|Photo courtesy Vaishali Ahuja|
This happened yesterday night right outside my home in Noida. I was unloading the groceries from my car with my back towards the street that is usually bustling with life. At that hour (around 7:30 pm) one can find kids with their moms and several groups of housewives gathered to discuss the latest goings on. But yesterday the street was comparatively silent with only a couple of people strolling around. I was almost done unloading the groceries when I heard someone talking (apparently on phone) behind me.
"हाँ दीदी मैं पाँच मिनट मे पहुँच रहा हूँ|" It was a guy in his mid twenties and he was walking away. But then something happened and he suddenly turned and started walking towards. I was taken aback, but he was grinning from ear to ear.
"दीदी, आप किसी को जानते हो जिसे ड्राइवर की ज़रूरत है?" The question was innocent enough and under normal circumstances I wouldn't have thought twice before answering. But circumstances were different yesterday. Every day we hear a new occurrence of crime against women. Moreover he was a stranger and the fact that he was vigorously scratching, no scratch that, fondling his crotch while talking to me didn't help his cause either. I said no I wasn't aware of anyone who needs a driver, but mentally I was evaluating my situation. I was carrying two heavy grocery bags in my hands, which I could fling at him if needed. Another part of my mind was telling me I was overthinking the situation. The poor guy probably wasn't too well aware of etiquette. Had the situation ended there, I probably wouldn't have written this blog post. But the guy went on.
"दीदी हम बहुत साल से काम कर रहें हैं| पहले B ब्लाक में काम करते थे| दो कालेज की स्टूडेंट्स को ले कर जाते थे| कभी हमारे काम से कोई शिकायत नहीं हुई उन्हें| पर अब वो अमेरिका चली गयी हैं|" Ok, all well so far. Nothing too wrong about the conversation, but he had some serious itch down under, which he couldn't leave alone. I told him I couldn't help him, to which he said that I should let him know if anything comes up. I thought the "interaction" was over, but the creepiness factor was soon about to go up a few notches. He stood their too close for comfort and went on about how satisfied his employers were with his services and that college girls are very sweet and looking at me he was reminded of them. He claimed that his services could be used in any way (??), and he was ready to work for a lower pay as well. All this while my head was abuzz with confusing thoughts.
I squeezed past him all this while telling him that I had understood what he was saying but didn't know anyone who needed a driver. He followed me to the gate and kept on repeating stuff he had already told me. After I had quite sternly told him (in a louder voice) that I couldn't help him and he should go away, I went inside and shut the iron gate on his face. Though he went on speaking continuously about how well his previous employers had used (again ??) him and I could still see him through the bars, I felt much safer with the iron gate between us. he kept on speaking till I climbed the stairs and was out of his view. Phew!
Back home, several episodes of Crime Patrol - Dastak flashed through my mind and I had a very clear vision of Anoop Soni wagging his finger at me and telling me "अगर गुनाह की यह दस्तक विभा ने सुन ली होती तो..." And I wondered whether I had handled the situation in the right way. Should I have created more of a scene to attract attention? But then had the guy genuinely been looking for work, would it have been fair? Was he deliberately making me feel uncomfortable or was he just unaware that it isn't acceptable to be too friendly with your crotch in public? Was he just unaware of the concept of personal space just like many of us are? What do you say? Was I being paranoid? What should I have done?