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Although we welcome anonymous stories on Hollaback Mumbai, since it is the launch of our ‘Main Hoon Na/I’ve Got Your Back campaign, I’m submitting my story with my name on it.
Like many people, I am harassed every day, often multiple times a day. I do not see it as a ‘compliment.’ I see it as a by-product of a culture that accepts gender-based violence and something that prevents me from enjoying this city that I love so deeply.
This was the incident that got me most riled up about starting a Hollaback site: I was at Andheri train station waiting in the line to punch my coupon. When I got to the front, a guy came over and pushed my hand away and started punching his own coupons. I said ‘hey! I was here first.’ He replied: ‘so?’ Great. I punched my coupons and I left. I was walking up the stairs and someone bumps into me, his hand pressing against my butt. I turn around, and it’s the Coupon-Ass. He says sorry and smiles. I keep going. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see him watching me. When I stop to send my friend an SMS and he stops too, watching me from across the bridge, I know he’s following me. I walk towards the train and he follows me. I stop, hoping he will walk past, and he doesn’t. That’s when I started to get really scared. I didn’t say or do anything. I just ran down to the first train I could find, got into the Ladies compartment and hoped that he wouldn’t follow me.
This was pre-Hollaback, pre-learning things to say and do when I was being harassed. The experience sucked – I felt dirty and ashamed and like I had done something wrong. I now know that there is nothing I can do that warrants harassment. But when I read about Hollaback, it was the memory of this experience which pushed me to contact Emily May and start a Hollaback in Mumbai. And I am so grateful for this difficult, inspiring opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than me. The guy was a grade-A asshole, but in a way I am glad that I was propelled to become part of Hollaback because of it.
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