My ex-colleague Sarah Salvadore is just livid at NCW chairperson Mamta Sharma’s advice to women to dress carefully. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/people/A-provocatively-dressed-woman-an-easy-prey/articleshow/15043860.cms
She wrote on her FB status: The NCW wants women to “dress carefully”, this coming from a commission that revealed the identity of the Guwahati victim. Ladies, we are better off without a commission for women, which is absolutely toothless and sexist.
I would rather go by what Sarah says and not some chairperson of NCW, who, it is very clear, is living back in time. Because I know for a fact Sarah is speaking from experience. She has actually worked as an undercover reporter in Times Of India, Kolkata and exposed how risky the city can be for a woman.
Sarah had posed as a girl, whose delayed train arrival at Howrah Station had put her in a spot late in the night, because she didn’t know where to find a hotel. She was taken to the seediest hotels by a taxi driver, taken to the darkest corner of Metiabruz and told it was Park Street. She was subjected to perverse scrutiny by lobby managers and waiters who were hoping to bait the fish (and then do what, God only knows). Well! Sarah was dressed decently but her only crime was, her train had arrived late and she didn’t know the city well – a situation that any woman, non-pubbing and non-spaghetti-strap flaunting kinds – can get into, unless of course Mamta Sharma (strange how it’s Mamta every time) doesn’t approve of a woman travelling alone.
Is it really about clothes?
Anyway, clothes have nothing to do with sexual assault, it has been proved the world over, it’s high-time the NCW shed such archaic beliefs.
I am, like so many women out there, really confused about what’s exactly decent dressing though. Because if you are talking about a saree, I have often worn them to college on a cramped public bus and the hands got frenetic on my bare skin on the back. Now I cannot see myself putting on anything but an airhostess-cut blouse (it covers the back completely) whenever I wear a saree.
If you are talking about a salwar kurta with a generous dupatta covering the front, it does help, to minimize the groping from 10 to maybe four, on good days that is. But does it allow full cover from the perverts? No, not really.
A trouser can be provocative
Then there is the trouser paired with a full-sleeve shirt – does it help in any way? It doesn’t either.
I will talk about an incident here to present my view better. I remember I was looking particularly corporate kinds that day because I had dressed up for an important interview. I was returning home in a cab and the cabbie had a faulty meter and the bill was atrociously high. I got into an altercation with him and the cabbie tried hard to rally support from some men passing by. A group of drunk men, barged into our conversation. When I told them not to interfere, they got really aggressive and said, “What the **** do you think of yourself? Since you are wearing pants and having a mobile you think no end of yourself. We can teach you a lesson right here.”
It was 10pm, right in front of my apartment in Garia. I just took the cell phone and called our crime reporter and said loudly, “This is the number of the cab tell the OC of Garia Police Station to reach here immediately.” Hearing my conversation the cabbie instantly got behind the steering and fled leaving me to deal with the drunkards who were getting dangerously close and abusive now. Thankfully a few people came out from the neighbouring shops and my apartment. The OC didn’t have to finally intervene but I still get goose bumps when I think of that day.
The salwar kurta didn’t save my day, the police did
On another occasion I was, returning from work, in my first car, a khatara red second-hand Maruti, driven by my equally hopeless driver. Just a few yards away from office, on SN Banerjee Road, the car broke down. The driver kept trying to fix it while I stood next to him. The crowd started building up, then the questions, sneers and smirks started coming as if I had done something wrong. I looked for cover inside the car and the driver continued with his explanations but the crowd didn’t budge. I had the choice of leaving the car in my office which was difficult, because I would have had to push it against the flow on a one-way road or leave it at the police station which was just ahead. It was almost 10.30 pm by then. I chose the latter. The police readily agreed to watch over my car that night and graciously offered me tea when I went back in the morning to pick it up.
When I look back on that day the behavior of the crowd around me just gives me the chills – the nasty comments, the jeering and the uncomfortable proximity – all for what? I really don’t have an explanation. By the way, I was in a salwar kurta that day, mind it!