We asked this colleague long ago about the reason she covered herself in a veil though she isn't Muslim. We thought only Muslims veiled themselves. So why this new sort of "purdah (veil)"? What she said quite shocked us. We can imagine our consternation when she said:
"To escape eve teasing because if they can't see my face, they don't know how I look. They like to tease someone who is good looking. I think with a veil I look quite ugly."
Then she told us something that shocked us further. "They don't know if I am the right person, if they want to throw acid at me."
Oh God! Oh God, have mercy!
Acid attacks! I never thought of this angle. A jilted lover (what with the male to female ratio being skewed there are a few jilted lovers to every girl, quite naturally), takes recourse to throwing a bottle of acid on the girl if his feelings are hurt and he wants revenge. What sort of young people have we fostered? With the rapid urbanisation we are seeing, there's an almost mercenary tendency to attain with force what one can't legitimately get. Or, to destroy the object of ones desires if one can't get it.
A girl doesn't like unwanted attention like all of us. We feel funny when somebody stares at us, what about a pretty girl who is stared wherever she goes? Why is the man staring? What's going on in his mind? Is he thinking dirty thoughts? What when in addition to staring the following taunts from a perverted mind are aimed at her:
"Chamak Challo." Straight from a Bollywood movie script.
"Aati hai kya Khandala" this is straight from a movie song.
"Sham ko miltein hai kya?" (Are we meeting in the evening?). Again a movie script writer's favourite.
And not once but ten times in a day. We guess they die a little with each comment thus passed. Countless are the movies we watched where the heroine is treated as a plaything by the hero, teased, pulled violently by the hand, and called "Chamak Challo." All this is fun, you say? Not so. There's an underlying message that appeals to the male ego.
So what does she do? Increasingly we find these girls who cover their faces and heads entirely , in a sort of veil, while travelling in Bombay. There is less attention to a veiled form, there is less teasing, there is less attention, and less acid attacks.
What needs to be done? I guess the censor board should put an end to wrong portrayal of women. The portrayal of women in media plays an important role in the way men perceive them. The problem is there are no quick fixes, only a gradual change in perception.
I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here.