It was a usual trip to Hyderabad during the summer vacation. I had lots of fun with my cousins and family and was all merry about getting back home. On our way back we took the train from Hyderabad to Mumbai. It was just me and my mom, dad had left a day early because of work. We got on the train and sat on our assigned seats. Luckily we had no one in the seats next to ours. Me and mom started chatting about everything under the sun. I loved train rides, looking at the stretch of green pastures outside for miles and miles together. Having a cup of tea and just being in the present, made me happy.
Everything was going normal until the last leg of the journey. We were about 2 hours away from our destination when I noticed something unusual. I was sitting on the lower birth of the compartment and I could see a man standing near the compartment door staring at me. At first I ignored but you know that feeling when someone just keeps looking at you and you can’t ignore, I looked towards him again and he was still staring. I shifted my sitting position a little, I thought about whether I am sitting in a certain way which is making him look at me like that. I doubted my own conscious and my dress. I was wearing a salwar kameez with dupatta. Mom saw my reaction and asked what happened? From embarrassment, I told her nothing I am just sleepy.
Few moments later, I again glanced at him because of his constant stare. This time to my shock he pointed his eyes towards his torso. He was holding his erect penis with his right hand and was masturbating. I froze. I did not know what to do. I felt like crying and running away from there but I was stuck. I was in a train. This has happened to me several times before. This was not the first time I was being sexually harassed by a stranger. For a few minutes I just sat there stone cold, in disbelief. That’s when it hit me. My mom was sitting right there. I should tell her about this. I gathered the courage and told her what was happening. She told me to exchange seats with her. She sat in my place and gave the dirtiest and scariest look possible to that man. He ran from there within seconds.
The damage was already done till then. This incident happened about 13 years ago but it has stayed with me till now. All that I remember of that train ride is that man. It shook me to a point where I refused to travel alone in trains there on. It played with my self confidence. I started doubting my dressing style, my body and everything possible. I cried that night when we got home. I cried because I didn’t know what to do at that moment. I cried because no one should go through this or be treated this way. I could have written a general article on sexual harassment but I chose to write my own story. Because, I have grown now and I know if anyone tries to do this with me or with people around me, I would take a strict action. I would stand up and call the abuser out. This incident has only made me stronger but that doesn’t mean everyone feels the same. I took my own sweet time to un-doubt myself and my body.
By Shruti L.