Shivaratri, to me, has always been about evening walk to Pashupati, Shivaji’s Prasad, Babaji, bonfire, street vendors and flow of the human crowd. I remember a time, years ago when the public was allowed to enter the premises of Pashupati on Shivaratri without any restrictions. I remember going to Pashupati for an evening stroll with my family. Maa used to bargain for falam ko bhada while I and my siblings compelled Baba to buy us colorful Murali (flute), balloons and cotton candy.
We still follow our Shivaratri ritual but this year, unlike me, everyone in my family already had something planned out. Maa was complaining about having to go to work even on a holiday while my brother left early for some volunteer work he was doing at Pashupati. My younger sister was also all dressed up to go to Pashupati with her friends. I stayed home and did some household chores. Since the time I have been engaged in a 9 to 5 job, I have come to realize the beauty of staying home doing nothing.
“Gham tapdai suntala khane pani thulo kura bhako cha!”
Earlier this afternoon, while I was onto some sun basking, I saw a guy staring at me. This guy was one of the construction workers in the house next to mine. I tried to ignore him for a while, but he was still looking. In a situation like this, I have come up with a strategy to look right back at them in anger until their prying eyes look away. Well, the strategy did work for a while but when I looked away, he would be staring again.
A similar incident had happened to me a few days ago when I caught another guy (another construction worker) staring through my window. Due to boiling anger, I had absentmindedly blown a punch in the air with an annoyed expression and then closed the curtain (feeling Sunny Deol u know! lol :P).
I was really bothered by these incidents, so I called a friend, asking for a suggestion to stop this. I also shared about the ‘stare back’ strategy I used on this guy today. However, it was shocking for me to hear that my friend thought I might have provoked the guy and also given an impression that I was interested in him.
I know my friend was just trying to warn me for good but it’s really surprising how quickly we become judgmental about a woman’s action in the name of keeping them safe.
Getting back to Shivaratri…me and my friends did go for an evening walk today. The excitement of seeing cotton candy, balloon and colorful flute in the streets during Shivaratri was just as it used to be when I was a kid. Another thing that has remained the same is the harassment women have to face during Shivaratri. While walking on the crowded street, especially in and around the Pashupati area, staring, ‘accidentally’ pushing, touching, making explicit comments and laughing are completely normal for the perpetrators and I don’t think there would be a single woman who has not been through a similar experience.
Eve teasing or catcalling is an offensive act and a form of harassment. Women are always at risk, be it in a public vehicle, streets, or any other public place. I myself have been a victim of it, which has caused me mental distress for a long time. In such situation, we usually tend to just gulp down the anger in shame and embarrassment and not speak out against it, fearing the consequences of our action. Since the government also does not have a strong law against eve teasing in Nepal, a woman who is confident enough to fight back is instead blamed for her appearance. It is a lame excuse because how a woman chooses to dress is not the cause, but a sick minded man is.
Every time women have such bitter experience, we start to think it might have been our fault and some might even wish they were born a man. We also have the ‘should’ve..’, ‘could’ve..’ moments later on when we realize the things we must have said and done at that time.
It’s high time we stop compromising and start fighting against any form of violence or harassment against women. Though I myself am not a fight-back type, this women’s day I make a pledge to speak out and not keep the suffering to myself. Women should get the respect they deserve and not be mistreated in any way, anywhere, be it in their home, public place or workplace. The society and state should ensure support from their level for ending any form of violence against women and men. Men and women should be made aware of gender-based violence and gender equality starting from their schools through education because only with the foundation of education and awareness, empowerment is possible.
Let us raise our voices to stop violence against women and men because the power of change is in our hands!