Indian men, congratulate yourselves. It is safe to say that we have successfully broken an unwritten trust that exists between the two sexes in other, more liberal countries.
By doing so, we have isolated ourselves from one half of humanity. What image is left of even the nicest of us is prejudiced by that of a leering pervert.
Walk down your streets and admire the women around you. If you are lucky, you may find an attractive woman pass by. Perhaps she is in shorts, or wearing a sleeveless top. Were you in any other, more civilised part of the world, there would be nothing unusual in you making eye contact, smiling at her, or even calling out, “Good day.”
Remember though that you’re in India. We can look at a woman, but that’s all. We won’t call out, ‘good day,’ or anything else for that matter, unless you’re a certain strain of man that is not admired by anyone. We can look at a woman, but she will never look back at us. A gaze held by her for too long, may be misconstrued as interest. Even if there is interest, what Indian woman would dare approach a stranger she fancies to strike up a conversation with?
Perhaps some of it is our culture, but something more sinister is also involved. It is the psychosis of fear. Indian men have terrorised their women into silencing not just their voices but also their body language. Natural communication between this social animal’s population on the subcontinent, has been killed.
Looking at a woman has now degenerated into a form of sexual harassment. I once accompanied a female friend on a stroll. There was nothing unusual about how she was dressed, though she is tall, attractive and pretty. Walking alongside her, there was only one thing I noticed: there was not a single man who passed by who did not leer longingly at her. I later asked her about this. “I stopped noticing it years ago. It’s easier to just get on with whatever you’re doing,” she said. I did not sleep easily that night. There are eyes all around, watching, judging, undressing the women we love… at every moment they are out in public. It is a daily discomfort that men shall never know.
By placing women in harm’s way, with our complacency, by forcing them to walk on Dadar’s platforms with hands shielding their privates from gropers, by compelling them to wear high heels to stab the toes of men who get too close on buses, we have brought isolation upon ourselves. The fairer sex wants nothing to do with us. They don’t want to look at us, smile at us, or say hello. It’s too dangerous.
Torturously, therefore, looking is all we can do. But it’s no longer looking; it’s staring and leering. The pervert on the road is us. And we have only ourselves to blame.
— The writer is a court reporter with this paper
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