Sometimes, only by witnessing a crime do you realise how criminal the act is.
One particularly chilly winter evening, while slithering through the busy lanes of the city at its busiest hour, my eyes settled on a few splotches of men peppered all over this end of the street. The sun was yet to sink; the sky a faded orange. With a thadi stationed at the nook, most hands held cups of steaming chai, gleaming phones, and some slivers of idleness to spend.
Strangely, they all looked in one direction. I traced their gaze and found a peacock at its end — stunning and glorious but as lost and helpless. It hopped from the walls, stumbled on parked vehicles, almost came under some, and anxiously fluttered at those trying to inch closer — irrespective of the intent to help or tease. It hurried with nowhere to go, each new step becoming a panicked plea for some speck of green, a sight of its kind, its own home. Cameras, laughs and reckless honking chased it. An alien in a territory or in an alien territory — who knows?
I pitied it. I knew what it was trying to do: inject fear in what — and who — you fear so much yourself. But in an instant, watching it like this left me aghast, too: because, while I knew what it feels like to be a woman in this world, to witness the same horror as a bystander was so terrifying, so heartbreaking. I saw my reflection in a mirror I couldn’t face. I just sped up and didn’t look back.
If only men felt as embarrassed by their cruelty.