Shrinking Women

I walk,
Down alleyways and passages,
Corridors and lanes,
And roads,
As if I am one person too much,
Occupying more space than I exist in.
So I make myself small,
Pull my hands in
And hold them folded,
Against my body.
I stick to the straight line,
That becomes fine while I walk.
And I envy that fiery stride
You take.
Step after step moving forward in silent determination,
You hold your head high for the world to see
And though you hinder me not,
I,
Unsure of my gait,
Tone it down.
And I jump in my skin,
When I hear footsteps behind me,
Or voices that I know for sure are talking about me,
Or eyes that I know are burning a hole in my clothes,
To see what lies underneath.
Is it skin?
Is it fresh meat?
I don’t know.
I gather myself up,
Shrink a little,
Trying to dissolve into thin air.

The Interview

Tell us something about yourself.

Suffice it to say I am a woman?

So, what do you feel?

I feel a lot of things: angst,  anxiety, paranoia, joy, ecstasy, happiness, delusion and fear, but never too safe.

You don’t feel safe?
Yes. And no, this isn’t a country thing. I mean I tried everything, dressing conservatively, being holed up in my home, not speaking unless spoken to. I followed the instructions you know. I stuck to my side of the road, I moved in groups, you’ll find it funny that I enrolled in karate classes and started keeping pepper spray in my bag.

So, that must have made you feel empowered then!
The illusion frankly. But not safe or protected even then.

Well then miss. This might be the textbook case of female hysteria. We’ll have it fixed in no time.
How is that?
The time tested solution of marriage. You can party hard to bollywood songs, put on bling, wear that red lipstick or the little black dress and have sex as much as you like.

Oh! But what about marital rape?
Umm, well. Let us assume it does not exist.

Oh, okay.

So its time for the HYPOTHETICAL ROUND!!
What happens when you are commented upon, out of the blue.
Well,you see, I’ll talk about tonight. I alighted from an auto and entered a passageway to home. This boy on a bike goes past me, takes a u turn and buzzes past me saying, ‘I love you.’ Dude, I didn’t even know that guy.

What did you do?
I pretended to not have heard him.

So, my hypothetical question is: What if this has happened three years ago?
I would have felt angered. The blood would have boiled over in my veins at such a preposterous act. I would have retaliated with a nasty retort because I was prone to panic.

So what changed?
Did you know an Australian court acquitted a man of harrassing two women because he was influenced by Bollywood and considered stalking women as normal?

What is your point?
My point is, that it is okay for that guy to confess love to a complete stranger because she is a woman wearing red lipstick and walking alone at 8 p m with her hair down. It is okay because well, they get away with it in our movies and telly. It is okay for our representatives to talk shit about women. It is okay for women to shame other women because they were ‘asking for it’. It is okay for our media to go on air on national television and glorify the good girl wronged and doubt the one in a club. If that is okay, it is alright to have a sense of entitlement that lets us get away with rowdy guys because men will be men.

Very well.
Now we reach the end of the interview with one last question. What is your name?
Name,ethnicity,race,nationality,religion, ot does not matter.
Suffice it to say I am a woman.

@bewitchinglyme