I have been asked many times if I have ever been teased on the streets and how have I retaliated. I have also been asked if I have ever resorted to violence since I am a martial arts practitioner. My answer to them almost always has been that violence has got to be the last resort. Any time. A recent incident crops up in my mind. It thus happened that I was just walking home after purchasing some beer. This urchin was walking towards me from the opposite direction. As he came closer, he puckered his lips by way of a kiss, leaned in and make squeaky sounds all the while looking at me. At first I tried to ignore and he crossed me saying the word ‘ch*denge‘ loudly. I felt a sudden outpouring of rage. My hands weren’t free since I was carrying the bag which had three beer bottles. The other vendors and shopkeepers noticed what happened and they were looking at me. Expectantly, I guess. Maybe for some kind of reaction. I turned on my heels and followed the urchin who, by now, was a good ten yards ahead walking with the swagger of a minion. I caught up with him, leaned closer to him and said with a smile on my face, ‘Aap kuchh keh rahein the? Sorry mujhe sunai nahin diya.’ — You were saying something? Sorry, I couldn’t hear it properly. His face darkened. He mumbled something like, ‘No. Nothing. I… I…’ I insisted that he repeat the word/words/sound/sounds. I balanced the heavy bag in one hand and caught his emaciated arm with my other hand. It was a grip that could have put Thor to shame. I begged him to repeat the words since they were inaudible. He tried his best to break away from my clutch and vanish. But urchin strength was no match to that of a Karateka. Though his audacity was sky high. I dragged him to the exact spot where he had made the remarks. By now he was almost in tears. Bystanders had by now gathered to see some fireworks. There were none. No slaps. No karate chops. No kicks in the groin or shin bone. Urchin folded his hands and said sorry in a trembling voice and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. The moment he disappeared, the bystanders started a discourse among themselves how ‘unsafe’ it is for women these days. Some even looked at me questioningly wondering what was in my bag. I walked away from the scene leaving the philosophers with their thoughts, kind of happy with my action. This was recent.
Long back, while on a drive with my partner, we were scouting for a quiet place to stop the car and chit chat. We stopped behind this big educational institution and it was nice and quiet. Plain conversation. No steamy back-seat make-out session. And we weren’t even drinking. That’s when a group of local mastaans or goons surrounded the car and started lecturing us on the moral implications of getting ‘cozy’ in a bhodro or decent neighbourhood. They knocked on the windshield and started making quite a racket. My partner insisted that we stay calm and not react and that they would just leave us alone after a while. As it turned out, they were in a mood to party. The racket slowly turned into a dissection of a woman’s personality – a woman who is alone in a car with a man that too in a quiet and dark area. Blood shot to my brain and despite my partner’s pleading I stepped out of the car and glared at eight well-built goons who were probably high on hooch. I caught one by the collar and dragged him away towards a nearby pond. He was not expecting this because the moment I caught him by the collar, he was as meek as a mouse and even begged me to let him go. The other mastaans followed me, their steps unsure. While still grabbing his collar I asked him who he was and who is the local councilor of this municipality. The doormouse squeaked a name and I asked him to take me to him. By now my partner was out of the car screaming and shooing away the other goons. The doormouse suddenly fell on his knees and apologized and even invited us for the upcoming Kali Puja function.
Not always do you need to resort to violence. The lesson here is the weirdos least expect you to retaliate and that’s where their swagger comes from. Speak out. Be heard. You don’t even need to practice your chops and kicks. Or maybe I’m oversimplifying it. Bottomline is, a sudden strong reaction is enough to throw a wrench in their plans of harassing you. That buys you a few seconds’ reaction time.
However, what I’m gonna narrate now is shocking since this happened at a place where you would least expect such incidents to take place what with the ‘tight’ security cover and burly bouncers on the prowl. Not gonna name the place as it might just jeopardize their excellent rapport and PR with ‘guests’. All I can say is I used to work there once.
It was Bengali New Years’ eve and my partner and I were with two other friends – a lady who works with a radio channel and a gentleman who’s into consulting. We drove from one party to this pub that’s nestled within the cozy confines of this five-star property. It was one happening night and the music was awesome. Beer flowed free. My lady friend and I started dancing when this firang moved closer to us. He sized us up and made inviting gestures. I pulled my friend by the hand and moved away. What a determined scumbag he was! The blondie followed us and even tried making conversation. We ignored him completely and soon it was time for us to leave. It was well beyond 1 am. We waited at the parking lot for our car while I lit up a cigarette. My partner, my lady friend and our gentleman friend were there too. The car arrived, driven by the valet. As I walked towards it, I heard someone say, ‘C’mon baby light my fire… Hey let’s take this fatass in red pants home…’ The accent was Irish? Or was it Australian? My pants were definitely red, though and I have no qualms in admitting that I have been blessed with a generous derriere. I had a good mind to shout back a comment on the blondie’s sexual apparatus being a weakling which is why his voice was so loud but then, the car was already there. My lady friend got in beside the driver’s seat. My partner was driving. I was boarding behind her when blondie tried to push his way into the car with my lady friend. At first I didn’t know what was happening. He was probably so drunk that he didn’t realize it wasn’t his ride. But his telltale smirk gave him away. It was a deliberate gesture. I screamed and called the security. The burly bouncers were probably wearing tutus and ballet flats because they saw the incident happening but didn’t get anywhere close. The ex-army security manager was AWOL. My partner stepped out of the car and tried dragging blondie by his scruffy beard out of the car. Poor guy was only five feet five. But then, as we turned, we saw thirteen extremely well-built (they could have been a rugby team) firangs step out of the pub smelling of beer and stale lettuce leaves. My partner had an open invitation for them – ‘I could take all thirteen of you in one go’. A melee ensued as all of them pounced on my partner. He lost his spectacles somewhere in the dump but escaped unhurt. As the rugby team jostled in the self-made huddle, my partner and I stood watching them in the act. My lady friend who is petite even managed to retrieve his spectacles from within the huddle. I desperately called for the security who were actually apologetic to the firangs for dirty Indians like us picking up a fight. The bar manager stepped out of the pub. Of course I won’t reveal his name but he is very well-known in the circuit – as old and as famous as the pub itself! He asked my partner to drive away and not cause the property any more embarrassment. Instead of standing by us, he made the whole incident look like a drunken brawl initiated by us. The thirteen firangs finally realized that their enemy was invisible and gave up the fight. They headed towards the entrance to the property so that they could catch us as we drive away. The whole incident was brushed off as a spec of dust on silk. It could have gotten ugly. But thanks to us Indians, we believe the guest is god – atithi devo bhava. That’s why a group of goras were pardoned for molesting and harassing my dusky, beautiful Indian lady friend.
We must keep our eyes and ears open all the time, our senses sharp and alert, our voices loud and clear. It feels good though that I have finally been able to narrate the last incident on a public forum. I hope we all take some lessons from the three incidents – which might seem isolated but take place with alarming regularity these days.