For the first time in almost nine months, while writing this article, I reread an article I wrote on Youth Ki Awaaz about an incident that has haunted me every day since it happened. I can’t believe what I was reading and the impact that it has had since I posted it.
Not a very long time ago, a majority of people around me, including my family and my friends perceived themselves as helpless when something cruel or discriminatory happened to them. They thought they were simply incapable of seeking justice, or even worse, speaking up about what was affecting them. It was common to hear phrases around the house like, “This happens, it’s very common, don’t pay too much attention to it”, “Just ignore it, there’s nothing you can do”, “Only the rich and famous can afford to raise their voice”, “What are you even going to do? You’re not the President.” Somehow, their reasoning never made sense to me. I mean, yes, I surely am not the President, and I am definitely not a millionaire, but does that mean I am helpless? Do I have to have 50,000 followers on Instagram or a title for someone to take me seriously? Contrary to popular belief, OF COURSE NOT.
In July 2017, a man masturbated at a colleague and me at a train station in Mumbai. After the state of shock passed, I took my phone out and filmed him and went and showed the video to the police at the station. They laughed it off and told me to find another seat. As you can imagine, I was seething with rage and disgust. My first reaction was, “I am going to write about this and blow this up on social media. I don’t care what happens.” However, I didn’t get around to writing about it for a number of reasons. I was scared- of being targeted, of being ridiculed, of being harassed. On the other hand, I thought nobody would care about what I had to say. I carried the uneasy feeling gnawing inside me for two weeks. One day, when I read another girl’s account of a similar incident, I decided I had to stop complaining and speak up – for myself and all the other women who go through similar incidences.
Writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me structure my thoughts and sort the delusions from reality and the sensible from the irrational. Writing the article about the incident was strangely, yet unsurprisingly empowering. With every word I wrote, the assurance of the fact that I was doing the right thing kept getting stronger. I KNEW before I’d finished writing, that this was going to stir some things up. I didn’t know what that would be then, but I found out when I published it – within six hours.
From the moment the article was published, it was shared hundreds of times by people I knew and people I didn’t know. Hundreds of people messaged me saying they support me and they themselves, or their girlfriends or sisters have gone through the same thing. This is, to be honest, the only reason I wrote it. I wanted people to know they weren’t alone and they should speak up, but because I couldn’t reach out to them individually, I had to write about on a platform I knew would reach them. The highlight of my account of the incident was the striking and undeniable evidence I had collected, accompanied by my strong words, laced with determination and disappointment. The article took a life of its own within hours of publishing.
The MEDIA kept calling the policemen at the railway station and pressurised them to find the man in the video. Sure enough, they found the perpetrator in six hours (I wrote about that, too) and I was contacted by the police themselves. This to me is a huge shift from the experience I had earlier. What caused this? You can decide that.
Most of the major media houses had covered and followed up on the incident- The BBC, The Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times, ABP Majha, Firstpost, Mumbai Mirror, etc. I still cannot bring myself to believe the fact that AJ+ reported this.
The thing about writing is that it is universal. Irrespective of gender, caste, religion, economic background, words and their relevance is all that matters. You can connect seamlessly with anyone in the world through writing, and if you’re speaking to the right audience, it can be life-changing. I don’t know how much traction this issue would’ve received if I told only a few friends and family about this. This real-life example has reinstated my belief in the power of voicing thoughts and opinions and speaking up against injustice. A bonus was that the Commissioner of the Railway Police said to me, “I like your writing style.” I mean, why shouldn’t I write more? Why shouldn’t YOU write more?
There’s no excuse good enough; there’s nothing holding you back. Staying silent doesn’t and won’t change ANYTHING; things will only change if you DO something about them; why not start with writing?