“Living fearlessly is not the same thing as never being afraid. It’s good to be afraid occasionally. Fear is a great teacher.” – MICHAEL IGNATIEFF
Gone are the days when a girl could walk happily down the street whistling a happy tune, listening to music on her phone, unaware of the world around her. I don’t remember whether those days ever existed but I can clearly say that those days are no more. It could be the news freaking me out or the choice of posts and books I have been reading off late but when I step out of my room which is a little cuboid, my mind is paralyzed with fear.
I have been groped, brushed against, touched inappropriately and jeered at as though I were an animal in a cage and the fear comes from knowing it won’t end there. The fear comes from knowing that I will always need someone to protect me, that I am powerless alone. I want to walk out on the road, not clutching a bag to my chest in fear of being groped. I want to shop at a bazaar, not being mindful that the hawker’s breath is in my face and it reeks of alcohol. I want to sit in an autorickshaw at night, trusting him to take me to my destination without a sideways glance. But, no… I am always wracked with fear, although I may seem fine on the outside. I am always cautious; always second guessing every man that I meet; always alert that the next man I meet might be the one to take undue advantage of me. I want to trust you, dear man but it’s just that I can’t.
I am surrounded by kids all day and my mind becomes so alert when I see one of the help smiling a little too much, while talking to the elder girls. I am glaring at the driver as he innocently throws the pre-schoolers up in the air. I am stealing glances at the shopkeeper as he spends a little extra time with one of the construction worker’s children. I don’t trust smiles anymore. I just can’t find it in me to wholeheartedly trust any man.
I watched this performance by a few of the school girls on Independence Day and I cried, a little because patriotic songs get me teary eyed and a little because of the irony… girls celebrating the freedom of a country when they are honestly not free, when they are shackled by the clutches of fear and doom.
It might be me but I don’t wish you a happy Independence Day, India… you don’t deserve it yet.