A everyday story with a different ending
I love walking.
And I like doing it alone.
I feel free; the fresh air on my face, the commotion around me is music when I walk. So relaxing & reliving it is, gives me time to think & rethink, to do all the creative work in my head, all alone.
Walking -Such a simple task
But when I moved to Lahore, it became quite a stressful job which I couldn’t do alone anymore. The walk of 5 minutes had to be thought about for an hour. I had to ask/beg people to accompany me for whatever task I had. The leisure I felt in walking vanished slowly.
Why was it suddenly so hard you ask?
Because the passersby’s won’t stop, harassing me. (From its smallest magnitude to the largest)
No I am not beautiful, or vulgar or anything that has passed your mind when you read this. It’s just because I am a girl.
Whatever attire I am in, be it an abaya or a pair of jeans & tight shirt. The men won’t stop staring, gagging, groping, passing comments, looking at you with lust, or asking you to accompany them.
Why do they do this?
The only answer I have it that they are frustrated inside & out and have nothing better to do.
In the past 3 years I have spent in Lahore. I have been groped many times, heard several unwanted comments & stared at like a piece of meat innumerable times. Seeing a girl suddenly makes them realize that it’s time to praise the All Mighty. And none of this makes a girl feel good!! Rest assured.
When this first happened with me I thought I might have provoked it somehow. So I started to change my path, my dressing. But when the harassing prevailed I realized it’s the society’s sickness and not my fault but at the end of the day I always felt helpless.
This didn’t & hasn’t stopped. I suppose it would never, there hasn’t been a day when I walked the streets & wasn’t in some manner troubled. Even if I was accompanied by anyone be it a male or female it happened. This continued and I would shy out each time. The humiliation I feel each day just because I want to walk around the area, to be able to use my legs, can’t be expressed. I feel caged.
Yes! I am fearful now; imagine all the worst-case scenarios whenever I go out for a walk.
Walking – The simple time off from life was made a hell of a task for me.
So when I went about for my everyday task; buying groceries on the 11.Oct.2014 something of the same happened but ended differently.
At 2pm I walked out of my residence towards the grocery, on a busy road, in a much secured area, it was sunny and windy. What a beautiful day it was. The footpath I walk surrounded by greenery. Imagine the relaxed state of mind I was in.
Just a couple of blocks from me a man stopped his bike and got down and started to do something really embarrassing in public. Disgusted I changed my path. As I passed by a couple of feet away from him, he called out “Bht maza aya”(I had fun).
I have no idea what got into me, maybe it was the adrenaline rush or the frustration of all these years. I turned & threw at him my handbag. Imagine his surprise of someone reacting. I picked up the closest stone & threw it at him. He made a run for it towards his bike. I ran after him with my handbag & bet it maybe a dozen times more with him. A got a lot of spectators, some of them even ran after him. But he had gotten away on his bike.
I haven’t felt this relieved in a long time. I really don’t care if I made a show in public. I did something which I would want every girl out there to do. If this happens with a dozen more of those frustrated men out there they shall think twice before even thinking of harassing anyone.
I realized that I live in a country where there are girls like, Malala who are recognized for their courage, Shermen Obaid for her talent, Asma Jahangir who fights for rights, where we have Naaseem Hameed. Where women are in politics, where we have a thriving industry. Where women if they want to can rise above them all. In a place like this, why do I who knows that I am above all this chose to be harassed and never take any action.
I realized my fault through the years was never taking charge or control over the situation. My fault was that I followed suit, I did what people said “Chahd Parae”(Leave it/ Let it go), I chose to be humiliated each day because I never reacted.
But this time I walked to the grocery with pride & smile. Not the usual tears of humility but the tears of victory.
I feel good & I shall walk as I always do. These people won’t stop harassing me but now I won’t stop overreacting also.
If each one of us tries a little out there, maybe a loud shout or a kick in the nuts, whatever feel continent. Maybe, just maybe, one day, the streets would be women friendly.