The following was submitted by SMIW reader Shalini Dolai to our campaign #HaveShortsWillSmoke.
I am from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. I used to do up and down in a RTC bus to my college, Andhra University. Molestation was a near daily experience in the bus but somehow I managed to brush it aside.
Coming to my college, officially, there was no dress code but there was a ragging culture where seniors were very dominating. We had to wear only chudidars and pin our dupattas. One day, I wore a kurta (without dupatta) and as soon as I entered my college, guys (seniors both girls and boys) started passing comments like “Sexy!”, ” Wooooow” and also made weird kissing sounds and whistles.
Some guys purposely started staring at me as if they wanted to eat me and the senior girls besides them were laughing at me as if I deserve such treatment. I am not the only one who faced this kind of behaviour. All of my friends have faced something similar at some point too. But, I am the only one who did not get used to this behavior even though it was a near daily experience. I used to scold and warn the guys who misbehaved with me. But my friends, instead of supporting me, used to give lectures to me. For example, ” I know wearing a kurta is not wrong. But why do you have to spoil your mood by fighting with every one? All our college guys and girls are conservative and will never change their attitude. so you better change your dressing style and be peaceful”.
I was lonely all the four years of college. I got many tags like, ” arrogant”, ” man hatter”. “pseudo philosopher”, “egoist” etc etc. Later, I shifted to Mumbai. Mumbai is wonderful place and thankfully I never got judged for my dressing there. However, one day I wore a dress which was slightly short. It was pretty decent and I thought I looked cute. I uploaded that photo on face book. One of my Andhra University college friends (male) pinged me and said that I have forgot Indian culture after moving to Mumbai.
After shaming me in all the ways to make me feel guilty and sad, he said , “You are like my sister, I want my sister to be respected. that is why I am telling you this. You were more beautiful in chudidars“. I said “Who the hell are you? Who are you to decide what Indian culture is? When my family is not bothered about my dress, who the hell are you? Just get lost!”. In a strange way, I felt lighter and better at that moment.
I have infinite similar stories to share with you, but my entire life is not enough to write about all my experiences. By now, this ‘cultured’ Indian society has made me used to fighting every day – from little things like dressing to getting molested on streets at night. I wonder if the society will ever get used to a woman living her life on her own terms.
Have Shorts. Will Smoke