I know it has been a long time since I posted the ‘Hello Post’. However, I read this post over a hundred times before I finally had the courage to post it here. So this blog post is special to me, these are events that I refuse to think about even today. Some of which I had the strength to share with family and friends, and some, I try to convince myself that it never happened. So here it is!
Quite often I travel alone by public transport and I usually enjoy it. From just staring out the window, seeing chains of hills passing by, glancing at busy people climbing in and out of the bus; to overhearing secret conversations, and feeling sad for the tireless bus driver who angrily looks at the conductor at every whistle.
One day I was returning home, and that’s when this happened. The bus was not very crowded, usually, it seems like a thousand feet shuffling around to grab a seat. But there it was calm and serene. He quickly blew the whistle, the bus halted for a second and people rushed in. There were no empty seats and people were standing. I was seated two seats behind the driver. It is a custom to feel safe for everybody, especially a girl to sit close to the driver’s seat. It makes me wonder how any traditional parent, would advise there children to strictly avoid strangers but a bus driver can seem trustworthy on their first meeting, that they would request to drop their children safely at their destination.
This man stood right next to me, he was drunk. He looked straight into my eyes and I felt the wave of discomfort. I looked away. He took his cellphone, and he clicked a picture. I heard it the first time. I stared at him, and he immediately acted like he was on the phone with someone else. I had that feeling whether he was trying to fool me, but I thought to myself that it was probably a mistake. Then he went on to take more pictures of me, standing in front of many other strangers in a moving bus. He clicked quite a few, and I heard it myself. There was a girl behind him, telling me in action that I was in that photo, but I couldn’t really do anything, could I? Several others told me, and more than half of the people on the bus knew this happened at that moment. But no one asked him or checked his phone. I didn’t have the courage to confront a drunkard in front of so many strangers. After all what would have happened if I was not in any of those pictures that he clicked? So I just sat there numb.
I was scared. I was afraid of him. I felt vulnerable. Not because he had taken pictures of me, I have posted several pictures of myself on social media and I never felt that. But because he thought I was something that he could capture on his phone for his timely pleasure. I was trembling with fear at that very moment. It was that very instant that I decided not to travel alone ever again. And so there, I blamed myself for the happening. I thought it was my fault that I traveled alone. It was ironical, how many passengers had the concern to inform me of the situation but none of them had the courage to stand up for me. However, I wasn’t in a position to question them because I felt defeated at that point. I stood there helpless and powerless.
When I did share this with a friend, a friend I’ve known for about ten years; he blamed me too. He said that it was my hair colour that led him to do that. I had my hair coloured in pink just a few days before the travel. How could it be? Even if it was due to the same reason, I had it tied neatly and very little of the colour was visible. It was very pointless to argue so that was the end of that.
On another bus journey, (yes I traveled alone again), I chose, again, to sit close to the driver. An old lady sat beside me, she was smiling rather too polite. She started the conversation, she said, “I’ve seen you somewhere, I don’t remember quite well.” I felt the same, so the conversation went on. She said, “ what are you wearing on your hair?”. I said with a reserved smile, “it’s a red hibiscus,” removing it off my hair. She smiled, and said, “Your hair is still red!” So I went on to explain that it was pink and how silly I was to colour my hair. And she gave me a pleasant stare and remained silent for a few minutes. “You should remove it, otherwise people would think you’re “that” type of girl.” So I was struck again for being just me. How does one judge another based on their hair colour? And what if it isn’t their natural hair colour? So what? I can empathize where they get this idea from but it never is that way.
Once, back in my school days, my teacher was reading a novel aloud to me and her daughter. In it, it talked about a prostitute, not her actions or anything but just her appearance and I remember very well, my teacher was in tears. I could never understand why. She never stopped reading but I noticed her brittle voice screaming for love.
So there I was , sitting muted, and I told her that it was none of her business! It is very startling as to how we make a judgment of others just by their looks, and of people, we especially don’t know. It’s not that I don’t do it, but what makes us any better from the others?
Do we ever stop and think for a second how our actions and comments could hurt someone else? How we easily invade someone else’s private space, and make them feel uncomfortable? Why is that we often forget that the other person deserves the same respect as we expect for ourselves? Why do we act so carelessly? Where should one feel protective if one can’t be safe by themselves? Sure, we can blame the other or the situation, but is anything more than that we cannot’t handle ourselves? And if not, where can we find the courage to stand up for ourselves?