Column, Stories

Mumbai woman responds when asked if Indian women are harassed & how!

Written By: Kritika Gupta

Are most Indian women harassed/cat-called?

At most, this can be called a survey question. I doubt that any Indian woman on Quora can truly represent what the majority goes through. I’ve been asked to share my experiences on questions that seemed to be asking for general perspectives and facts and figures, but I would rather answer here, while interpreting it purely as a survey question.

Thus I can only share my own personal anecdotal experience as an urban 28-year-old living in a city that is considered “safe for women”. I don’t have any anecdotes from friends to share, I think either I move in strange circles, or we just didn’t think these things worth talking about. Maybe we’re too conditioned to ignore things in my city, which won’t surprise me at all. I won’t share newspaper articles or research papers, because I’m treating this as a personal survey question.

This question doesn’t specify Indian women in India, so I’m going to include some other experiences too, since this is a survey question and I have some experiences to share.

Background details:
I’ve lived in Mumbai and have travelled exclusively by the local trains (all the three major local train lines) and the buses run by Mumbai city as well as state transit (BEST and ST buses). I have extensively used Mumbai public transport for 8 years of my life. For 4 years of my life I used public transport twice a day, 5 days a week. Now I use public transport 2 or 3 days a week. I don’t drive in Mumbai. I travel alone even at night.

Gender Bias as a female traveller using Mumbai public transport:
I’ve never been asked to leave the “general” compartment and move into the “ladies” compartment on any Mumbai local train I’ve travelled in. I enter the “general” compartment sometimes when it is relatively less crowded than the “ladies”, or even because of silly reasons like the compartment will stop closer to a station exit I want to access. When I enter the “general” compartment, I’ve never been greeted by resigned or annoyed looks. Often men make more space for me, and give me a private nook to stand in. Men in the “general” compartment have been very sensitive to my body language, often adjusting their position when we share standing room, or move their hand as I grope overhead for a handrail to support me. I’ve had men apologize when accidental contact was made. Sometimes I’m offered a seat by men in the “general” compartment, but I mostly refuse, especially if the man looks elderly or tired, because I don’t feel uncomfortable while standing and have excellent “train stamina”.

Physical harassment:
I’ve never been groped by a man in a public space. I’ve been groped/(wo)manhandled/smacked/stepped-on freely by female travellers in the “ladies” compartment of the Mumbai locals. Personally, I’ve never observed any co-passenger being groped, or accusing anyone of groping. I know that this happens, I just haven’t encountered it.

I’ve been occasionally jostled by members of all sexes (men, women, transgenders alike), and have never pinpointed it down to lascivious intent. But I agree that could be a factor of my habit of sometimes being in a bit of a brown study while I travel.

Recently, I’ve seen more and more men dangle their arms out as the train picks up speed while leaving a station, seemingly reaching out. They are definitely not hanging out of the train because of the lack of space, so their intent is definitely suspect.

I’ve been followed by a stoned person on my way home from the station in Mumbai. I turned around and yelled at him till he ran away, tail between his legs. I’ve been followed by stoned people on my way home when I lived in San Francisco. I’ve never had the courage to say a word to them.

Verbal harassment:
In a Mumbai local train, one man in an adjacent train that was passing mine, called me “chashmish” (like the way a person wearing spectacles is called “hey, four-eyes!”). Even though it was not a sexual comment, I found it harassing and would have liked to have had a word with this (un)-gentleman.

Interestingly, travelling as a clueless 10-year-old girl in a Delhi bus, I’ve felt really uncomfortable with men staring at me, even though I was with my uncle. I have faced eve-teasing once on the roads of Delhi, by a young man on a bike, who sped away before I could respond. Recently, I’ve also come across eve-teasing on the roads of Mumbai, with the person always in a position to flee the spot before I could take action.

I see men on trains having a propensity for catcalling as their train speeds off. The movement of the train gives them a sense of security.
Interestingly, I’ve faced very vocal and threatening verbal abuse on the streets of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Durham, NC, where I also lived for two years is a smaller university town, but I never faced any verbal abuse on the streets there. Never faced any in Minneapolis, MN either, where I lived for three summer months, or in Sunnyvale, CA, where I lived for two years. Six months in San Francisco and I faced a lot of chatter on the streets.

My experiences on reporting and fighting back:
I’ve had great experiences with the police of Mumbai so far. I’ve recently had to call the women’s helpline (103) for reporting an accident and received quicker responses on it as compared to the general helpline (100). I use 100 to report people creating a loud nuisance in my area late at night, because I live in a locality which is a popular tourist spot. I’ve had occasion to call the Railway Police Helpline to report a drunkard sleeping in the “ladies” coach of a local train on a languid Sunday afternoon. They took down my details efficiently and two officers boarded the train two stops later and escorted the person out. I’ve seen the Railway Police post uniformed male and female officers in various compartments (both “general” and “ladies”) on several trains, at various hours of day and night.

I give these experiences here to show that I feel fairly comfortable to be able to report instances of harassment. The issue is being able to catch such a person, as most are smart enough to leave the scene of the crime, lickety-split.

The molesters and eve-teasers on Mumbai locals need to be reported and punished and deterred, prevention is better than cure. Waiting to punish someone after they’ve committed an offense would not be an ideal solution for me. The Mumbai local train community has a great unspoken code of etiquette, and I wish this comes into active play to punish harassing physical and verbal behaviour on local trains. This would be the best deterrent to curbing molestation on local trains, more effective than policing.

In all occasions that I faced verbal sexual harassment abroad, I felt confused and uncertain as to the race and gender-implications of their behaviour. I wasn’t confident enough to know how to reply, or how to tackle the situation, so I often grinned like an idiot and walked away. Would have been great to feel free enough to call the cops.

Kritika Gupta

This post was written in response to the question asked on quora: Are most Indian women harassed/cat-called?

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Initiatives, Uncategorized

Women’s Day Roundup: Tweetathon, Press & lots of love

Holla, Mumbai! We hope you have a fantastic International Women’s Day 2015. We were featured in The Epoch Times along with Hollaback Delhi on March 8th. Besides, US Consulate General gave our Director, Arpita Bhagat a shout out along with three kickass ladies – Aditi Gupta (Menstrupedia), Elsa Marie DSilva (SafeCity), Bhani Rachel Bali (Point of View, Mumbai) working in the arena of gender based violence using technology.

We also participated in a tweetathon hosted by Sayfty.Com with 20 other Indian and international organizations. Our twitter chat topic was using technology for women’s safety between 12 – 12:55 pm IST on March 8th, 2015. The tweetathon also made it to Twitter blog.

The hashtags used were #sayfty4women #IWD2015. If you missed it, here’s a storify of the same.

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Inspiration, Stories

Video Story: A lesson on courage from a young Indian woman

Harassment in public places in India is nothing new. Countless incidents where perverts of all ages, education and profession express this heinous form of power bestowed upon by a patriarchal society. While for decades, women have been silenced and sexual harassment – on the streets, in locals, flights, restaurants, schools, colleges and workplaces – normalized by their own peers, parents, teachers and social circle at large, in India, the women today have decided to put a uproot this evil. We are taking a step forward everyday.

In another feisty display of courage and strong will, a young women flying solo in an indigo flight to Bhubaneswar decided to publicly humiliate and record the aged creep who kept poking her from behind the gap between the seats. She reached a point of intolerable rage and courageously decided to take matters in her hands.

In her own words,

“This man on the seat behind mine, put his fingers in the seat gap to touch me!!! I was very shocked for sometime to react. By then the flight went to landing mode. Then the moment flight touched down, I got up. Saw his hand was again on the side ready to take up any opportunity to touch me!!! I created such a scene, humiliated him in front of the whole flight! He thought like usual girls will keep quiet and he can get away with this! I have lodged an FIR now! He is a very rich man of Bhubaneswar and is now very humiliated in front of the people who know him. Cant believe the ordeal I had to go through but being silent is a crime! The police officer was very helpful and the Indigo staff remained with me throughout. The man is under police custody currently.
I clicked his pictures and made videos, shouted so loud that the entire plane came forward to see him! i made sure i humiliate him as much as possible because I know law will do nothing”

It didn’t end there. Once the flight landed, the girl took the man to the police at the airport. He accepted his mistake but remained unabashed and smiled all this while.

He even accepted to have a daughter and that he would’ve forgiven a harasser who attempted something similar with his own daughter.

This incident, however regular, brings many facets of sexual harassment to light. One, many men (harassers) feel no remorse or shame even when they are publicly shamed. Two, people who encounter a lady facing harassment don’t bother to stand with her. Three, women generally accept misconduct from men everyday.

While women have begun to stand for their freedom of movement and right to loiter in Indian cities and towns, we are still some way to go.

But, we are rising! We hope many more women do the same. More courage to all of you.

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Aslesha’s Story: Catcalled in Bhandup

I saw group of guys masturbating outside loo. When I passed by them they all catcalled me and asked what’s my price.


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We are Investigating Street Harassment: Internationally!

Hello, Mumbai folks! We need your participation for a research project on Street Harassment.Please check the details below and share as much as possible.

Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. Hollaback has teamed up with Cornell University’s ILR School professor Beth Livingston to study the experiences and impacts of street harassment internationally, through cooperation with Hollaback’s many local activism sites. 

What are we doing? In October, we are launching online surveys in countries on six continents, translated into multiple languages. What can you do to help? Complete a survey! When your site leader sends it out—complete it and send the link on to others who may or may not be familiar with the movement. The more respondents—men and women—the better. Adults (over age 18 years) only, please.

What can you expect? The survey asks about demographics, experiences with harassment, reactions to it, and other questions. It is completely anonymous. Summary reports and press releases can be expected early in 2015.

What if I have questions? You can ask your site leader, Arpita Bhagat ([email protected]). If you want more info on the survey itself, contact Prof. Beth Livingston ([email protected]).

You can take the survey in any of the below mentioned 3 languages for Mumbai. It is open till December 15.

Mumbai, English:
Mumbai, Hindi:
Mumbai, Marathi:
THANKS—and don’t forget to PASS IT ON and HOLLABACK!

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Dark and Dangerous

Written by: Chriselle Correia

Sometimes all it takes is a motivational speech or a strong movie to shake you up. Truth be told, you suddenly feel awakened and self-righteous. But it’s just a matter of a few days until this feeling fades off, yet again.

Today, it was one of those conventional Bollywood movies that really struck a chord. While the performances and script were brilliant, the aftermath left me shaken. If anything, the movie left me more worried.

Bombay – the city of dreams; the city of life – shelters so many people everyday. And while I’d like to think that I live in one of the world’s loveliest cities, I can’t help but imagine the terror that takes over the city every other second. Walking down a street, you don’t know who’s watching you and how. You don’t know how often you’re followed. And while, it’s easy getting to work and bitching about the  lecherous men we dodged, how safe is it to say that that was the end of them? There are times you pay the price for another’s fight. You may be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

It isn’t easy scanning each man like he may attack you. I hate walking down the street with my eyes over my shoulder every two minutes. It is so disgraceful to have men pass lewd comments as if it’s usual and normal. It isn’t easy being a woman anymore.

It is scary to think that you could almost be a victim. A victim of rape, a victim of scandals, a victim of trade; most importantly, a victim of insensitivity. It is scary to imagine how easy it is to add a price to one’s life. The life we live with so much pride and delight. Even the most narcissistic being will be shuddered and stripped off their confidence. All it takes is a a fraction of a second.

In this world filled with hate and aguish, we must still dare to hope (or so I would like to believe). This may be delusional, this may be just another bunch of words. But with the hope of this reaching someone somewhere, here’s my plea.

Dear Mr/Ms Gangster,

Deep within you’re human. You’re crooked and cold but you’re still human. Look beyond your crafty mind and negative hole. Watch the sun shine golden each day, watch the moon light up the sea. Hear the waves and the feel the breeze. Look at the horizon expand and seize the moment. Lighten your minds and hearts and change. Change for a better tomorrow. Change for a safer place. Change with the fear of God; with the fear of your own demons.

Life is too short and you want to live it large. So go out and live. Money is just paper dust. It’s here today, it’s gone tomorrow. Power is a game and there are different ways to play it. Playing with someone’s life isn’t your best bet.

Dear Rich Man,

You’re educated, you’re rich, your powerful. Does that give you the right to do what you’re doing? Does that give you the right to please yourself at the cost someone else’s pain? Does that give you the right to judge and define a girl’s character and assassinate it? What gives you the right to crush her modesty and trust with your fake friendship?

Go gamble, go drink, go smoke – but why would you pride yourself in ripping a child off of her virginity and shuddering her conscience? Spend your money wisely. Educate the child or woman you choose to molest. Offer her a dignified life instead of taking it away. Do more good than evil. Aren’t you corrupt enough anyway?

Dear Sadist,

Get some help, we’re here for you. Rescue yourself from your own bondage. Find satisfaction in love and not in pain. Rise above your demons, rise above this living hell. You have no right to decide what she deserves, you never did. Stop and stare at yourself and at those around you. You don’t want to be that person, you want to be better – you can be better.

You mask your bruised ego with fake pride. How do you sleep at night? How are you at peace with yourself?

Do you like watching us live in fear? Do you like wiping innocence off the face of the earth? Do you like killing our souls? Do you enjoy scarring lives? Do you like breaking homes? Do you enjoy watching us begging to let go? Do you enjoy watching us squirm? Do you like turning this world into a dark and dangerous place? Yes, you do. And so again, how are you at peace with yourself?

I dare you to swap your mind with that of the victim’s. Feel the rush of emotion and panic. You think you own her the moment you take over her body but in reality, you’ve killed her. I dare you to feel powerless and captured. I dare you to feel fear and rage in the same instant. I dare you to feel the chills in your spine. I dare you to feel helpless as your world is spinning around you. I dare you to watch your world come crashing down. I dare you to feel hurt and alone. I dare you to be her.

You kill her very being. While she’ll be just another trophy in your eyes and a boost to your boastful arrogance, she’s really just a body with an empty mind. So fight your dirty desires and be a better human being. Fame, money and power doesn’t give you the right to do as you please. It offers you the opportunity to make this world a better place. Maybe even make yourself a better person. After all, charity does begin at home.

Free us from thoughts of worry. Imagine a world where women needn’t worry about their safety or that of their loved ones. Go ahead and build a world towards freedom from one’s own demons. Indulge if you may, but not at the cost of one’s life. Rise above violence and assault against women. Don’t you see? She’s a mother, a daughter, a friend, a colleagues – she’s a human being, just like you.

In this constant war, there’s no definite victory. Why are we so afraid of nuclear weapons and the economic downfall, when the real war is already in motion? We’re out for blood every day – cold and brutal. What is the worth of the most powerful weapon, when man is so willing to end his kind with his own selfish behaviour? The fact that a lot of us are not willing to stop and think rationally, is an end in itself. Why kill flesh and blood when emotion, souls and humanity cease to exist anyway?

Share this, with the hope of it reaching someone somewhere. Share this for change in the smallest way possible. Share this if you feel how I feel. Share this, as a plea.

I want to feel safe. Maybe not with a stranger, but with my own. I want to wake up as the infant I once was, with no memory of such harsh realities. If only, there were a wish upon every star. If only…

Expose your dreams and ambition, not her body
Add to her laughter, not her pain
Bring her flowers, not hand-cuffed chains
Offer her support, avoid any judgement
Respect her choices, value her being
Admire her strength, don’t suppress her will to grow
Challenge her opinions, don’t cuff her by the door
Shower her with affection, don’t strip off her emotion
She’s not a commodity to use for your satisfaction
Treat her like a lady
That’s the best you can do.

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Jenea’s Story: Driving school

When i was 17 i took driving lessons and my instructor tried to grope me every single day. He used to take me to dark lanes to teach driving.

Initially i thought ‘its just in my head,’ but as the days passed by he started to be very obvious making me uncomfortable. One day when he tried to slip his fingers in my top, i held his hand and yelled at him and asked him not to do so.It took me a whole lot of courage to say anything to him.

This is when he got a bit aggressive and came on to me, uplifted my top and assaulted me.The only reason he stopped was because i screeched and made noise.

Next day i discussed this matter with my best friend and we decided to report against him in the driving school. The authorities were shocked and handed him over to the cops.

I really wish i would have reported him initially but it takes a lot of courage to do something like that specially when you know that people are gonna judge you too. i’m happy that my best friend supported me in this decision and stood by my side. 


Anon-guy, you are a brave-heart for sharing this!

When your vehicle breaks down and you have to walk down through the creepiest lanes, you know how it feels like. It was around 2:30am when I was walking alone toward home. I observed a huge bike following me since long. It was either Bullet or Enfield— I don’t remember now. Near the dead-end, I was stopped by a huge man on the bike whose height could be 6’4+ and I was around 5’8. He was heavily built. I was thin and naturally, no match at all.

He was an army guy in late 30s. He flashed his bike’s light directly on my face. I knew what it was all about. I said: ‘yes’? He then said, without getting down from his bike: ‘Remember me?’ I said: ‘No’. He continued: ‘You chat on internet, don’t you?’ I said: ‘Yes, I do’. The man said: ‘exactly. I remember chatting with you on yahoo and have seen your face’. I replied: ‘I never do cam-chatting with anyone and I don’t chat at all with men or guys. I chat with the ones I know personally. So?’ and he said: ‘So, anything you say. You wanna do it here? Or you wanna come to my place like a good boy?’ I swear, my hands were trembling but I showed no sign of fear nor I pretended that I was brave. I tried to be as cool and normal as possible. I took out my mobile phone from my pocket and pretended to talk on the phone with my dad and told him where I was, and also told him that I am with a man from Army and asked my dad to note down his bike number as I lied to dad that he is helping me get home. To be very honest, there was no network on my mobile phone. Then I said: ‘My dad is around, if you could leave your number then maybe we could meet tomorrow? Or you can have my number?’ Without a word, he turned his bike and sped off. I ran like I never ran in my life toward home through the streets as dogs barked and chased me. Dogs felt like angels at that hour. I kept repeating as I ran: ‘I am proudda myself. I am proudda myself’. In fear. Extreme fear to be very honest. The trauma was short-lived. It ended as soon as I reached home but hatred and fear developed more.

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