When I walked away…

About a week ago, I was walking home from the gym in the morning and walked past a car that had two people hiding  standing behind it. A teenage girl dressed in a school uniform that I recognised, a school in the same locality that started a half hour later, and a guy in his twenties dressed in regular clothes who looked like a driver/auto kaaran. Its a quiet, middle and upper-middle class residential locality, fairly early in the morning and they clearly looked like they were in the wrong place.

I would have walked past quietly had I thought they were just a young couple having a little time alone, perhaps stealing a quick hug or kiss in the corner of the road early in the morning. But as I walked past, I locked eyes with the girl for a second, and I thought I saw a look of fear in her eyes. It sickened me and I stopped there, on the pretext of checking my phone and was fiddling around with my phone for a few minutes. The guy had his back to me, and I just looked at the girl, hoping that she would have the courage to walk away from him, or atleast give a tentative smile to say that it was okay. She did neither, but just looked away. I didn’t know what to do further, so after messing around with my phone for another minute, I walked away. About 20 feet down the road, I turned around casually and saw the guy grab the girl’s hand. I didn’t know what to do further… and just walked away.

A couple of days ago, while leaving work… a girl and her grandmother walked past me. She had a massive black eye and one entire side of her cheek was bruised. They rushed past me quickly, talking quietly amongst themselves. And she was dressed in a Corporation school uniform with her hair braided into two plaits and folded up.

I’ve been spending sometime over the past few days thinking about both these incidents… and the feeling of helplessness that overcomes me is sickening. At random moments, I keep remembering the look of fear in that girl’s eyes, a girl who was just a few years younger than me. We live in such a violent violent world.

I occasionally chat with the household help at my house, and my grandmother’s house. These women have got their children and grandchildren married off so young and each time I chat with them, I try to impress upon them the fact that violence is absolutely unacceptable. They nod their head as if in understanding, and yet, I can see them think… ‘What does she know?’

I guess I should be thankful that I only feel helpless and that I don’t feel the fear that would overcome someone who is being subjected to such violence. I wish I could have done something more on both those days, something more than walking away… but even if I think about it now, I don’t know what I could have done.

I read on so many blogs about the Violence Against Women Awareness month. In case you’ve missed it, read about it here: http://vawawareness.wordpress.com/

If you’re a victim yourself, please speak up… there is a compassionate world out there, with people willing to help you. If you aren’t a victim, but see something happen, try to do something about it – even if its as simple as blogging about it. And by all means, if there is something you can do about it  – stop for a moment and do it.

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20 thoughts on “When I walked away…

  1. SO true .. SPEAK up is always good .. if you area victim speak up if you See anything wrong happening then too SPEAK up ..

    is all do that soon i think things will change ..

  2. Very good post and topic! It is sad about the times we are living in because not only do we have to look out for our own safety, but also be aware of other people who may be in trouble.

    A benefit of today’s technology is definitely the cell phone. This enables us to access help conveniently and quietly, if possible.

    Thank you for visiting my blog again and honoring me with the prestige of being on your blogroll ~ that truly made my day! Yes, indeed, you have my permission 🙂

    Best Wishes for a wonderful and safe weekend 🙂
    Fiona

  3. If we really want to make a difference we should start discussing an action plan. Can we give, say one hour a week of our time to discuss the poa? Can we make the time to get a “neighbourhood watch” together? What options do we have if such a situation arises again? Who to phone? What action to take? What action would be tactful yet firm? How do we ensure that these aren’t consenting adults but someone needing help? Unity, discussion and action are, to my mind, the key words. And there’s safety in numbers. Life shouldn’t get so busy that safety in our neighbourhood becomes something we uneasily think about. If decent folks feel embarrassed to, or hesitate for any reason to, interfere, low moralled low lives will continue deliberately banging into women, invading their space and touching them offensively on our roads.

    1. @K.Mathur: How true! That’s the reason I felt so guilty and so uncomfortable about just walking away. I was slightly disgusted with myself that I just walked away. But again, it comes down to the question you asked: “How do we ensure that these aren’t consenting adults but someone needing help?”

  4. I can relate to that feeling…when you felt you should have done something, stopped by and asked if everything was okay.

    And given a tight slap to the jerk acting fresh with you!

  5. These things will stop only if the women give right when and where it is deserved. We all hear so many such stories, it really is sickening to know that violence continues to happen. It always reminds me of a now-cliched reminder of how we worship women and girls as devis on the one hand, and leave them devastated at every step on the other. Such a shame, no?

    1. Completely agree. Worshipping women as Goddess and still not giving them the basic rights and respect they deserve – that’s another depressing thought and would probably deserve entire essays and stories devoted to it.
      But the good thing is that I can see so much change coming about. That being said, I still believe its a lot safer to empower and protect ourselves while we wait for society to mend its ways. Which is why I’m a staunch advocate of carrying a safety pin while travelling by public transport and stepping hard on the foot of a guy who tries to mess with you.

  6. I think pepper spray would usually do the trick. But, in the cases you’ve written about in your post, the problem is much bigger. Yes, it is weird that people worship Goddesses and yet we see such violence against women. Maybe it helps that the Goddesses usually wield some pretty intimidating weapons. Perhaps, a safety pin would be a good starting point :).

    1. Where do you get Pepper spray? I think you need to get it at a Police Station – it was being handed out as part of an awareness drive/something of the sort in the suburban areas a few months ago. A safety pin – easier to find, and causes enough pain to keep a pervert out of the way in crowded places. Thanks for your comment!

  7. I hear you!

    Being the hopeless busybody that I am, I *think* I would probably have stopped and engaged the guy in some kind of conversation while I tried to gauge what was going on. Routine stuff, like “can you tell me the route from here to XYZ place behind ABC tower on such and such road?”.

    Still, hindsight is always 20/20 and all that.

    Walking away from someone else’s abusive situation is always tough, but at some point you have to acknowledge that there’s nothing you can do about it at that point of time. Not acknowledging that fact doesn’t help the situation at all but does cause needless torment to you.

    About all we can do is make as much noise as possible until people stop to listen. Blogging helps. Doing it in real life helps even more.

    Physical abuse should be a deal-breaker. It doesn’t matter how much actual injury it causes. Any attempt at physical abuse almost always means that the protagonists in the relationship have far too little respect for each other as individuals. In which case, the relationship is pretty much dead in the water.

    1. That is a brilliant idea. I should have tried asking for directions. Hindsight seriously sucks 😐
      “at some point you have to acknowledge that there’s nothing you can do about it at that point of time.” – Sad, but unfortunately so true. Even if you try to help someone out, its not going to be of much help unless they choose to help themselves.

      Cynically engineered, thank you for reading and for your very sensible comment 🙂

  8. I’m sorry you had such a difficult burden… It is sometimes so hard to figure out how to approach situations that have the hair on your arms lifting! You just know it’s not good. The best thing we can do is educate people. Hopefully with understanding, there is better self-esteem – which in turn lets anyone know they do not have to be a victim of any form of abuse.

    I wrote about a friend removing herself from an abusive situation. Here’s the link if you are interested: http://souldipper.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/substance-feeds-the-hungry/

    I had to write carefully because I do not know who reads my blog…

    However, she was in a situation of emotional and mental abuse. It takes a while to realize sometimes! She is the example others need to know about.

    Our planet has to move to the kind of respect you speak about in your comments. Abuse will no longer be invisible. Transparency has many benefits and this is one of them!

    1. Souldipper, thanks for your comment. I read a few posts on your blog and enjoyed reading them. Will come back to read more.. 🙂
      And yes, I’ve heard so many examples of women who successfully get out of emotional and mental abuse, and they are truly inspirational. But a problem arises when its just a random person on a road and you don’t know for sure whether something is wrong or not. Something tells you that its not right and yet, there’s little you feel like you can do. Education and awareness is the only way out!

  9. Empowering is required – not only for the person who is going through the abuse but for the spectators who want to help but cannot as they can be accused of prying in someone else’s life.

    I had my first brush with domestic violence scenario recently. It was late evening, and my hubby had to pick a package from local courier company. I and kids were sitting in the car, when I spotted a couple sitting on the side railing of the road. Both looked from a well to do family. I admired the girl’s beauty initially…but gradually observed that she was crying. The guy was speaking furiously. Suddenly he got up and motioned her to sit on scooter with her. She refused. By now..they had my full attention. Suddenly he slapped her…I gasped in shock…I had never ever seen any grown up woman being slapped like that…moments later he twisted her arm…and she cried in pain. I impulsively got out of the car. Both observed me…the moment I took a step towards them, she motioned me to back off. I never ever felt so helpless before. She sat behind the scooter and went off 😦

    All I could do was look worriedly behind them. Ahhh!! I feel so bad even now.

    What could I do? After all, it was their personal matter. I followed the Bell Bajao concept; yet could not do anything to help her out 😦

    1. That’s a really sad situation to be in, when you see something happen before your eyes and yet, there’s nothing you can do. I think the word ‘personal matter’ needs to be redefined, especially when we see situations like this arise right before our eyes, in public places. Behind closed doors, there’s little we can do. But atleast if its in public, there should be something that a bystander can do.
      The guilt that you feel when you just walk away is so difficult to bear, but I tell myself to be thankful for the fact that I understand that violence in any form is wrong.

      Thank you for reading 🙂

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