I'd finished B-school and was going back home to Madurai by train. The compartment was almost empty when the train started from Pune at 4 p.m. and I'd just settled in, trying to get some sleep. A few minutes later I opened my eyes to see the middle aged man in the opposite berth trying to put his blanket on me. I got up immediately and pushed it off me. His excuse was that I seemed cold. I looked around to see that he'd drawn the drapes of the coupe, had taken his shirt off and was touching his chest.
Words cannot explain the panic that set in (I'm paranoid about rape, after having seen a 16 year old girl lose her sanity after a rape when I was barely 6!). I pulled the drapes apart and ran to find the TTE. I caught coming out of the toilet and didn't even wait for him to close the door behind him. I told him that I wanted my berth changed to some place where there were women around. The compartment, like I said, was mostly empty, but the TTE managed to find me a seat with an aged couple. They were pleasant company and treated me like I was their grandchild, but I didn't sleep a wink that night!
This was undoubtedly the scariest experience of my life! In the streets of Mumbai where people don't need an excuse to brush against a woman, my defense is offense. I elbow away anybody who comes too close, before they can touch me. But does that make me a Blank Noise Action Hero? No, I guess I am just a coward who ran for it! But there are women who have been brave enough to fight back. The Blank Noise Action Hero Project is collecting the experience of women who have dealt with street sexual harassment by not ignoring or avoiding it but through confrontation. If you are one, or you know one, blog about it and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject titled "Action Heroes Online". Lets honour our heroes on Women's Day!