#TalkingStalking | My Stalker Cornered Me in the Dark, I was 14
“We must teach consent, not in rarefied classrooms, but in a language that everyone understands,” writes Iewa Shukla
I was stalked when I was in grade 10.
I went for my tuition classes to this one complex in my hometown. I started noticing a man on the floor under my tuition center. He would stand in a particular corner and smile at me. At the first few instances, I let it be.
Usually, I was with a friend so it was easier to ignore. However, on days when I was late or early or without company, it was unsettling. He started calling his friends there. And they just waited there at 4.30ish when my classes began and around 6/7 when I left.
Then the unsolicited phone numbers started pouring in my scooter's carry basket. At first, as is anyone's instinct, I ignored thinking someone would have accidentally left them. But when they continued coming in, I figured it was on purpose.
One day, a 25-year old, short heighted, mustached man tried to corner me on the staircase in the dark. He could only manage to whisper, “Baat karni hai, I want to talk.” I ran as fast as I could! Panting, lost. My friends and teachers checked up on me. What could I have said? I was at a loss of words!
In the following week, while driving back home, a couple of men followed me. They drove parallel to my scotty and kept catcalling. They followed me till my house was 2-3 kms away.
I didn't know what to do. I kept on driving, they kept on following. I knew if I stopped it would be a risk. I lost them right in front of my house, thanks to a weekly market.
I remember reaching home, shivering and scared. And I remember being a mess in front of my aunt, my mother and grandfather. Thankfully, they were as patient as their anger could allow them. They asked me to stay strong and inform my tuition teacher about it. I did and thankfully, my teacher was that man's boss and in strong terms warned him against any further misdemeanor.
Nothing happened after that. But for the longest time, I was unsettled and I still feel uneasy when I think about it. There were incidents after that, groping, eve-teasing, unfortunately, one gets used to it.
The one most troubling part was when he followed me up to my home, and I wondered all along — how could he figure out where I lived? How long had he been following me? Since when. I didn't feel safe in my own home. Street safety is not our strongest feat anyway.
I don't have a problem with someone else taking a stand for me — I am rather thankful that, as a fairly scared young person, I got someone to hear me out. I would however, want people to learn how to deal with a situation like that. And the woman must never feel like a ‘victim’ and as someone who ‘asked for it’.
I would want my daughter to be able to handle this situation mindfully. If God forbid, she ever has to. As a teacher, too, I would like my students to be aware and safe. Most of all, I believe teaching consent and the idea of personal space is very important: and in a language which is available to all and not just elite classrooms or spaces where it just becomes jargon.
And hear people out, reach out to anyone in trouble. Don't turn a blind eye.
At 25, when I write about it, I feel heavier still. But, there's hope in the world somewhere. I will cling on to that. Thank you, Quint.
(#TalkingStalking: Have you ever been stalked? Share your experience with The Quint and inspire others to shatter the silence surrounding stalking. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp @ +919999008335.)
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