gender and sexuality · people · personal narratives

The Fear of the Gaze

I got off the auto-rickshaw and was moving towards the house, when I saw them. Two strangers staring at me, smiling leacherously, a smile which most women must be well acquainted with. I stared back angrily, they laughed and started moving towards me slowly. I felt uncomfortable with their unabashed gaze, and clapped my hands, my call for the two dogs, Angrez and Bhuta, who are my playmates here.

They came out from under the car and licked my hands, they walked by my side. I wanted to convey that dare you come closer, my dogs will rip you apart. I looked at them again, they smirked with their pan smeared lips, and I could feel my own fear. The fear that I have at times felt sitting in an auto-rickshaw and being watched from the mirror. The fear that I have also felt while going back home in a Metro, when late.The fear that I felt on being stared at by that red haired man in the train to Jhabua.The fear that suffocates me and makes my blood boil too often, but then I let it evaporate in silence.

I tried to reason with myself, perhaps they were just standing there for some valid cause, maybe they had just dropped someone from their car.

But then what got me suspicious was the fact that one of them just got water from someone’s home, and I had recently heard the rumour of people robbing houses on the pretext of asking for water. This was silly, I was connecting various dots in my imaginary danger.

The truth was that their stereotypical hooligan-like faces, their red lips, those piercing eyes, and the fact that they were relishing the fear on my face, it made me hate them. I could imagine how I must be looking, a timid stupid human. It definitely must provide pleasure to a bully and that is precisely who they were, bullies.

It has been a day, but I cannot get over it, it is still there in my mind, that someone, without saying a word, without physically harming me, just with a stare, could shake me right outside my house. Such is the pervasiveness of this fear, such is the extent to which I allow myself to be victimized. It is not as if this has happened for the first time, it happens every now and then, and I continue to live life as I want to, with my freedom, but it always affects me.

I wonder, Why am I letting this happen to my mind? Why do I raise that bulky man to such pedestal of power,when maybe he is not. I am sure many would have reasoned that he is just an immature guy who had nothing better to do on a lazy afternoon than to stare at a woman who calls two dogs by clapping her hands.

But listen, no matter who you are, whether you are a juvenile bum or a patronizing elderly, I don’t want you to stare at me,  it is not your existence, but my fear which troubles me.


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