March 07, 2006

Looking nowhere in the middle of 'everywhere'

If you're a girl how do you look nowhere in the middle of 'everywhere'?

The Blank Noise Project got people together to talk about it (street harassment) in its blog-a-thon today, tuesday, 7th March.

It's been close to three years now that I've been traveling by Bombay locals. Days change out here, but some scenes remain the same, like for instance . . . .

A crowded Dadar station on the Western line. The girl waits for a train to take her to Mumbai Central. Every which way, men crowd the station. The girl waits with a group of women commuters on the platform. If the driver gets it right, most times he does, the ladies compartment should draw up near where the group of women commuters is waiting. The girl is dressed up in a ochre salwar kameez; her hair is done up in a ponytail, and she shifts from one foot to the other, marking seconds as she does so, looking nowhere in particular, turning her face elsewhere each time a roving male eye seeks her out to lock into her line of sight, searching for acknowledgement that comes from returning the look. In a minute or two she’ll turn her face away again, in time to avoid another interested male from zeroing in.

As the clock ticks by, the platform gets crowded, and more male faces turn toward her expectantly, hoping to catch her eye even as she keeps turning her face, now every few seconds, to avoid being latched onto by searching male gazes intent on locking in. She’s been doing the route for quite sometime now. She knows that to avoid being smiled at by complete strangers, leered at by hopeful Romeos, commented upon by serial teasers she must avoid looking into those eyes. It took her sometime to master this; avoiding facing in any direction for too long by facing everywhere all at once. There was a time, in the beginning, when faces hosting those eyes would sear her conscious moments, and before long the unconscious ones too.

The train is late by two minutes. The platform is packed to capacity now. There is nowhere empty she can 'hide' her face, nowhere she can look and not find eyes looking back at her, so she puts her head down, crosses her hands across her bosom, and looks at her feet. Her feet don’t have eyes, so it’s ok. Over time she’s learned the moods of her feet better than her own.
*The picture is taken from the Blank Noise Project site.


Neets said...

you've captured the emotions so well. Thank you.
i am on the blogathon too.

Aranyi said...

Beautiful post. All girls learan this at some point - learn to zone out, to look through people. You captured the feeling of real-time, of anticipation so beautifully!
Its great to sometimes make a conscious effort to write for a cause (speaking for myself here). Thank you for visiting!

Mangs said...

what a beautiful post

Kizzy said...

It is quite stilling to know that someone realises how it feels to be like a laboratory specimen or at a display in a Zoo. Only one of it's kind at the gates of extinction, or so it seems, to be studied at day after day. That's how I remember the feeling. I usually have a book, the much needed succor, at hand and engross myself pretending to be part of the characters in the book rather than being part of the reality of actually being at the railway/bus station. That does not help eliminate the reality of being gazed at but in a way of dealing; it does help to get away from the situation. Make myself disappear since I cannot make the starers disappear. It is quite comforting to share the uncomfortableness. I don't know why. Thank You for the acknowledgement.