Tuesday, March 07, 2006

lessons learnt on 29C.

dedicated to the
blank noise project (the more i roll that name around in my head the more i like it!).

the harassment of women is our sexist culture is an old problem thats sadly still in existence. in india, its all the more open and violent with so many of us packed tightly together. all of us women are given The Talk after the first time we are groped : "no, i know you didn't do anything, that's how some men are. forget it. and from now on, hug your file to your chest to shield it, and dont make eye contact with any man on the road".

i for one, hate being helpless, so im simply focussing on what we women can do for ourselves - basic self defence to use against harassment.

(NB: please understand that im not advocating general violence and a free-for-all. you will have to use your discretion and make situational judgements about what you're comfortable doing.)

* * *

29c was my daily bus ride in college days. its one of those ultra crowded routes (like 1) which really brings out the flavour of the term "over populated"! after getting pinched, squeezed, felt up, having my kurta ripped (that was a new one - didnt know theyd get that violent), i figured it was time to do some serious thinking.

id learnt martial arts in school for 8 years, and so i figured that i was pretty safe on the bus - that i could protect my person if needed. i got a rude shock when i realised that fighting in a bus was something i was totally unprepared for - for one thing, nice civilised tournament rules are crippling in street fighting, and for another (especially in buses), youre talking a serious lack of space. all those graceful sweeping chops and soaring kicks are out of the question when youre more or less on tiptoe because the place is so packed.

so my sister and i sat down and chatted one day about these bus encounters (ah. female bonding...!) and these are the things we thought of. im extremely pleased with this bunch of ideas because
a). it doesnt matter how strong your opponent is
b). it works in those cramped buses
c). you neednt be a weight lifter to pull this stuff off

so here's presenting:

lessons learnt on 29c

1. if you dont like violence, swearing is good. the more fluent and artistic (/ anatomical) it is, the more attention it gets. yell. stop the bus. ask the conductor to make the guy get off the bus.

being made to get off a bus between two bus stops is bloody irritating, that too during the morning rush to work/college. so for sheer pestilence value if nothing else, i think this would dampen these guys interest in harassing women as a way to pass time.

also, even in an actual fight, if youre close to your opponent, coming right up to the face and screaming at the top of your lungs momentarily stuns and (understandably) unnerves the person. feel free to then kick opponent, one numbers, duly stunned.

2. use those heels. several of us kill ourselves tottering around in heels, lets give those wretched things at least a moments justification for existence. bend knee, lift foot and place very, very hard on his foot. the nice thing about this one is that you neednt even bother wriggling and turning around to face the slime. (if you like subtleties, dont let that smile of pleasure cross your face: be as wooden faced as these sods generally are.)

3. alright, so youre unfashionably sensible, or a 6 footer - no heels. use the elbow. clench your fist (i find it helps call up more power quickly) and drive your elbow backwards into the guys ribs, stomach, groin, throat, wherever. it will seldom hurt your elbow, and quite often will leave the other person winded and in some pain, though not serious. again, you dont need to be able to turn around for this one.

4. bite. i can understand this option being distasteful to many because come on, who wants to touch a guy like that, let alone put some of him in your mouth?! but if you can bring yourself to do it.... bite chunks out of offending hand.

5. do carry a safety pin - or better yet, that pronged thing that tailors use to remove stitches. its horrendously sharp. jab, puncture, poke. a pen, a sharp pencil and other simple objects can also be really handy.

we hear a lot of tripe about the weak soft female body and the Invulnerable Strong Male body: now the following ideas are more militant -

6. the adams apple is so beautifully framed in the throat. make use of it. punch, rather than jab. jabbing looks more classy, but is actually trickier business. when punching, if youre aiming for a more widespread impact, make contact with the flat, finger part of your fist. if its the more localised, more painful effect: use the knuckles. beware though, if you really ram the throat, you could get the wind pipe.

7. it doesnt matter what sort of a beefcake the guy is, the pinky is very easy to break. hes putting his hand well within your reach when hes feeling you up - take hand, keep bending the little finger back - it will snap. this is bloody painful and should quench his thirst for further encounters with women. it will also bruise the brutes ego : imagine having come off so badly in an encounter with a Mere Female. sheesh, the ignominy!

8. poke the eyes - easy to do and it hurts like hell.

9. if you have the space to move enough for a punch, punch the nose. it breaks quite easily, and even if youve not broken it, you can cause blinding pain without doing a serious injury. and you dont need phenomenal arm power to be able to do this.

10. this needs space, but it definitely features on my list: a solid sweeping kick between the legs. note: sweeping kick - dont bend your knee, cos if you do, you need to get much closer, plus it needs better aim - something that may be difficult given our potholes. depending on the power used, a kick like this could leave him doubled up clutching his crotch, unconscious, or sometimes - it does happen - dead from shock of acute pain. so you want to be really careful with the use of this one.

now. that sounds like a very happy list i know, but theres also more stuff to consider...

1. are you a person capable of violence? i wouldnt bank in blind faith on being able to kick, punch or fight dirty. the sad truth is that most of us women arent (we're too strongly conditioned to be "nice"). so if you just arbit assume you can do these things and then find at the critical moment that you cant, it will let you down big time. please consider very carefully how violent you are, how much you can bring yourself to do, if you can handle the consequences of violence.

2. please consider the unpleasant but very possible situation of there being a gang of men. you may be able to topple one guy. do you have the fighting skill to take on many? in such a scenario, many times if its not a really big issue, it may be better to stay non-physical but use the legal option, or verbal option, or vocal optional (ie, scream like hell)

3. i do not recommend weapons. anything that is capable of being used as a weapon (except your own body), can be grabbed from you and used against you. i know some people carry penknives and jazz, but i really dont think its a good idea at all. guys on the street are seldom armed, so why introduce a dangerous, potentially lethal element?

4. when you do these things, and especially act in control, the other men around who were simply shooting you knowing, lewd looks when they saw what was happening, will get hostile and try to intimidate you. they will start yelling and telling you how you had no right to do whatever it was that you did.

stay cool. most men find it extremely unnerving to be confronted with a woman who can keep her voice low and stare into their eyes returning look for look. this i will swear by. explain calmly that the moment they stood by watching what was happening to you without raising a finger to help, they lost the right to interfere. now they can just take a hike (and no, you neednt be that polite about it either! :D)

so there it is - self defence for the streets. i hope that helped :)

ps: thank you j. , for being an encouragingly bloodthirsty sounding board and reminding me of the stuff i had left out! :))

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Blogger Anurag said...

A few more tips, though you have covered almost everything.

i) Keys are a formidable weapon. If you want to draw blood, form a fist around a key so that it protrudes from between the fingers. A jab with such a punch is enough for most occasions.

ii) With the lower palm (where the palm meets the wrist), hit the area between the nose and lips. There are an unbelievable number of nerve endings there, and it hurts like a bitch. If executed well, it can stun the subject for at least a minute or so.

iii) Never take on a fight in a lonely place -- it can be very hazardous. Make sure there are onlookers, preferably some educated types.

iv) If grabbed in a bear hug, twist and squat. It is very difficult to hold someone who is twisting hard.

v) If you have a gathering of onlookers, make the culprit aware of what he is doing -- molestation, harassment, police complaint, jail. Make him aware of the consequences.

9:46 pm  
Anonymous maya said...

nice and practical list. me has tried safetypins and compas on buses back home in KErala. nice post...me put up something else on the same topic...direct dil se!

3:30 am  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

How bad is this phenomenon? Sorry it's been a while since I left and my visits are too brief and I haven't had a chance to take public transit. Is it worse in Bombay now then it used to be?
PS: You got all the self defense and attack stuff covered.

11:08 am  
Blogger the wannabe indian punkster said...

Its great that us women think alike!
I had listed shoving fingers under the adams apple, as one of my tips as well!
Women should take some time off from feeling ashamed about their bodies and actually realise that men aren't invincible.

11:54 am  
Blogger m. said...

anurag, thanks.much appreciated :)

maya : god, yes... compass points hurt like sin!

karmic jay: bombay isnt my neck of the woods. they could tell you more.

megha: yesh, my moms always a little startled by how militant our generation of women can get :))

7:18 pm  
Blogger Anna said...

29c is the most horrible bus route. ever. i wish they had separate buses for women and men.
and the tips are really useful.. esp the safety pin and the heels...
practical and simple...
next time-will try the elbow jab...

a lot of people sure are making Blank Noise....

3:24 am  
Blogger m. said...

hi anna. glad to be of help. you take care on that blasted 29c, ok? :)

8:23 am  
Blogger IdeaSmith said...

M-azing! Thank you lady, for the most practical solutions I've read on this topic. The Blank Noise project really is a good idea for several reasons...one of them being that I've come across several new blogs and fresh ideas. But this post tops in my mind since it is the only one that I've seen that talks about how to handle it rather than just griping (well..mine was a gripe too!)

8:37 pm  
Blogger Wrong number said...

On a technical note. The unit of pain is dole (note the connection to doleful). Breaking the little finger (actually dislocating the little finger) by bending it backwards equates to a pain of 1 dole. Natural childbirth is 9 dole. (And dole is an exponential function. 2 dole is twice as painful as 1 dole and so on.) So if you have any qualms about breaking someone's finger, think about how much pain you yourself are willing to endure.
Another part of the body that is easy to dislocate is the knee joint. If you can get a space of one foot between you and the guy, twist yourself so that you are on one side of him, place your foot firmly to the side of his knee joint and give one solid push. If you dislocate his knee, he wont be pursuing you on a foot chase; If you manage to break atleast part of the bone that holds the knee joint in place, you've got him into a wheelchair! Incidenally, if you need to know how to do this correctly, mail me. I'd much rather not post this sort of information.

3:38 am  
Blogger m. said...

ideasmith: lol...im glad you found it useful. but hey, the list may not have happened if we hadnt started talking about our experiences and figured damn, we need a better response system than that. female bonding is a powerful force :)

saale: thanks! interesting tidbits. i read somewhere that most men would die of pain if they had to epilate. the things women let themselves be conned into doing...!
the knee kick. ouch. im squeamish about crippling, but yeah... i guess thats a very effective move.
btw, how did dole branch into pain on one hand and sorrow on the other? a mother mary association dyou think? oh wait.. theres also dole like in hand out! puzzling,ill have to look this one up.

6:41 pm  
Blogger Wrong number said...

latin: dolor = pain.
The latin root encompasses the english words for pain, misery, suffering and anfuish among others.
I think the use of dole as a word for 'hand out' is Anglo-Saxon in origin and has nothing to do with dolor. I might be wrong on this. Havent looked this up in Old Onion.

5:50 am  
Blogger m. said...

i did some digging around, and yes, youre right - anglo saxon origin it is. it seems to all get woven together because of our lady dolores - the pain and sorrow that she bore to share (take on?) the burdens of the world.

10:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awwrite.. enough of etymologies... and getting back to the post...

twas a good read.. with good tips etc..
Reminds me of my first experience with mumbai-buses and some inappropriate physical contact.. (blech)...
I was in class twelve... and I was no "nice guy"-girl.. but was too taken aback to react !!
My face went so white that one of friends actually noticed it.. and asked me if something was wrong.. I told her I jus wanted to sit down.. She gave me her seat and then asked what the matter was...
The dude had gotten off.. and I had finally caught my breath..so I told her..
And I think it was her reaction that changed my entire attitude towards that incident... She screamed out.. "Where is that #*(%$@^@%@.. LEMME get a piece of him.. "
Any shame/awkwardness/emabarassment I felt was replaced with raw anger...
I waited every day for almost 12 days for that guy to board again.. coz GOD KNOWS I wasn't going to forget his face.. (in fact I think I still remember it some bit.. ).. I knew his bus stop.. And when he did I stared him in the face.. went and stood really close to him.. looked at him cold.. directly in his eyes.. stamped his foot.. ON PURPOSE .. again and again and again..
He din make a peep.. he KNEW what he had done.. I saw him sweat.. He finally got a seat.. and I managed to get one behind him.. and I continuously kicked his seat. till he got off the bus..
I took my revenge.. the only way I could...

Since then I've slapped a guy.. gotten a couple of them off the bus (mumbai bus conductors.. used to be pretty cooperative) abused a guy in HINDI with the most colorful of vocabulories at Kurla station...

But enough reminisence... I think the point (that has already been driven thru this post/comments).. is to not be embarassed.. And ladies.. if you see a fellow commuter being harassed.. go help her out.. Its much more difficult being brave when yer alone...

12:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forgot to sign off :)

12:10 pm  
Blogger m. said...

anon1: good for you! feels great to stand up for yourself doesnt it :)

9:26 am  
Anonymous Ramya said...

Finally a blog with some practical advice on this subject.

I just came back from the jungle.

The naturalist on the trek with me told me to

1. Not wear a strong deodorant
2. Wear dark colours
3. Make no noise
4. Not smoke

why? To attract no attention and not get run over by bisons or elephants.

Did I say why can't elephants respect us and why can't bisons treat us kindly? No way! I was happy to follow instructions and precautions and keep living...

Why do we women make such noise about eve teasing and rape and violence and not do something about it? Lack of knowledge and a propensity to complaining. (yes, all my friends think i'm blunt)

There are simple steps to be taken, they were taught to us by Ashwin Mohan in bangalore at my office. He also takes private classes in a system of self defence for women aptly called "Give it to them!"

The course made me realise the simplicity with which I could deal with violence, groping, sexual harassment and has inspired me to respect myself.

Most of my friends do not respect themselves. I did not either. The self talk on the "give it to them" website is empowering to say the least, listening to it for the recommended 3 weeks has really changed the way I appear to potential eve teasers. Incidents of groping have come down in my life.

Just last week someone tried to bump into me. I was so subconsciously alert that my elbow came up right into his ribs automatically

I shouldn't be mentioning the actual strategies because Ashwin feels that eve teasers can misuse it. However read the case studies on ashwin's website gittstuff.com

9:08 am  

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