College bus rides weren't as fun for the girls

Recently, when Kamal Haasan  was speaking about the “good touch” and the “bad touch” with women at the Tamil Big Boss recently, contestant Saravanan had shot his hand up in the air like he had found the answer to a math problem before anyone else in class.

He went on to declare, with a million-dollar grin, that he used to grope girls in buses when he was in college; Big Boss’s audience at the studio seemed very pleased with his revelation.

With a video clip of the incident going viral, Metrolife caught up with a couple of women in the city to find out whether bus rides were as much fun for them as it was for Saravanan; turns out they weren’t.

A journalist who did not want to be named shared one experience she had on a BMTC bus.

A couple of years ago, when she was studying in Mount Carmel College, she was on board an almost-empty bus to Marathahalli, when a man came and sat next to her in the women’s seat.

She felt a bit weird but didn’t say anything and continued listening to music on her earphones.

“I felt something cold near my stomach. First I thought it was the wind because I was sitting right next to the door. The cold began creeping up, and then I realised this man was running his fingers up my stomach. I shouted at him. He gave me some lame excuse and went away,” she said.

“A couple of months later, the same guy got into a bus with me. I hadn’t forgotten what he looks like — and I still haven’t — but I hadn’t realised he was on the same bus. I was wearing a top with a short sleeve, and again — this time on my shoulder — I felt the same coldness. I remember it was a happy day. Blue sky, nice clouds. Another attack was the last thing I was thinking of. It took me a second to realise what was happening, and it hit me quickly because somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew what it was."

“I screamed at him at the top of my voice. People interfered, but they only asked him why he was sitting in the women’s section. He got off at the next bust stop, but I was shaken. You can’t think clearly when you are attacked,” she said.

Another woman, who did not want to be named either, narrated an experience when she and her friend were travelling in a bus from Brigade Road to Forum mall.

A man sitting adjacent to them was staring at one of them, with a hard-on and his zipper open, and through the open zipper, he was stroking his penis.

Despite these horror stories, some women feel that the BMTC is not a bad option overall.

Mandara Vishwanath, a researcher at the Indian Institute of Human Settlement, said she feels the BMTC is “pretty damn safe”, though she hasn’t taken buses in some time.

“Unless it’s after 9 or 9.30 pm, when there may be drunk men on the bus. One time, I took a bus back after 9.30 pm. It was really empty: there were two or three women and five or six men,” she says.

“There was one drunk man there who was chewing pan and standing, even though there were seats to sit. After sometime — I was sitting — I felt a warm liquid on my neck and my shoulder. I realised that it was his pan.

“It was disgusting, and that is probably the most unsafe thing that has happened to me on a bus,” Mandara said.

However, she says that her mother insists that, if she must travel at night, she take the bus because there are at least people around you.

Ishani Debroy, an editor at the Clean Copy, said the “power of numbers” always matter. Although she wouldn’t take a bus after dark, she said she is impressed by the “solidarity that women have in such situations”. “If I see a young girl in trouble, I will reach out to her. I have seen many women do that,” she says.

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