Yesterday I when I came home in the evening a group of boys was playing cricket on the street in front of my apartment. They spoke some English and explained the basics of the sport to me. After a little while one side won and the game was over so they let me swing the bat and try to hit the ball. I hit it on the third try. The bat was heavy! I didn’t realize the bat’s supposed to point down, not like how you swing a baseball bat.
I hung around a little longer and there was some commotion a short way down the street. It was a moment of confusion, then one of the boys said to me, “Man is hitting his mom.” That shook me into reality. I didn’t see the man actively hitting the older woman (who was holding the hand of a small boy), but there was obvious tension between them. I felt I should do something, but before I could figure out what to do the woman was quickly leading the boy down the street and the man did not follow.
In that moment I made a semi-conscious vow that if I ever saw something like that again, I would take some kind of action.
Who would have thought that I’d see a similar situation less than 24 hours later?
Today I spent most of the day studying at the 5-star hotel where my two classmates are staying. I walked out the front door of the hotel a few minutes before 4:00 this afternoon. My cousin-in-law was picking me up for a shopping break and some early dinner.
I waited for him outside the front door, in front of the beautiful curved driveway and street-facing water feature, laptop bag and book bag slung over my shoulders, flip flops on my feet.
A commotion occurred at the close end of the driveway, by the street. It was a thin woman in a red sari and an angry overweight man. He was shouting in Tamil and I could see she was scared. Without even thinking, I walked straight to them.
Halfway down the drive, I raised my own voice. Speaking in English, I said something like, “Leave her alone!” I was simultaneously brave and scared. He was very angry about something and his eyes were very red. Other men gathered around. I realized a thin man to my left had blood on his lower lip.
I kept talking in a strong voice, repeatedly telling him to go away, leave her alone, stop shouting at her. The gathered men moved to stand between the angry man and the woman. They gestured and tried to convince the angry man to go away.
While the men were distracted, I wrapped my right arm around the woman’s shoulder and asked her in a calm voice if she was ok. I don’t know if she understood me, but she did seem relieved that someone was taking up for her.
The angry man tried say something to me, but I just kept on talking in my strong voice. A hotel security guard appeared and I asked him to call the police.
That seemed to register with the angry man. I said to him in my strong voice, “Shall we call the police?” Someone responded in a gentle voice, “No police.” They were trying to deescalate the situation.
In that moment, out of nowhere, a policeman appeared. He talked briefly and tersely to the angry man, then to the thin woman and some of the other men who were standing there, then he sent the angry man in one direction down the road and the thin woman and the thin man walked away in the other direction.
I don’t know from where I got the bravery to step in like that, but I am glad I did. Bullies and abusers are weakened when someone steps up. Maybe (maybe?) he’ll think twice before treating someone like that again.
Before I walked away, I asked the policeman if she was safe. He gave a half nod. Of course he doesn’t know if she is safe, but I wanted to plant the seed with him too that someone cares about this situation, and this kind of behavior and abuse is not ok. Maybe (maybe?) it will inspire some kind of action in him.
I’m sure the locals were pretty shocked to see a foreigner intervening in this situation today, but the way I see it, wherever abuse happens, someone needs to step up and say it’s not ok. We must stop turning the other way. We must stand up for each other.
When I did walk away, my hands were trembling, my heart pounding, and tears filled my eyes. I know the hotel doormen saw what happened and what I did. Maybe (maybe?) they too will be inspired to stop abuse if and when they see it happen.
I love India. And today I’m proud of myself for stepping up to defend my anonymous Indian sister. May she be safe and well.