A lot has been said about the conduct of men and how they should respect women. Ladke rote nahi, Ladke rulate nahi and what not. But have we ever asked ourselves why we never bothered to teach our girls, "ladkiyan rulayi nahi ja sakti"? How many of us have taught our girls to hit back the man who hurts them? Charity begins at home... Many of us have let the girls of the family suffer for reasons big or small at the hands of family members and forced them to keep mum.
Physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse - the answer is always the same - stay mum.
I have my own stories, my own nightmares that I never discussed with anyone until it was a bit too late.
There is a relative, my mother's brother-in-law, he always had a habit of pulling me close to him when I was a child. Everyone thought that he's just an affectionate uncle but at the age of 16 he rubbed himself next to me. I was too young to realise that it was molestation but something felt not right. I distanced myself but didn't have the right words to tell my parents what happened. 14 years on, last summer when I told my father he was aghast but when I told my mother and asked how she would have reacted if I told her then, she was at a loss of words. When I pushed for an answer, she said, "do you expect me to ruin my sister's family?"
Instances where my cousins hit me to emphasise that boys are stronger than girls, and I was told to sit like a good girl by the elders of the family appear trivial next to this instance.
And then there came a day when I was groped by a complete stranger in a Mumbai local, then I was told to be quiet because that man could do worse things to me if he got irked.
Interestingly, my father was never around when such things happened and I never felt like sharing such hurtful details with him. But then one day he came to me and taught me how to use cuss words. He taught me how to save myself in such situations and he said something which I have passed on to my sister and we are to pass it on to our daughters and their daughters, and that is that we should never come back home abused.
And so I did. I never start the cycle of abuse but if am abused, I abuse back. If I am hurt physically, I hit back. If I am molested, I hit that person right on the balls. And yet, I have been in situations where flight reaction seemed better than fight reaction.
Today my old man is no more around but I have a feeling that he's smiling right now, seeing me finally writing about it. For the last few months I haven't been able to write but that woman in the Metro somehow kicked my mental block.
Yes, it is important to make gentlemen out of our sons but it's equally important to make our daughters strong and smart enough to strike back if the situation calls for it.