"You're going to have the best time of your life."
That's what I was told when I got through Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University.
It has been 2 years since I graduated and whenever I'm asked about how my college life was, I usually have a bunch of fun stories and incidents to share. Until this morning, when a friend tagged me in a Facebook post, which brought back petrifying memories of a particular incident that took place during my college days. It's human nature to erase terrifying memories from our heads in order to paint a beautiful picture of the life that we're leading. The incident that I'm going to share reminded me of one such memory which I had conveniently tucked in some deep, dark corner of my mind.
For those who aren't familiar with the geography of LSR, the college has two gates: the front/main gate and the back gate. The latter opens up to a colony called National Park which is flooded with PGs and rented flats, given its proximity to the college. What separates the college back gate and National Park is a long park that runs across the road, fondly known as the 'back park' by us LSR girls.
Here's the park I'm talking about. The red wall behind is LSR.
Anybody who lives in National Park colony has to cross this stretch to go to their respective PGs. And since the park was so close to college, we would end up chilling there between classes.
It was just another lazy afternoon when we were whiling away time in this park which, by the way, is just 10 meters away from the college back gate, that we came across something, the very thought of which still sends a shiver down my spine.
Our conversation was disturbed by a man who sat in his car, parked on the opposite side of the park. He honked till he got our attention and we all turned to look at him. Soon our irritation turned into disgust.
The man was looking at each one of us, while he masturbated in broad daylight with his car's window rolled down.
He finished his business and zipped away like nothing had happened. While we stood there, shaken and violated.
We had been sexually assaulted and this was the kind of assault nobody had ever told us about.
I felt disgusted. We spoke about it among ourselves and chose to forget it simply because we were naive and honestly, back then, we had little understanding that sexual assault isn't always physical.
We went back to living in our state of unfortunate denial, till one day our juniors encountered something similar. There were also stories doing the rounds that a student who had parked her car near the back gate, once found semen spilt over the bonnet. We had had enough and that's when our juniors approached the Sexual Harassment Cell of LSR.
Thankfully, this time, they had jotted down the number of the perpetrator's car, and with the help of our college's sexual harassment cell, a police complaint was filed. The college guards, who would earlier dismiss our problems as being 'matters outside of the gate,' were educated by the college authorities to take action whenever something like this happened.
The case was taken to court, for which that bastard, who is a well to do, married IT professional and drives a Honda Civic, never turned up. My junior, Tanya Bhasin, who signed the FIR, had to deal with not only the mental torture of coping up with the disgust, but also with a particular officer who called up her father to say that she was filing false complaints.
We await the third hearing's date, while the assailant freely roams around, probably assaulting others on the road.
The lack of immediate action was seen as encouragement for such animals who drive freely on that street.
Reading about another such incident and the fact that this is still happening put me and my friends back in the space we thought we had left. This is what they had to say:
"It's by far the most disgusting and tormenting thing that I have witnessed. Today, where we women are meant to feel empowered, I felt helpless. The confidence and power in that man's eye made me want to run away and never come out again."- Chhavi Mongia
"For a second, I thought it was all in my head. I couldn't come to terms with what I had seen, simply because it was so terrifying. I had heard stories, but experiencing this was something I wish I had never encountered. 'Don't step out at night' they say. Well, fuck you, because it happened in the middle of the day." - Yaashika Gakhar
I shut myself when this happened. And that's probably why I feel like a victim even today. It saddens me that such incidents still plague that street. It doesn't matter whether it's day or night and whether you're dressed 'appropriately' or not, these men move around unaffected.
While there is constant police patrolling at the front gate, the back gate is still affected by such atrocities. Such incidents are not just limited to LSR or any other girls college. We've heard of cases like these taking place outside coaching centres, schools and our very own houses.