Sunday, 9 November 2014

How I escaped rape- Neha Singh

I was still a student at Lady Irwin College, Delhi University. My father had been posted from Guwahati, Assam to Agra, Uttar Pradesh. I was happy that now I wouldnt have to travel 36 hours to reach home, since Agra was just a few hours away from Delhi by train. Holi, the festival of colours was coming up and I had a sizeable chunk of holidays from college. So I decided to visit my parents at Agra. Since it was a rather impromptu decision, I had not booked my train ticket. I just packed my bag and reached New Delhi railway station, hoping to get a reservation in current booking. Alas! At the current booking counter there was a queue so long that if I waited for my turn it would possibly take my entire lifetime to reach the counter. I wanted to get on the Taj Express that left at 5 pm and it was already 3 pm. I confidently walked up to the counter, hoping to get a ticket through student concession or some such luck.
'Sir, is there any way I can get a reserved ticket for the Taj Express?', I enquired, with the most innocent and pitiable face I could make.
The middle aged officer in the typical black coat looked me up and down, smiled and shut the counter. I was surprised at this, but didnt think much of it since the urgency of reaching home in time for the festival was far greater than analysing his behaviour. After all, he was an employee of the government, in uniform, with a name plate, and therefore, someone to be trusted. He asked me to follow him into the office at the back. At first I was hesitant, but when I saw a few women staff sitting in the office and working, I felt reassured.
'Why do you have to stand in the queue? You should have come to me directly instead of standing in this heat', he said sweetly. I was grateful but also a little vary of his biased treatment towards me. He asked me to give him my details and 250 rupees. Then he called one of the other officers, also in a black coat, with a name plate, and much younger than himself, to go to the reservation counter and get me a reserved ticket for the Taj Express. The younger officer muttered under his breath, clearly upset with his senior's differential treatment towards a young student as opposed to the neverending queue of people desparately standing since unearthly hours to get that one, reserved ticket.
I knew this was odd, since neither was I a politician's daughter, nor was I offering a bribe. But I was only too happy to get this unpredicted help from otherwise indifferent government officers. Just to make sure the old man didnt get any bright ideas, I told him I will wait outside the office for my ticket. I went and stood out, hugging my bag and tightly holding my newly acquired cellphone. As I had expected, the old man came out of the office and started making small talk.
'Where do you study? Where in Agra do your parents live? Why are you going home?' etc.
I lied to him about my college, told him with a lot of effect and emphasis that my father was a colonel in the Indian army. It didn't seem to have any effect on the man.
I started looking the other way and playing games on my phone, only to make it clear that all I needed from this man was my reserved ticket and nothing more.
'Will you have some tea or coffee?' he asked me politely. I said no.
He went back in, and then reemerged after a few minutes. I quickly pretended that I was on the phone with my father, giving him details on the train, how I had been lucky enough to meet this 'good samaritan' that had helped me out with the tickets, I even read out his name from his name plate and told my dad, making sure the officer knew that if he tried any tricks on me, my father would know who it was. The situation was getting claustrophobic for me and in a way I was at his mercy since I needed that ticket. It seemed an eternity before the young officer showed up with my ticket.
I checked the ticket. It had my name, a seat number, and 250 rupees was the fare. I couldnt believe my luck, I finally did have a confirmed , reserved ticket in my hands that too without bribing anyone. Now, I was really thankful to both of them and started to leave. The old man stopped me.
'Check the ticket carefully. It is okay, right?' he asked me.
'Yes, sir, thank you so much!'
'Come, let me accompany you to the train so that you dont get lost', he offered
Why on Earth would I want this creepy old man to accompany me when all I wanted at that moment was to get as far away from him as possible?
'Sir, you don't worry, I will help her', the young officer said with a lot of authority in his voice. The old man seemed taken aback by his sudden interference.
'Oh, okay, alright. Make sure she sits in the right place.'
The young officer and I started walking away from the creep.
'Thank you' I said to him. That 'thank you' was not just for accompanying me, but also for getting rid of the old man. He understood exactly what I had meant by that 'Thank you'
'He is not a good fellow. You should never get in touch with him again.' the young man said sternly.
'Yes, he seemed really creepy' I said.
After that the young man didnt say anything to me and just walked beside me till we reached the Taj Express. In my head I thought, for every dirty old man in this world there is also a good man, who makes sure you stay out of trouble. I was lucky that he had helped me escape the old man.
We got on the train. It was choc a block with people rushing home in time for Holi. I found my seat. I sat down and extended my hand to shake hands with him, thank him and say bye.
'You haven't kept a bottle of water. I will just get one for you' he said.
Before I could stop him he had run down.
What a chivalrous man! I thought.
He came back with a paper glass filled with thums up.
'Sorry, this is all I could get' he said.
'Oh, thank you so much, I was really thirsty, infact!' I said and gulped down the entire contents on the glass.
I felt like I had downed an entire bottle of whiskey. Thats when I knew what a big mistake I had made. My eyes felt droopy, my entre body seemed lifeless and I could barely manage to keep my neck from falling to the side.
The young railway officer had drugged my thums up! As soon as he saw the effect the drink had had on me, his eyes changed. He grabbed my arm and started pulling me.
'You arent feeling well, lets get off the train. I will take you to the hospital.'
I grabbed the iron bars of the window and inspite of extreme grogginess I knew that if I let that iron bar go, it could very well be the end of me.
The man kept pulling me, his eyes looked like those of a vulture's ready to attack the weak prey and he kept shouting at me, incomprehensible to me in that state of delirium. I felt my grip loosening. I tried looking around me for help, I saw blurry images of men, women and children, I tried to open my mouth and say 'help' but there wasn't enough strength left in me to utter a word. All I could think of at that time was my impending rape and murder if I let myself get off the train. I mustered up all the strength left in my body and grabbed the iron bars with both hands, while the officer tried pulling me. My eyes were shut now and my mouth parched. But my hands stayed loyal and didnt let me die.
The train began to move, cruelly slow, and the officer tried a last attempt to pull me. Then he got off the train and let me go. I opened my eyes and saw his evil face staring at me from the outside. Thats the last thing I remember, because I fell into such a deep sleep that my mother had to nudge me violently at Agra station to wake me up.
'How can you sleep like a log, without a care for your luggage on a train alone? she asked me.
The events of the day came rushing back to me and a shiver went up my spine imagining all the possibilities had I got off the train. I didnt tell my parents anything about the episode.
When I got back to my college, I confided in a classmate about the incident.
'Its your fault', she said, 'why did you have to take a favour from the officer and why on Earth did you take that drink? Don't you know you should never take anything a stranger offers you?'
I believed what she said to me. I believed it was my fault. I believed that I made a mistake by trusting government officers in uniform. I did not tell anyone about this for a decade since I believed that whatever had happened was because of my own foolishness and naivete.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Answerable question - Devina Kapoor

Been away for a while now, from why loiter, city and life in general. Kept me thinking of how small we are when looked down upon from universe. I, wandering in a park am going to make a difference in the world, well guess not. Fully doubtful about the stand I took 5 months ago. The amount of time and efforts devoted to the group felt useless. Fortunately or unfortunately, in the company of people who asked me this simple question- why loiter?
Guess what- I was out of answers.

After reading the stories people posted on the blog, the amazing video by Shawn Lewis and (after a very long time) meeting one of the most courageous and inspiring woman in my life, Neha Singh. It kept me thinking the same, why loiter. Everybody in our group has different answer to it. For someone its social chilling, independence for someone may be. What was my answer, my motive?

Coming from a small town, to me Mumbai looked like a giant animal with lot of limbs, scattered all around. People running here and there and lost. Lost in gaining something even they don’t know. I remember my very first local train ride in rush hours for a job interview. Life never looked scarier to me. With the little strength in me, I actually survived the journey and train ride became a usual thing, to the extent that I got used to pushing and pulling. On such usual day, with ladies coach full of perspiration and high pitch voices a girl grabbed me with tears and fear in her eyes, asking for help to get down at the next station. I could see a weak me in her. That me, who if the other day didn’t get the courage of making it to the end, would have looked like her. From that day onwards, I never lost that courage. Its always with me.  

All these thoughts made me come to a conclusion. The answer was always there, I just didn’t realize it.

Its very simple – why not loiter.

This city has many sides to it. When it gives you fear, it gives you way to gain courage. If it gives you anger, it has its way of cooling you down. It surely gives you pain but just so that you can find love. And to explore all that, you have to loiter around.