I never analyzed if I was sexually assaulted. Growing up and living in New Delhi, being touch inappropriately was a part of life. It was regular for strangers to grab my breast and/or my genitals in public buses. It was normal for my men coworkers to make suggestive jokes. It was common for the peons, shopkeepers, bus-conductors, et al. to brush their hands across my breast.
I always got angry and tried to make a scene. I was told that “you need to learn to ignore it.”
I don’t want to recall each instance because if I do, I will probably sit in a corner and cry for days. Or worst I will start smoking again.
Once my father was taking me somewhere, I don’t recall where. I was in eighth grade. We were on a public bus; it was daylight outside. A stranger massaged my privates right in front of my father. I didn’t know what to do. I wish I had shouted. But in foresight, I think I deemed it was okay because my father didn’t do anything. He didn’t move me away or told the stranger off. Later, my father told me “to toughen up.” Now, I understand the reason he drove my younger sister everywhere.
There was a guy, who rode the bicycle on our street. He would appear from nowhere, pinch my breast, and vanish. This happened for more than five years. I never saw his face, or make of the bicycle. He never touched my girlfriend, but only me.
Once I couldn’t exit the bus at my bus-stop because strange hands cupped my privates and more strange hands held my breasts. I was twenty. All—men and women on the bus watched my attempts to free myself, but no one said or did anything. when I got down at the next stop, I stood and cried. And a passing stranger gestured me to the bushes for sex.
In my work, all my bosses always made sexual innuendos. If I would have said something, I would have been without a job. So I never said anything. But the underlings were the worst. Because the bosses knew about these instances, but they condoned the bad behavior.
Again, there are so many instances, that if I recall all of them, I will send shitty emails to all these people. Or I will call India and tell them.
During my internship at Suresh Goel and Associates, one senior civil/ electric (I am unsure) engineer, regularly caressed my back. He followed me everywhere, licked his lips suggestively in front of me, and repeatedly enquire about my Walkman and music selections. One day, I played Guns N’ Roses song “Get in the Ring” and queued it to just before the expletives. When the engineer harassed me, I handed him my headphones and played the cassette. After that, he never bothered me. I was twenty-one and he was fifty-something.
A few months back, one guy contacted me via this website. He asked if I remembered him. He was my colleague at Sikka and Associates. He was a draftsman and I was an architect. And I was the only woman in an office of 20 men. There was only a working urinal; it took weeks to get the WC fixed. This guy used to wear skin-tight pants and shirts. And every day, without a fail he, his best friend, and the office secretary teased me, made suggestive comments on my clothes, and disparaged me for being unmarried.
As I write this, I still get an icky feeling when I think of Sikka and Associates. My boss and the entire male staff, scratched their privates all the time. Imagine sitting on an office chair, three men standing around you, with their genitals at your eye level. Now, imagine all three men scratching down-there continuously. That was my life for two years.
My freshest memory is the peon, draftsmen, engineering staff, and IT woman of C P Kukreja Associates. From the first day, one of the senior architects badgered me to get married and his main draftsman endlessly teased my clothes, my way of drinking tea, and being unmarried. It took me four years to take revenge on the draftsman. But his words and tone still hurt.
The IT lady—Renu (I am not afraid to name her.), who had worked their longer, harassed me each moment. While crossing me in the corridor, she would make sure to collide into me. While sorting my computer issues, when she bent to reach my keyboard, she rested her upper arm on the side of my breast. She would stand behind my chair and randomly rub down my back and neck. I hear that she lives in the Bay Area. If I ever see her, I want to punch her in the face.
The crème de la crème was the peon Jha. A highly religious guy, he smeared a big long red bindi on his forehead and wore religious thread janeu. Twice a day, he served tea to the staff. While he placed the cup on my table, he brushed his hands against my breast and caressed my hands. Whenever I saw him approaching with a tray cups, I would leave my workstation. But he would corner me somewhere else and get a touch. He did this openly and to all the women. The boss knew about it but did nothing.
Of course, all the engineering and draftsmen in that office were vile. Most sought an opportunity to brush against any female. Oh, one of the directors in this office was the biggest harasser. I don’t want to think about them anymore. But I am tempted to call the office and scream at them.
I thought Indians in America are different. They are not. I don’t go to the Indian grocery stores because it is the same thing. Men seeking cheap thrills by brushing past my breast. I visit the Indian temples only with my husband.
It isn’t that life is rosy in the US. in my volunteer work, one non-Indian male just wants to greet-hug all the time. I skirt him and he chases me. I just didn’t know how to tell him that I feel uncomfortable. He would say that it was just a greeting, nothing sexual. So I lied. I told him that I am not a touchy-feely person. That I don’t even touchy-feely my husband. I don’t know for how long I can hold him at bay.
I am tired remembering my past. Writing all this is making me feel dirty. I am having doubts. Did I do something to invite all this?
Oh My God, there were more. I took a really long hot shower and remembered. A doctor when I was 16. Another doctor when I was 26.
My tutor molested me for a five days each week for one year. I was only 12. I don’t recall his name, but I know where he lives. When I was older, I used to encounter his wife in the salon. I want to take next flight to New Delhi, and kick him.
Then there was my fist cousin, Papan. I am outing his name, because I am not afraid of him or my family anymore. He stared assaulting me from the age of 14 until 31. I couldn’t say anything because he was my only conduit to my family.
I hope to god that all of them rot in hell.