It was an innocent gesture that has left me wondering on the whys and hows of human nature.
On Sunday I was driving down a busy street to get to a Star Hotel where I was meeting the F&B Manager for a food feature I am writing for TOI these days. Before that I was to meet a friend and colleague at a bridge which flows over the famous Mula River in Pune (which is center point for both of us and where we have met several times to exchange documents/CDs and the like - work related stuff).
At a traffic signal, a gentleman on a motorbike asks me for directions to a certain landmark Mall. I explain it to him and as the light turns 'green' head my way, which is incidentally in the same direction!
At the next traffic signal, he stands a couple of vehicles to my left and gesticulates. I can see his destination and point it out to him. After the signal turns 'green' I speed off on my way.
After I park my car at the foot of the bridge and wait for my friend to turn up, the biker knocks on my window.
He thought I wanted him to follow me and so he does. He seems mighty embarassed that he did not understand the directions I gave him. I smile out of sheer politeness because I cannot (obviously) agree to his foolishness. (I mean, couldn't he read the sign boards screaming in bold RED?)
Nevertheless he introduces himself as the Manager of a Bank and gives me his VC. Again, out of sheer politeness I give him mine.
But wait. It is not just politeness. Ever since I have begun networking extensively for my newspaper stories, I have realised the value of passing on your VC to somebody. One day, I struck up a conversation with a complete stranger as the punctured tyre of my car was being repaired and exchanged VCs with him as well.
To cut a long story short, in a matter of one hour I received a long SMS from him, praising my direction giving abilities (How lame can one get!!!) with an invitation for coffee.
I sent him a curt reply asking him not to message me again.
Today he called me apologising for the message. I was curt again.
Something tells me he won't back off.
I experienced something close to a stalking when a guy I'd interviewed for a job a few years ago started messaging me day in and day out, getting lewd and threatening all at once (if I didn't give him the job). For weeks I suffered until one day, my husband called him and promised to gather the Military Police (We were in the Indian Navy then) and have his limbs broken if he didn't stop messaging me.
I am feeling the same fear again.
Harish has been guiding me on how to handle him if he dares call again. Else he will come to my rescue as he always has (in cinemas when men try to nudge or shove into parts of your body, in crowded places when men leer at you only because you are a woman, on public transportation...and the list seems endless......)
I am also wondering why it takes the husband, father or brother to scare such people off. Why can't they take a "NO" from a woman as seriously?
Why won't they just LET US BE????????