Sunday, February 21, 2010

MY Bitter Experiences With Lechers

Lechers have always been a pain for women whether young or old. Most of the lechers of my time were middle aged men or occasionally young men. At the time when I was in school there were men who would stand in the by-lanes and trouble school girls by catching them on their private parts. These men were “bad men” according to Sr. Monica.
These “bad men” were always feared by the boarders because we had to go through a lane in order to reach our school. Very often we boarders were victims of these “bad men.” It was not just one but there quite a few of these “bad men”. Some were exhibitionist while others physically harmed the school girls who passed that way. Somehow I always escaped these men because I was careful to move in groups and not alone.

I started experiencing problems when I started travelling by bus. In bus I was always a hot target. I am not sure as to why I was targetted. My first experience was inside a bus. I was taking a bus to college. The bus was very crowded and I got no place to sit. Suddenly I felt an uncomfortable scratch. Did I feel someone trying to raise my skirt? I tried to watch but it was difficult as the bus was so very crowded.

Oh no! Some one was lifting up my skirt and ‘scratching’ my thigh. I realized it was an engineering college student. Shit!!! That creep was trying to rub his private part into me. I had to react before he did something disastrous. With all my anger and irritation I gave him one hit with my elbow and too on his stomach. I must have definitely used all my energy and that must have definitely hurt him. As he was trying to move away from me I stamped his toes (with my 5” heels). He wriggled in pain but could not scream. I was not ready to lift my leg from his toes until I vent out my anger. Then I moved my legs away. He moved away from me and hastily got down at the next stop. This was an incident where only both of knew what happened. Though I met him a number of times after that incident he never dared to look at me.

After that I had a series of attacks from various men, young and old. Most of them were exhibitionist inside the bus or at side roads. I have had attacks from lechers at the East Fort bus station. They would disappear at lightning speed after attacking me. By the time I realized what was happening they must have disappeared.

The worst experience was from a dentist. My sister was doing her BDS in Manipal. She wanted to see the Dental College in Trivandrum. My one tooth was sensitive to ice water and sweets. I had never been to a dentist. Even I wanted to see how it was to go a dentist. So under that pretext we went to the Dental College. It was a long process. I had to stand in a long queue for the OP ticket. Another queue waited me. I had to see a dentist to find out what was wrong with me. There were people from various backgrounds. Some were dressed clean while most of them were shabbily dressed and were people from the lower strata of the society. The lady who stood just in front of me was a very shabbily dressed woman with oily hair neatly combed and adorned with jasmine flowers. Her hair was so neatly combed that a number of lice (big ones, small ones, black ones, light ones) could be seen going up and down her hair. There was a flock of lice gathered near her plaits. It looked as though they had assembled for a party meeting at the Party Secretariate. She had an awful stink – that of flowers, paan and sweat together. Occasionally she would spit her mouthful of red betel nut juice on the wall adjacent to her which made artist designs on the mosaic wall. I kept a safe distance from this lady. I did not want a ‘tick-tock’ infection on my head. The queue moved at a snail pace.

At last I reached the doctor. He seemed to be a junior doctor. He was a small built, fair bearded man with eagle like eyes. I looked into his name tag. He was a Muslim. I gave him a brief “history” of my tooth in Malayalam. He took an instrument (not sure if it was a probe or an explorer or was it with the mouth mirror?) and gave me one knock at my incisor. I moaned and eyes filled up with tears. It did hurt me. He smiled at me and said in English,

“Your tooth needs a RCT”


Never had I heard about a RCT.

“Yes, Root Canal Treatment. Your root has been infected.”

He continued, “In doing so you can save your tooth.”

It was the first time that I was hearing about root canal treatment. I was not sure what was all this about. I had heard about extractions. Was the medical science developing?

“So when will you do it …Today?” I enquired

“No, no. You have to register. Buy a postcard, fill your address and give it. We will send you the post card and you will have to come on that day.”
He then continued, “It takes more than six months for that. Look this is not a place for people like you” He paused for a while and said slowly, “I can do it for you if you come to my house,” and gave me a sheepish grin.
“How much will it cost, doctor?”
“Not much, around Rs.750.” (This took place 20 years back. According to my sister there was no dental chair, the place was unhygienic, it was too crowded and the services were much below international standards. I was not in a position to comment because this was my first visit to a dentist)

I agreed, got his address and thanked him. I went to his house the next day. He told me that I should take an x-ray for my tooth and that I should go to the dental college again. I didn’t want t waste another day for it. This time it was much easier as this doctor was there. I didn’t have to wait in the queues. I had a VIP treatment there. My x-ray showed that my root was infected. So I was going to start my RCT the following day. The doctor was a very talkative man. I found that he was my eldest brother’s friend. I had to do four sittings for my RCT.

On the last day of my treatment he was too sugary. His various gestures made me feel uncomfortable. I felt he was coming too close to me and the hot air that he exhaled was too near my face. He was touching my face unnecessarily. I remember my sister telling me that a dentist was not to touch the face of a patient with his/her hands. Here, this doctor was violating the rules of a dentist. After my tooth was filled he put his pointer into my mouth and started pushing it in and out. He told me that the filling had to dry and that is why he was doing so. Every time he pushed his pointer into my mouth I would feel the hair on his pointer rubbing against my lips. I wanted to vomit. It was such a sick feeling…. a feeling of someone’s hair inside your mouth (Yuk!!!). I wanted to ask my sister why she was pursuing a “dirty” profession like this. This continued for about ten minutes. Slowly his left hand started sliding into my blouse. I hit his hand off and got up. I kept the money there and got out off the room. I was simply a stupid to sit there all the while not realizing that he was “fingering” me. I was crying while I got back home. I was again the target of a lecher who held a respectable position in a dental college.

This was the most horrible experience that I had. I saw this ‘respectable’ doctor’s photo in a Malayalam newspaper a few years back. It seems he and a group of doctors did some rare surgery. Many women may have experienced this sort of ‘fingering’ from the same ‘lecher’ doctor. I don’t know why I didn’t create a hue and cry then. Probably I may have been too shocked to react to this situation or was it because I was unmarried and this would be a bad mark on my reputation? Anyway I paid Rs.750 for a RCT and ‘fingering’ came absolutely free. What an offer!!!

Now I make it a point to advice my students and my daughter to react to lechers and to hurt them in such a way that they won’t dare to play with another woman thereafter. I always tell them that they should alert other women especially if they are in some public carrier or in any public place. I ask my students to carry a blade or pin to keep them at bay. Gandhiji taught us non-violence but if we are to follow his policy blindly, I am sure that we women will be targetted by all the so-called ‘respectable’ people of the society. There won’t be a single law to save us from these frustrated men. Is that not what we are seeing in all the harassment cases here in Kerala?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Death is a word that makes me shudder. I don’t like knowing about death nor do I like reading about accidents in the newspapers or viewing it on the television either. I cannot control my tears and can cry shamelessly (my daughter calls me a “vikaarajeevi.”) when I hear of such news.

Just 10 hours ago I witnessed a death – the death of a pup of our ‘Patti’. It was called Patti because we hadn’t christened it with a name. This ‘Patti’ was a malnourished stray dog when it happened to come for its afternoon feed (a dozen or more dogs came and still comes every afternoon to eat the leftovers that are thrown out). It was how this Patti first came home as a pup, one and a half years back. It didn’t have a place to go (probably an ‘orphaned’ dog) so it stayed at our place for its morning feeds, afternoon feeds and evening feeds. We never bathed the dog nor did we take care of it. But it showed its gratitude by wagging it tail or cringing when she saw us. Yeah, dogs are much more grateful than human beings!!!

Patti delivered 4 cuddly pups in December. At the beginning of this month one pup was seen dead in front of our gate (the accident occurred sometime at night) and another pup was injured in that accident. It had a head injury and was blinded by the accident. It died the next day. The pup that died this afternoon was the cutest of the lot. It was very active. For the last three days it was looking sick. It was not eating anything. Yesterday I found it had difficulty in walking too. This morning I poured some extra milk and gave it to the pup. It was so weak that it couldn’t even get up to drink it. By noon I saw the pup lying down and trying to move its leg feebly. It couldn’t even move. The pup seemed to be writhing in pain. It was trying to breathe hard. The breathing was slowing down and foam started coming from its mouth and was seen urinating too. Suddenly the breathing stopped. The eyes were opened itself. Yes, the pup too died. I was the sole witness to the death.

My body went cold. A chill went down my spine. I stood there quiet for sometime until I realized that I was crying. This death was something that I never wanted to see. It was lunch time. Not a morsel was going down my throat. I wanted to vomit. The pup’s last moments disturbed me. Was this how people died?

Was this how Jithendra Singh died when he fell off from a cliff in Ooty trying to pose for a photograph? He was the son of a planter who was killed in an accident. My thoughts went to his mother and brother who were to witness tragedies that occurred in their family.

My thoughts then went to Farid who was killed in a car accident when his car was hit by a speeding truck. Did he have time to know that he had met with an accident? Did he breathe his last like this pup or was his death instantaneous? Did he know the pain when the steering wheel tore apart his chest? Or did his ribs crash like the twin tower? Even his mother had to face the death of her husband and her only child.

Another death which affected me was the death of my boarding mate Mirium. She was senior to me. She sat next to me in the study hall and her bed was next to mine in the dormitory. She died of brain tumour which went undiagnosed. She was a mother of three boys. She often complained of headaches but never took it seriously. She would jokingly say “these boys are the reason for my headache.” She was found lying dead in her house when her husband returned from work on evening. She must have undergone immense pain. How did her boys accept the death of their mother?

The death of Laly, my classmate affected me a lot. She was from an interior village in Trivandrum, a girl from a financially backward family. She was not a piece of beauty but her child like innocence attracted most of the boys. She had committed suicide because her boyfriend jilted her.He exploited her innocence. He took her out, bought her ice creams, took her for movies and finally got what he wanted from her every time he desired for it. When the time for marriage came he got engaged to a rich girl for a heavy dowry. Laly was shocked and went into a severe depression. No treatment could save her. She committed suicide by jumping into the well. She must have definitely known the pain….the pain of suffocation. Her parents lost their dear child and her so called boyfriend now lives happily (who knows if he is really happy?) with his wife and kids. Every time I see him I think to myself, “That old scoundrel killed Laly.”

Now coming back to the pup…. I burst out crying when I saw ‘Patti’ come close to it with its tail between its hind legs, bent down and slowly smelled the pup. It licked the pup and sat a little away from it as though in deep sorrow. Patti was mourning the death. These must have been the exact way that Jithe’s mother, or Farid’s mother, or Mirium’s parents, and Laly’s parents must have felt.

All these thoughts really disturbed me. As I am typing this hot stream of tears are rolling down my cheeks. Death is a very tragic thing and let it not happen to people or any living thing until they have a natural death until they are old.

Note: All names are changed to hide identity.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I was branded a "communist"

From the time I remember my grandmother was a very pious lady who believed in strong Christian (mind you, Catholic) values. These ‘values’ were instilled in her children as well as grand-children too. It was a practice for us children to say our morning prayers- a personal one where we were to thank God for taking care of us at night and ask him to bless our new day and to bless our parents, siblings and teachers. Yes I did pray every morning.
“Thank you Lord for protecting me from all evil last night and thank you Lord for giving me a good sleep,” I prayed.
Then my prayers varied according to my daily requirements. And the usage of words for flattering God varied according to the intensity of my needs. It would be

“Oh my Lord, Mrs. Lopez shouldn’t come to school today” (as I had not done her Maths homework), or

“Oh my very good Lord, (as though he was bad) Ah Kin should get low marks in Science” (she outsmarted me the other day and got more marks in English) or

“Oh my ‘dearest God,’ Daddy shouldn’t come home again or aleast for the next one week” ( I was sure to get thrashed as Mr. Sadhu Singh was sure to complain about my breaking his car’s wiper when I tried to see how it worked) or

“Oh my dear Lord, u are so great and only u can help me to pass in Maths at least once.” Or

“My Lord Derek (my brother) should have ‘loose motion’ so that I can get the lion’s share of cake that Mum baked the other day”.

Very religiously I prayed for the harm of others, for the good of me and to protect me from all the evil elements in school and at home. These were my morning prayers!!!

It was from this background that I went to school…a school which had students from different religions, many sects and creeds. I used to feel very proud to say that I was a Catholic and with that surname of mine I felt that the entire world was under my feet. I had a ‘White’ God who lived in Rome. I thought that the Pope was a ‘seen’ God!!!! ( Heights of ignorance!!!) And that all our Gods were Whites for they had brown hair, light eyes and were fair skinned. My ‘little head’ was stuffed with all those ‘Christian values’ and I was never to raise any doubts about religion at home or anywhere else. If I ever did I was silenced by saying that I was a ‘rebel’ That was the religious me until I was six.

At the age of six I received my ‘First Holy Communion.’ It was a religious ceremony where I received the body and blood of Christ. Just before leaving for church my Grandma told me that I was not supposed to bite the host that the father gave me as blood would ooze out. She also added that it was the body of Christ and I should never touch it with my hands. The first thing that I did as soon as the priest kept the host in my mouth was to bite it and secretly took it out in my hand to see if blood really oozed out. She had told me ‘utter nonsense.’ I came home and declared my grandma a ‘liar.’ She was shocked and so were my parents. My grandmother called me a “communist.” According to her only communists dared to question faith.

She told me that there were the good angels and bad angels. There was a good angel and a bad angel in us. The good angel sat on my right hand and took down all the good things that I did for others in a note book and that it would be written in gold. The bad angel sat on the left side and took down all the sins that I did in a note book with a piece of coal. When I died God would take both the books and see what I did when I was alive. If the good outweighed the bad then I would go to heaven. If not, I would go to hell. I actually believed it. I would hit my left hand hard to chase away the bad angel. I often think that the good angel must not have yet finished a 40 pages note book while the bad angel must have taken more than 10 encyclopedia sized note books for me.

As I grew up I was transformed from a catholic to a “communist” (as I dared to question my grandma’s ‘crazy’ beliefs). I was taught so many unbelievable things and I questioned most of her ‘preaching.’

1. God was the creator of all living things from the minutest micro organisms to the super apes. Nobody else could create any thing (Who created this ‘Creator’ God?)
2. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and the very first commandment says, “I am the Lord thy God and thou shall not have any strange Gods before me.” If this was so then why is it that there are a number of idols of various hues and sizes inside the church?
3. The ninth commandment always confused me. It said, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s wife.” Men couldn’t covet their neighbours’ wives. So women would covet their neighbours’ husbands. So God was partial to women. (My Grandma would fly into a rage whenever I questioned her about this)
4. Jesus was the son of God and Mary was his mother. What was the role of Joseph in the Bible?
5. Our first parents were Adam and Eve (not apes as Darwin said) and their children were Abel and Cain. If so, how did the population increase with no other women around?
6. God was omnipresent and he took care of us. So we are to give him a share of what we ‘got’. Wasn’t God eligible for a share of all those pinches and punches that I got from mum?
These were just a few of my doubts. Nobody in the family, especially the second generation dared to question her. Questioning her only meant displeasure from her side. Displeasure led to serving smaller portions of fried beef (her beef fry was lip smacking!!!) or orappam. As I did not like orappam much I would afford to question her.

She always sympathized with my Mum saying that she was very unlucky to have a “communist” daughter. By the time I was doing my degree I joined the left party and that left my grandmother shell shocked. She could not accept the reality as she felt that she was losing her grand daughter to unscrupulous elements.

I kept pestering my Grandma with my religious doubts until she died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 98.

PS. I think Benedict XVI should canonize my Grandma to St. Lilly and increase the ‘strange Gods’ inside the church!!!