Shahrain’s Story

Catcalling, a shove of the shoulder in a crowded street/gathering or being groped in broad daylight, smack in the middle of the street where I lived – I’ve seen it all. 

I was accustomed to being cat-called as a child. I have a vague recollection of the very first time I was eve-teased. I was alone, minding my own business and on my way to the store to buy bread. 

There were a bunch of guys (oddly enough, they find strength in numbers even if what they’re doing is harassing a little girl) who may have been about 4 or 5 years older to me. Although I don’t remember the exact words they’d used to tease me, I can still remember how scared, anxious and powerless I had felt then. 

By the time I’d reached home, I was angry and shaking. My natural reaction was to relate the incident to everyone at home. My uncle who was rightfully enraged by what the boys had done decided to confront them. 

Once I told him where it was that the incident had occurred, he went back there. The boys fled the scene because they knew that their game was up. 

What followed could very well be described as a scene from a random Bollywood film. The boys ran, my uncle chased them (he even jumped over a wall to get to them). But alas, he couldn’t get very far because he’d broken his hand after all the wall climbing and the tumbling that followed.

My uncle came back home in pain and enraged because he could do nothing. But whenever I look back at the incident, I feel validated because I felt like someone had my back despite the circumstances. He could have asked me to ignore the incident, take it in my stride or be the one to walk away and so on… As many people who I have since encountered have told me. 

Fast forward a few years, we had moved neighbourhoods a few times but I was still a kid. My mum would send me to the store that was at the end of the street to buy everyday groceries and pretty soon a bunch of boys (who were probably neighbours) would very studiously call out to me in a name they chose for themselves. They would tease, they would taunt but by this time I had learnt to just ignore them. So it didn’t affect me as much when the months rolled by. 

This was also the very street where a middle-aged possibly drunk man groped me in broad daylight. I remember not being able to move. I felt like I was glued to the spot and my limbs wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t even utter a word or shout. The man who groped me performed his act and went along his way without a second thought. What angers me the most when I think of this incident is the fact that he was beyond nonplussed and completely unrepentant of his actions.

— A few weeks back our team had reached out to people within and outside of our community to share their experiences of abuse. This story is a result of that.

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