Those little walks..

Year 1996, Venue: Small Town

I am done with my standard X board exams. My friends from school and I decide to go for an early morning walk. We walk, have fun and each one goes in different directions to their respective homes.  I am a minute away from entering my apartment complex when a scooter stops in front of me.

A man in his early 20’s, moderately good-looking, asks me politely with a smile, still sitting on the scooter, “Do you know where Col. Chaudhary lives?”

I reply negatively. Then he introduces himself, “I am Captain Anil Kumar. What’s your name?”

I tell him my name, smiling.

“Do you go to college?”

“No, I go to school”

“Do you live here?”

I point to my apartment, “Yeah, right there”

“Do you go for a walk every day?”

“No, just sometimes. Okay, I need to go. Bye”

I come home smiling with all the attention I got. My Dad asks me, ‘Who were you talking to?’ He obviously saw me through the window.

“Captain Anil Kumar”

“Who is he? Do you know him?”

“No, he was looking for someone’s house”

“Don’t talk to strangers. If you see him again, don’t talk to him”.

I nod. I am scared I will see him again and if he happens to talk to me, my parents would curb my freedom. I am allowed to see my friends whenever I like, eat out as much as I like, watch any number of movies with my friends. It’s too much to lose. I stop going for morning walks with the fear of running into him again.

Year 2000, Venue: Small Town

Same scenario.  Engineering exams over.  Morning walk.  On my way home.

I get stopped by a guy 2 years my senior. I know him; he was in my school and my best friend’s brother’s roommate going to a top Engineering college in another city. He calls me by my name and introduces himself. I am not even remotely attracted to him. In fact, I am scared of him because he’s too big and hefty, looks like a goon. I tell him my best friend’s brother’s reference in order to indicate we have a common friend and eve-teasing is not an option. (In my opinion then, Eve-teasers do not eve-tease their friends’ acquaintances).

He says, “I was wondering if you would like to be friends with me. No pressure. We can meet several times and then decide whether we want to be serious.”

This was totally unwelcome though I could tell it was coming. ‘I am not interested in any kind of friendship’.

‘No pressure, think for a few days and then tell me. Bye’

I go home. Same thoughts. What if my parents think boys follow me? Will I lose my freedom? What if this guy declares his “interest” to his friends and all boys start yelling his name every time I pass them? I am mortified. Totally unwelcome annoying proposal.

Morning walks stop again.

I see this guy around on his bike when I am on my scooty a couple of times in the evenings. I hesitantly, uncomfortably smile. One day, when I am parked, he comes to me and says, ‘Hey, forget about that day. I don’t want you to be scared of me. I am not going to harm you in any way. I noticed you get very serious when you see me”. All I say is “Okay”.

Year 2008, Venue: United States

I am heating up my food in the microwave. I am married and have a kid by now.

A creepy coworker in his 50’s introduces himself to me and asks me if I take a walk in my breaks. I reply negatively saying I am too busy. He explains that though everybody is busy, walks are extremely important and that I should let him know if and when I would like to take a walk with him. I say “okay”.

Again, I am mortified. I avoid him. I change my direction in the hallway every time I suspect coming face to face with him.

Then I wonder, “what for?”  Who is controlling my freedom now? No one. Who is going to tease me? No one.  Getting scared and avoiding this situation had become a habit, a habit formed over the years. A second nature.

I wish things were different. I wish I had been more comfortable getting “such” requests, politely declining them and not letting them change the occurrence or direction of my “walks” in any way. The countless introductions and random friendship requests I have declined have always made me queasy. I knew they would complicate my life. My parents wouldn’t approve of me getting attention from boys. And I felt accountable to nip them in the bud.

 I felt my freedom was a privilege, not a right. And I needed to do everything possible to retain it. That is how we are led to believe.

And mind you, I have always had male friends, believed in genderless friendships and have proposed to someone whom I am now married to. This is something that wasn’t mainstream in that small town, and I attribute this to my feminist thoughts. But my small-town mentality sometimes competes with my feminist confidence and gets the better of me, though.

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8 Responses to Those little walks..

  1. EM says:

    Last month a middle-aged man stopped me in the middle of the mall to say that I have beautiful eyes. At that point I didn’t think about it as a complement, I was just trying to figure out how creepy it was and how alert I should have been.

    The funny part of being brought up as a free spirit in its true sense – you still see the limitations of an individual. Just that these limitations do not come from any sort of authority, because you are the queen of your castle. Instead, you learn that people are dangerous, insincere, vile and have bad intentions.

    Be it parental authority or this induced lack of trust to everything unknown, we’re gonna avoid these guys. Some of us because meeting a stranger might look *inappropriate*, some because they do not want to buy a pepper spray yet.

    • EM, I am sure with the way you have been raised, you can handle turning down a non-threatening guy. That’s my limitation. Anyone who directly expresses romantic interest in me makes me very uncomfortable.

  2. MoRS says:

    It could have been me writing this 🙂 Was always made to feel that freedom was a priviledge and that I should be grateful for it. And yes, avoiding “Eve teasers” and such attention in the same manner too. Now, in my 30s I can finally look at it from a different perspective.

  3. Can relate to this. So many of us have been raised to hold ourselves responsible for any attention from creeps – we still need to remind ourselves that it wasn’t us inviting the attention and if the attention was just polite interest, then it’s not intended as an insult.

  4. Pingback: It is neither correct nor wise to judge one generation with the values of another. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  5. voyeur says:

    Ok. So how does one express romantic interest to a woman?

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