“I have my eyes on you”

I was warned about them at an early age of 7, when my mother dragged me along the roads of Rashtrapati Bhawan quarters after my dance class, late in the evening.” Walk faster, there are bad men”, she said. I innocently quizzed, who they are and what would they do? Because my grandma had told me that if you do well to others, nothing bad will ever happen to you, and until then, I had done nothing terrible. “Do you know that bad men do terrible things to little girls who don’t listen to their mothers?”. I ran along to catch up with my mother. I didn’t know what bad men would do, but whatever it was, I certainly did not want that.

I was warned about them when I was asked not to open the door of the house for anyone except mom or dad, when they left me alone in the house for a trip to the grocery store. I was warned about them when I was asked not to go to the end of the corridor alone. I was warned about them when I was asked not to talk to strangers on the streets. I was warned about them on train journeys, when one of them tried to steal my anklet while I was asleep and ran away when someone shouted. Years later, my mother told me that he wasn’t just trying to steal my anklet.

I saw one for the first time when I was 9, when a huge man entered through the open door of our flat, giving an evil smile and ran away as soon as my dad entered. So that’s how bad men looked like! Fat, huge, with a pot belly, unkempt face and hair and an evil smile, like a monster. I looked out for bad men wherever I went. I saw one again, when I was 13, as the man who followed me and my mother, while on the way home from a late night dance rehearsal. “Walk faster, he is a bad man”, she said. So, bad men did not just look like the fat guy who entered my home, they could look like anyone.

When I grew up, I saw them everywhere. The ones who tried to touch me in public transport, the one who tried to pull my friend into a car in broad daylight, the ones who picked up that girl from the same spot that I frequented in Delhi, and was brutally gang raped in the bus, the one who stopped his car next to me and asked me to get in for a good ride, the ones who stared at me every day, everywhere, the ones who raped 6 and 60 year olds alike… I even saw bad men in my friends, brothers and uncles.

Come home early. Do not go out roaming alone. Take the metro. But what about the walk from metro station to home? Bad men could be there. I may never reach home.

No one had to teach me to carry a stole in my bag on every trip out of home. Nobody had to teach me to carry a knife and a pepper spray in my bag.

“Cover up”, they said. I covered my hands, my legs and I covered my whole body.
“Cover your toe, the bad man is coming”…
“Cover your hands, the bad man will get you”…
“Cover your face, the bad man will see you”…
“Cover your eyes, the bad man is next to you”…

Do you know what I heard the bad man say???

“I still have my eyes on you”

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