The first day of college also meant the first day of traveling by public transport, having never used buses or trains locally. It was a day of firsts. Travelling by public transport was fast and convenient. India is a country of 1.4 billion people, one can imagine how many people use public transport as a day to day service.
Both buses and trains are forever crowded, by that I mean overcrowded with people hanging on for dear life during peak hours. Word of advice – try to leave early or late, traveling at peak hours is not recommended.
Neha didn’t mind the fact that she had to travel in such situations and soon got accustomed to it. Travelling to and fro from college wasn’t that bad, or at least she got used to it, it’s not like she had much of a choice.
She always did think that traveling by bus was worse than trains. Her reasoning for it was that the roads made it worse with its bumpiness which in turn meant falling on her fellow passengers or sticking to them because of the overcrowded bus. She was the kid who didn’t mind people, but soon there came an instance where she a 16-year-old girl lost faith in people and decided to shut herself out completely.
A regular evening on her way back home by bus. The bus was as crowded as ever. She got on the bus and had to stand. Her stop was one of the last ones and hoped she would get a seat later on in the journey. She was stuck standing surrounded by people as if in a can of sardines, this was still normal. She stood there minding her own business with her earphones plugged in not really bothering about the world around until she felt a hand on her back. She didn’t think much of it cause it could have happened by mistake considering the crowd. The next time she felt something weird happening, was when someone kept touching her back at the same point over and over again. She did look behind her but she couldn’t tell who it was since there were four people directly behind her and it could have been anyone. She assumed she was paranoid and that it must have just been by mistake since clearly there is no place to stand. The touching from the back soon stopped and she really thought she was just hallucinating. Until she felt someone touching her ass which then moved to feel something poking her between her legs. Some creep was trying to touch her and using his hands to rub her through her pants. She didn’t know what was happening then, she tried to move and to stop what was happening but due to the lack of space, there wasn’t really anywhere where she could go. The roads weren’t making it much better with their bumps. Neha wanted to get out but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t even see whose hands it was because of the bags between her and the people around her. She tried to hit the rogue hand, but it’s like that person had no shame and kept going back to touching her. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, but she could do neither. Words refused to come out, she just wanted to get out of there. She soon managed to push her self forward so that she could just get out of the bus. One stop later she managed to make her way through the crowd and get off the bus.
She just stood there on the road. She didn’t know what to do, she didn’t want to go home, she just felt disgusted mainly with herself. She doesn’t remember how long she just stood at that one place, but she was just there, disgusted with herself. It took her a while to get back to her senses and then decided to just get home and crawl into bed. She went on to hail a cab for herself, that’s when she realized that she wasn’t paranoid on the bus, that her bra had been unhooked through her t-shirt and that the pervert was able to unbutton her pants. Eventually, she did get home but she wasn’t really the same after that. She didn’t tell her family what happened, she didn’t tell her friends. For over eight years she has kept quiet about this incident.
She realized the mistake she had made that she should’ve shouted or screamed or gone and complained, but she didn’t. She was ashamed of herself, she didn’t know better. Now she wishes she would have done something, maybe the pervert would have been taught a lesson, but she didn’t and now she thinks that cause of her there is a chance that he could have done the same with the next person and thinking that he truly can get away with it.
It has been eight odd years and the thought of that day still haunts her on and off. It’s something that one doesn’t wish on anyone. The simple act of being touched by someone without your consent can mean a lifetime of not allowing anyone to touch you ever again, to be afraid to use public transport or just to ever let anyone near you both emotionally and physically.
What saddens me is that people don’t understand the meaning of consent, it’s cause of these perverts that victims will always remain traumatized and also why parents of both boys and girls worry about the safety of their kids irrespective of how old they are.
Is this place ever going to be safe for anyone?
(The above narration is based on a true-life story. Names of the people and actual locations have been changed to maintain the privacy of the individuals.)
If you have a story which you want to tell but haven’t because you want it to be anonymous, then you can email me at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and I will help you tell the story like I’ve with the one above. Your story can help inspire people.