When She Breathes

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She was just walking down the street. She remembers it to have been a fine day, a pleasant evening. As the sun went down and dusk set in, she realized that it was getting dark and late. On normal day, she would have just taken a turn and gone back to her hostel. But it had had been a hard day, and so she decided to cut herself some slack. She allowed the bracing breeze to rejuvenate and revitalize her mind. So she walked farther, without really giving it a thought about the fact that it was past eight and the fact that she was alone.

It happened like a chain of events; almost as if it was rehearsed and planned. First came the taunts. She heard a voice or two, weighing the possibility that they are being aimed at her.
“Where are YOU going this time of the night?”
She ignored and walked.
“Yes I’m talking to you, white top.”
Her steps had faltered for a moment there and they caught scent of it.
“It’s cold. Let us warm you up.”
By then, her breathing had slowed and her heart was skipping its normal pumping beats. All she was focused on, was walking away. With cold feet, hard movements, she continued to walk. As the voices grew stronger and breaths sounded closer, she felt herself getting suffocated by the shadows around her. She noticed the street lights going dim and losing the direction of the way that she was headed to. Anything to move away from the voices, the shadows, the suffocation. It was leading her to someplace else only.

By the looks of it, all she could tell was that she had never been here before that day. But her mind was too occupied to mull over the familiarity of the road. All she was looking for, was a way out. Escape the voices, the shadows, the suffocation. Her pace had also grown faster by then. She heaved sighs of heavy breathing as she tried matching up to this speed that she was walking in. Just as she realized that she actually had no idea where she was at that moment, it dwelt on her that the strength of the public around her was starting to get scarce.

That she was moving towards an alienated, isolated area, she was aware of. But the only scares in her brain right then were three – the voices, the shadows, the suffocation. So she walked and she walked. Her body went numb, and the only instructions were being given to her legs, to walk and walk. Somewhere at the back of her mind, the fact that it was all futile was lashing out at her. The voices wouldn’t stop, the shadows were getting closer and she felt more and more suffocated. Then there was that touch. It was only her back that was slapped, but her entire body seemed to go through a strong chill just as the fingertips came into contact with her back.

She heard herself gasp. She felt short of breath and her walk started to hesitate again. Before she could recover from the first touch, someone pulled at her. It was her hands being tugged this time. She found herself fighting for the faintest puff of oxygen. Then there was the final drag back, which circled around her waist, as she felt a face against her back. She was choking for air, panting with exhaustion. Her vocal chords seemed to have given way, but she was screaming for help. In her head, she was shouting at the top of her voice, but no sound came out. She was touched in places she never wanted disclosed and tossed around like a piece of meat being dispensed out to a group of dogs.

If only she could manage to scream out and if only someone would hear her, see her. If only she could manage to barge out once and if only someone would pull her out, drag her away. If only she had not taken that road and if only she had taken note of the time. If only she had not come alne and if only she had not listened to the calming weather. Eventually, she gave in. After while, she wasn’t aware of what was happening to her. Voices, shadows, suffocation. Quite honestly, she admits that she was waiting for the moment that she would stop fighting for breaths and would lose it all in one go. In that moment, she only thought that dying was underrated as one of life’s greatest pleasures. Why wouldn’t they kill her already? All that was registering in her consciousness was voices, shadows, suffocation.

She lived. She survived. It took her two years to fight her case, another six months to ensure her culprits being punished, four years to open up about the case and yet today, she wakes from her sleep to voices, shadows and suffocation.

My question is not about how brutally she was raped or how conveniently she was stripped of her dignity and her self respect or how heartlessly she was chased before pouncing on her like animals. What I raise my voice against is the fact that she was only out on a walk. She only loved walking in the breeze and wanted to go on. All she had had was a bad day and while she found solace in the calm and peace of the weather, who knew it would lead to her day being worse than her deepest fears and her darkest imaginations. She only thought walking alone would help clear her thoughts. She was on her own and she was liking it. The air fit her so well that she chose to ignore the time of the night and the intensity of how dark it had got.

So was it her fault to have chosen to seek comfort in nature? Was the decision to turn a bad day into a pleasant one, a bad choice? Is being independent irrespective of the time of the day or night, such a huge offence? Time, clothes, place, people and how many other factors did she need to take into consideration before deciding to let herself loose and let the blowing wind reinvigorate her?

It is not about where she was or how she was dressed or what time it was or who she is. It is about the simple fact that if she wants to walk around on the streets at twelve in the night, then why can’t she? What kind of uncontrollable, inhuman force is that which doesn’t appreciate being human?

Like the saying goes, “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.”

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  • Aakanksha Sharma

    And if men can’t behave, they’re the ones who need to be kept home after 8 !!