victim blaming and slut shaming.

I’m not ok with that. I will do what I need to do to stay safe. I don’t need the police to tell me what I should do to not be raped. What I do need them to tell me is what they are doing to keep me safe. See what I mean?

My freedom is just a word until I believe it’s just a word.

It is like saying I should have the freedom to touch fire, and then blaming others when I get burned.

I don’t even feel like dignifying this with a response.


I know, I know, I have got to stop the sermonizing. But I can’t help it. There’s so much going on in our world these days, I can’t be an ostrich anymore. I think it’s time we stopped and thought about how little ‘friendly suggestions’ like this are adding to the gender issues we already have.

What do you think?

Please play nice. Just because you disagree with someone’s views does not mean you have to be disrespectful.

of opinions

Letter

Here’s a rough translation for my non Hindi-speaking friends:

Rapes can be prevented through a careful development of character.

1.  20 years ago, entire families would sit gathered round the television set watching the Ramayana. A scene with Ram, Sita, or Hanuman would result in exultations, folded hands, and heads bowed in respect.  We would wait all week for Sundays to arrive, for that is when we got to experience this out-of-the-world experience of watching our favorite gods come alive on T.V. We could think of nothing else, talk of nothing else all week.

2. Now, however, all we watch is pornography. You can pay the local shopkeeper Rs. 10 and he will load 500 porn video clips on your mobile. These clips are available to anyone and everyone, be it a 10 year old boy or an old man. This, in my opinion is the main reason rapes are happening. These porn videos are affecting the mindsets of hundreds of people.

3. We should have a system in place where the Senior Superintendent of Police in each district should give instructions to each police station to strictly punish those who download pornography on their computers or mobile phones by humiliating them in front of the public for five days and then putting them behind bars for six months.

4. Every single city has a Residents Welfare Association (RWA). These RWAs should keep close checks on drivers, gardeners, domestic helps, etc. They should randomly raid groups of said people sitting together to check their phones, because this is the strata of society that sits together and makes crude  remarks on women passing by. Keeping them in check will help the cause a lot.

5. I will respect every woman as though she were my mother/sister/daughter. Over their lifespan, people sign a lot of documents in banks, hospitals, and for employment purposes. Wherever signatures are required on a form, they should also be asked to sign against the statement –  I will respect every woman as though she were my mother/sister/daughter.  This will act as a reminder of the pledge every man should take. It will reinforce the good values almost like a small dose of a much-needed medicine.

Guess where that came from. An auto-rickshaw driver. Raghuveer has a stack of photocopies of this essay and he hands them to his sawaaris (passengers), hoping that one day the world will become safer for the women in his family.

Now I don’t think that things are as black and white as he thinks, but who would’ve thought that a barely-educated middle-aged Indian man in a blue collar job would have such well-defined views about sexual abuse. I’m impressed and thankful.

What do you think? Tell him at +91-995-835-8540.

Leave a note to let me know you did 🙂