It was 2.00 p.m. I got down from my bus on the relatively traffic-free St. Mary’s road in Abiramipuram. I had barely crossed the road, when I heard an auto stop on the opposite side. I turned back with a few others to see a woman get out abruptly while shouting “Did you hear what he said to me?” Her friend got out behind her. They were both in their mid 20s, clad in jeans and shirts and were decent looking. I turned back to resume my walk home.
Suddenly I could feel a change in the air around me. I turned again only to be a witness of one of the most disturbing sights I have ever seen. The woman, who had yelled to her friend, was fighting furiously with the auto driver, or rather defending herself against his beating. He was also using his slippers to beat her and was abusing her using obscene language. The only help came in the form of her friend who tried hard to hold the driver back, but to no avail. By this time cars had stopped and every passer-by was transfixed, watching the scene, as if petrified.
After a few minutes, the auto driver sped away, still shouting back obscenities. Then, as if on cue, everyone started moving, like they had just emerged out of a trance. Not one of them had a second glance for the trembling women. Two o’clock in the afternoon on a busy road, an auto driver attacks a woman, and everybody stands to watch, as if it was a live show put up for them. When I say everybody, I include myself. I could have intervened; at least could have asked people to help. But I didn’t. I was one among the crowd, who passively let such things go past me without standing up for fellow human beings. May be the others were as shocked as I or may be things happened so quickly that people did not have time to react.
Yet, there could have been someone in the crowd to help two women in dire need. There should have been someone. But there were none. I do not know what happened in the auto while the three were travelling. But something that someone said had triggered an awful scene. Having witnessed what the auto driver was capable of doing in public, it would be no wonder if it was his doing. But whatever the cause was, its effect was immense, not only to the people directly involved, but to me as well.
When something like this happens in your neighbourhood and in front of your eyes, you tend to question many things. I am now perplexed about how such incidents can happen in broad daylight on the streets of one of the ’safest’ cities in the country. I am revolted by the behaviour of the auto driver. I am infuriated at the people who just stood and watched. But mostly, I am furious with myself: for being one of those who simply stood and watched.
Sindhiya Ravi, III Year, English Literature, WCC
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