How to Hit Your Harasser with a Comeback


How to Hit Your Harasser with a Comeback

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

The first time I was harassed, I must have been in Class VII. The last time I remember being harassed was two years ago. That’s a solid quarter of a century of harassment. That is also a quarter of a century of me walking away, ignoring it, and taking the path of least resistance. Of not screaming, shouting, abusing, hitting back, or doing anything more than choosing silence. I have stayed awake at night and thought of things that I should have said or done. I’ve thought about it in the middle of dinner or while driving to work, sometimes years after an incident, a decade even. I have lost count of the number of times I have hit the steering wheel hard, and said, “Dammit! That’s what I should have said.”

Twenty-five years of hearing nonsense on roads, buses, rickshaws has prompted me to create a list of closeted comebacks. This is THAT list. A ready reckoner, if you please, of the ugliest, nastiest, dirtiest things you can say back when ugly, nasty, dirty things are being said to you. I realise, of course, that not all harassment stories are verbal, some are achingly physical but the right words at the right time can be a salve of some sort. The man, who groped me in the movie theatre when I was leaving, should have been slapped. Even if I didn’t have the courage to raise my hand, words I should have had.

The funny thing is that when I sat down to make this list, I was certain there would be a long list of lewd comments I could come up with. After all, I had all these years of experience hearing them. But I was wrong. I had a very high frequency but within a smallish set of very typical comments. I asked some girl friends. I figured surely men across Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Baroda, Mumbai, and Patna can come up with better than “Oye baby”, “Chalegi kya?”, “Kitne mein aayegi.” Apparently not. All the comments were similarly dirty put-downs but also similarly non-creative ones. Because “they” had not collaborated, I suppose. But we can.

The next time he asks you to grab his cock, tell him, “Sorry. I didn’t bring any tweezers.”

So the next time you come out of a pharmacy and the man lurking near the postbox asks if you bought a condom, you should tell him you wish his parents had, so you wouldn’t have to deal with an asshole like him.

The next time you are asked what you rate is, you should tell him that by the look of his cheap nylon shirt, he couldn’t afford you anyway.

The next time he asks you to grab his cock, tell him, “Sorry. I didn’t bring any tweezers.”

The next time he calls under the pretext of asking the time and then flashes you, tell him his time has not come yet. He still has some growing up to do.

The next time a man makes kissing sounds when you pass by, tell him it’s a good thing he is practising on himself. Nobody else was going to kiss him anyway.

The next time someone tells you, “You are dressed like a whore”, turn around and say, “Coming from the guy dressed like a virgin?”

The next time a man brushes against you in public transport, ask him LOUDLY how you can help him, since he can’t seem to stand without assistance.

I don’t know if the men who pass these lewd comments will read this; I hope they do. But I hope that some of the women, who have to deal harassment this every day, read this and are able to use some of it when they need to.

It may make you feel a little better. It may not. But it should make the men feel like crap. Which is the half the battle won.