The night I think, to most people, is the scariest part of the day. Not just because it’s dark and you can’t really see much of anything, but because whatever you saw in the day time, now looks very unfamiliar… Unfamiliarity scares us pre-programmed creatures who thrive on consistency. Take a road for example. Any road. The road to your house? There’s a big chance that someone who visits it for the first time during the day, will say that it looks different in the night right? ….. ย Well, I’m in a bus now. And everything looks unfamiliar… Everyone looks -no stares- at me oddly.ย  No, I don’t have horns growing on my head. {Insert picture of Dan Rad in the movie Horns} Its not that people haven’t seen me in the bus. Nor am I new to public transport.

It’s just that I’m the only woman in the entire bus and it is 10:27 on a Saturday night… I saw a couple a little while ago, they were seated, with the man securing his woman under his arm, having wedged her between the window and himself so that no one can get at her.ย  But they got down a few halts ago, and now I remain to be the only woman in the entire bus, no actually, in the ‘everywhere’. I don’t see a woman on the road, in other buses, nor at bus halts, nowhere in the near vicinity to be precise.. And I think I can sense why..

You should see me now.. I look like a cat caught shitting in the kitchen. I’m cautious. I’m looking around, over my shoulder, sideways at the guy sitting next to me, behind me, on the seats opposite mine etc.. I’m watching and observing everyone. Is someone looking at me for more than two minutes at a stretch? Where are his hands? Are they in a visible place or in his pants doing the sneaky? I re-adjust my bolero so that I may deflect any unwanted glares that would have otherwise been washing over me now. The man next to me is pretending to look out the window, but from the corner of my eye I can see him looking at my bosom. When I look at him, he either quickly looks away or looks straight at me and I want to ask him “Do you want this seat so you can look out the window to your heart’s content without your gaze having to go through my body? Why are you looking at me like that? Have you not seen women before? Or is it that seeing me at this time, erks you?”

It is agonisingly uncomfortable. And annoying. And I want to land a heavy wallop on his face.. Then suddenly, I’m scared. Will this guy follow me home? What if he gets down the same halt as I do? I don’t have a husband (boyfriend/ brother / man friend) to protect me now like that other woman who got down. Did I bring my pepper spray? Will it work? Can I tackle him? What’s this bus number? I will note it down and send a text to a friend/ mother / guardian informing them that I am in this particular bus and if something happens to me, they have evidence to track me down with? Wait, what?! Evidence? Nothing is going to happen to me..a number of movie scenes flash across my mind, scenes from human trafficking movies and clips of gang rape and now suddenly I’m scared… What if? What if something happens to me tonight?

But then this guy on my right gets down at his halt and that’s it. My heart slowly goes back into its normal pace and the inner voice in my head heaves a silent ‘Phew. That was close. You could have been headlines’ sigh..

Thus ends the thought process of a woman in a bus at 10 30 in the night…
I remember something that a friend, a dude friend, once told me. He was telling me a random story of how he was walking at about 1 o’clock in the morning in some godforsaken jungle/village area because he couldn’t stand the funeral he had been at, when he asked me what I would have done in his situation. I replied and said that I would have not ventured out into the night like he did but instead stayed put. Then he said, “I’m a man. I’m not afraid to walk on the road in the night. So anyway listen…..” and continued with his story to which I did not pay any attention afterwards because, of course he doesn’t have anything to worry about. The worst that could happen to him that night was a) got run over by that mean looking goat with horns who had eyed him on the road and b) get mugged and have his purse and mobile stolen for drug money whereas had it been me on the road – and I’d had a mental image of me walking in one of those game lanes with the paddy field laid out on one side and a few far-apart houses on the other side- I’d be scared shitless about being raped.!

I’m not even kidding. Women, take my word on it, because a) I’m a woman and b) I’ve grown up in Sri Lanka, are hard wired to be thought that they can get raped or harassed or attacked or abused or bullied or shouted filth at or poked and prodded at or kidnapped every time they step outside their home. I personally doubt that any man will ever know what it feels like to be a woman, let alone a woman walking on the road at night, grilled with the insecurities that flow through our mind, the fear of being hurt and the consequences of being hurt, the shame, and most of all, the feeling that the entire world is out to hurt us..

And here I am wondering to myself, was that all really necessary? That trauma and agony and mental churning of fearful thoughts of getting raped and all those flashbacks of movies with gang rape and headlines of women in buses getting raped in India? Our parents say yes, that is necessary. “We have bought up our girls well. They don’t go out in the night. They don’t wear short skirts. They don’t go anywhere alone. They are married by the time they are 25 and they have a husband who can look after them. And so they are okay. No harm will come to them…”

*slow clap*

Well done parents and adults and aunties and uncles of our society. Lovely work. Good job. You must be so so proud! Quick question. What have you taught your boys though? Have you taught your boys not to whistle at girls when they walk by? Have you taught them not to pinch and poke women in the bus? Or not to throw insults at them about how hard they want to fuck them tonight or how many friends of theirs want to fuck them or how their clothing makes them feel like they want to do certain things to them? Have you taught your boys how to treat a woman and behave around a woman? How to talk to a woman, compliment a woman’s beauty and how to get her consent for sex or for anything else for that matter? Have you taught your boys that a girl in a short skirt is not asking to get raped or if a girl walking at ten o clock in the night is not an invitation for anything? Have you taught your boys the difference between a yes and no? Have you taught how to respect a prostitute if they ever meet them? Have you taught your boys that they do not ever own the woman? Have you ever taught your boys that a woman’s choice of doing whatever she wants with her body is to her choosing and that it should not be labelled with names that society thinks fit and that it is not an invitation to dominate them?

No, seriously. Have you sat down with your son /grandson / nephew and gone through any one of these things and told them Putha, if you see a girl in the bus, don’t make remarks at her tits. How would you like if someone made hurtful / degrading remarks at your cock? (Or any other body part, for that matter) the same way you do to your girls before they step out of the house and you say “Duwa, don’t dress like that/ come home before six

Have you taught them about respect and trust? And none of that “boys will be boys” crap.

Instead of raising our girls to be “lajja bayata hadenna“*, how about telling our boys to be lajja bayata hadenna*?? As in, “lajja nadda oyata ohoma pare yana ena ganu lamainta anan manan kiyala pachchal karanna?“** or “baya nadda ohoma ganu lamainta athawara karala hire wilanguwe watenne?***

Let’s reflect on that a little more and we might see a spot where we as a nation of cat callers/ misogynists/ rapists/ paedophiles can improve on ourselves as human beings, collectively as the sinhala bodu folk that we claim to be..

*This translated into English roughly means something like ‘Learn to grow up to be shy and scarred..Oh wait – shit. It literally translates ‘to be scared and shy’..-_-whatthefrick!!… Thoroughly disappointed at the aunty/uncle who came up with that ish..

**You should be ashamed to cat call girls on the road..

***You should be scared to abuse women on the road because you’d end up in jail.

The title of this blog is from one of my fav vampire movies featuring an Iraniam, burka clad vampire who teaches a thing or two to the nasties of the night who try to harass her on the road. Its Iranian and done by a sassy, totally my type of director.ย Watch it. Its cool. *grins*ย 

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7 thoughts on “A girl walks home alone at night

  1. Just a nitpick: Lajja baya (or Hiri Oththappa in Pali), is a much older concept than something an aunty or uncle came up with. It’s called dewa dharma and applies to all beings, and their shame and fear of sinning. Sadly it has been co-opted by our Victorian mortality police now.

    Really appreciate the post, and agree with it wholeheartedly. I, as a male of slight build, feel incredibly unsafe on buses late night, and I can only imagine how many magnitudes scarier it must be for a woman. Initiatives like SLU’s SHOW campaign give me hope, and I’ve noticed an increase of awareness and respect for personal safety of women among younger generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your insight of reality is a voice that needs to go out with thousands of other girls screaming soundlessly indeed !!!!

    Unfortunately this is where the generations of parents have failed to bring up their sons to behave as gentleman of respect and professionalism.

    Instead their sons learn from other peer’s, and follow what they think makes them ‘cool’ which would be to hoot, whistle, jeer, make sadist remarks at woman passing by. Another set would find themselves wanting to satisfy their petty and cheap needs, by hitting on or trying to get physical, not to mention the recent boom of spy cameras all over in public for fulfilling those hopeless desires.

    What we need is a way in which we could instill the respect, and gratitude to extended to a woman, the understanding of the special role she plays in life, the fact she is equal to man, and even could be more powerful, men should know to show respect, give respect, to be in control and to allow woman stand not below, not above but next to them.

    I wonder when a time will come, when a bunch of girls can actually walk down the street, late in the night, enjoying a late evening off after work, knowing that no one would bat and eye at her…. but even on top of that, all guy’s to be the perfect gentleman, of allure, professionalism, and respect… our society would be amazing to look at!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thats true. I’ve noticed boys who are mice infront of parents become ‘macho’ when with friends. Its a “peer” thing also. Parents don’t except their boys to behave in such a manner, so they don’t really tell them, and assumes that ‘boys will be boys’ which actually gives permission for boys to go ahead and do dickwad things.

      So yes, lets hope for a change..ish… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  3. I thought this was brilliantly written. Every man should be educated like you mentioned, on how to treat women and see them for who they are, humans. I cannot understand how frustrated some men get, but it has everything to do with their upbringing. Every parent should teach their children manners and how to exist in society basically (more over for males). It’s sickening that men think they are superior to females and have “rights” to control, rape, man handle women. Who the fuck do we think we are.

    Let us hope that there will be a change in consciousness soon by starting to change the trend.

    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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