As far as I can remember, the first time that I dealt with abuse was in my tenth grade. I used to commute to school via the school bus, since the lane where I live is very narrow, the bus wouldn’t get in, instead I had to wait at the bus stop right outside the lane. My parents never were extra protective of me, since I was given the independence to go out on my own at a very early age, further because the bus stop was right outside the lane, they were carefree. At the end of the lane lies another small arterial lane with a huge garbage dump. One day, while I was returning from school on that road, a man who must have been close to 23-24 years of age started following me. I didn’t notice that this had been going on for a couple of days; he would wait for my bus to arrive and then follow me back home. I thought I was big enough to deal with the nuisance maker and ignored him; slowly he started waiting for me right in the arterial lane in the mornings too and would stare and wait till I got into the bus.
I began thinking it was time I told about him to my parents, but decided to wait a bit longer since in a week my school would be done and I would never have to see him again. Since I was ignoring and not confronting him, he started following me around post school too. In case I would go to the market, I would find him waiting for me there, occasionally with a couple of his friends leering and passing comments.
One day, in the morning, while I was going to school, he jumped right in front of me out of nowhere and blocked my path asking if we could be friends. I clearly said no and tried to walk away, but he and his friends kept blocking my path. The moment I saw my school bus I made a dash for it and ran as fast as I could. The entire day at school I was troubled; uneasiness crept in my heart and fear in my mind. I just didn’t want school to end and didn’t want to go back home, since both my parents are working, I couldn’t ask them to pick me up too.
That afternoon, post school, I stayed back at a friend’s place and went back home late in the evening by an auto rickshaw and took the longer route because I didn’t want to chance any encounter with him. The next day was my last day at school. I left for school earlier than my usual time just so I could avoid him and I did. While returning from school that day, I had completely forgotten about him, since it was the last day I would ever meet my friends and go to school. My mind was occupied elsewhere.
As soon as I walked into the lane, I remembered. I thought of going back to my friend’s place, but when I didn’t find him waiting, I thought it was my lucky day and proceeded forward. Just as I was halfway through, I could feel something creep up on my thigh, at the back of my skirt. I turned around to find that he and his friends had been stealthily following me; he had a stick in his hands and tried to put it up my skirt. Furious yet scared, I could do the only thing my mind would tell me to do, and I ran. Ran as fast as I could to get away from there, my heart pounding and eyes brimming with tears while his laugh echoed in my ears. Within a matter of a few weeks, my board exams ended and I had gone out of station for the summer vacations.
The classes that I had joined for 11th and 12th had timings that would require me to stay in the class for most of the time. I was happy that it was this way. At least, I would never had to face that man again. I would see him frequently at the market where he would hang around with his friends; a lot of times, I had the deep urge to punch him hard enough to break his jaws.
Whenever I looked into the mirror, all I could see was rage , fear and guilt. Guilt of not being able to defend myself, rage because I felt violated, like my personal space had been invaded. I developed a sense of fear and insecurity, all due credit to him. Close to two years later, one day while I was walking back from college I found him doing the same things that he had done with me, to another school girl. My tempers flared; the poor girl was cornered and started crying while requesting him to let her go. I mustered up all my courage and walked right up to him and tapped his shoulders. He turned back to face me, and the moment I looked into his eyes, I saw a coward. The fear that I had stored in my mind all these years was baseless. Here was a man who teased girls who were much younger than him to derive sadistic pleasure from their discomfort and pain. The girl took advantage of this moment and ran. I gave him my most threatening glare and asked him to walk away or I would complain to the police and the girl’s parents about his antics. He instantly stepped aside and walked into another adjacent lane; I stood there transfixed and watched him walk away. That instant I felt like a new me had emerged, someone who had overcome her fear and gained back her lost confidence.