A couple of years ago, three of my girlfriends had come over to my place for a sleepover. After chatting late into the night, we were looking forward to waking up leisurely. But around 6 in the morning, I was rudely woken up by the sound of someone banging at the door and shouting. When I came out of my room, my grandmother told me that earlier that morning when she had gone to keep the trash out, she saw someone sleeping with his shirt off outside the door. She took him to be some drunkard who would wake up and walk away in some time.
Apart from what she told me, I knew nothing about this man who was violently banging at my door and shouting loud enough for the entire neighbourhood to hear. I did not know who he was, what he wanted, or whether he was armed. I called the police immediately, along with my driving trainer who lived not too far off. After over an hour of this high drama when all of us in the house were extremely tense, the banging stopped. I opened my wooden door (beyond which was a grilled, iron one) and there was nobody outside. I also contacted my neighbours to ask if they knew anything. Some smirked and said they thought he might have been a "friend" of mine. Another said he had seen him get into an auto, and went to follow him.
By the time the police arrived, having taken their own sweet time as usual, the neighbour had found the guy. Two of my friends stayed with my grandmother at home, and I and another friend went to the police station. We found out that the guy was someone on the run after having crashed his car into an auto in his inebriated state. The meaning of being "wasted" had never struck me so literally; he was so drunk that he had come to my house, taking it to be his own, and was banging to be let in. Even when he became conscious he remained impervious to his surroundings. When he finally came to his senses, he took an auto and ran again.
At the police station, looking at the sunk-in front of his tall and shiny, now squashed car, the police started tch-tching about what a pity it was that such a thing should happen to an "achche ghar ka ladka", "a 'boy' (who was really a full grown man and not a juvenile delinquent) from a good home". Upon seeing me there, the culprit sarcastically said, "Here comes the harassed lady." And his friend started explaining why the guy was deserving of my sympathy, immediately resorting to his friend's sarcasm when I refused to indulge him. My neighbour, who had found the guy, called up my sister saying she should ask me not to file a complaint (my sister said I should go ahead and do whatever I wanted), and the police started asking if I really wanted to get into the "chakkar", the hassle of it all. At this, I lost it and told the police that this was exactly the kind of response that tells men they can get away with anything and discourages women from complaining. They finally registered my complaint, though nothing came of it eventually, and of course no thoughts were spared for the auto driver whose vehicle had been badly hit in the accident.
I was reminded of this incident when reading about the Standford rape case because in a case of sexual harassment, it is easy for people to completely deflect attention from the crime to questions that put the survivor in the dock. But the truth is that impunity to men is not restricted to sexual offences. The "boys will be boys" culture extends to condoning each crime they commit (unless, maybe, they come from an underprivileged background) and anyone who dares to condemn it is seen as cruelly destroying the golden future these "boys" were born to have.
In my case, while the man's glaring action in the present was getting him everyone's sympathies, my "history" of a woman living alone in a neighbourhood of "family people" was the cause of muffled laughter, which assumed that a man who sounded like he was ready to break down my door could be my "friend". (Not too long before this incident, a male colleague had told me that when he asked someone the way to my house, a neighbour had pointed to my place saying it must be the one because "men keep going there".) When it comes to taking a stand on crimes against women, we are reminded each time that women have pasts that would be used and twisted to damn them, while men have a future waiting anxiously to roll out the red carpet for them, under which can be brushed all the wrongs they commit.
First published in DailyO, 9 June 2016.