Commuting in the city had become a hassle. The traffic was insane; the roads were populated with impatient drivers and more vehicles than the roads could fit. Driving to work was out of the question. The best thing, Anuja decided, was to take the train. The train station was a five-minute walk from her apartment. The office was another five minutes once she got down at her stop. “Yes that’s it. I will take the train or the bus.”

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Of course she had heard stories of women being harassed on public transportation. There had been at least one story about how a man groped a woman passenger or said lewd things. But none of these things had ever happened to her, the few times she had taken the train and bus till now. Gayatri, her roommate, advised her to be extra cautious while taking public transportation.

“Anu, stay safe. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this is much more common than you think.” Gayatri said concernedly.

“You know I can take care of myself right. Don’t worry. I’ll be on the lookout for any foolish men who try to come near me.” Anuja responded breezily.

As much as Gayatri loved Anuja, she thought her roommate was living in a bubble when it came to things like these. She was smart and talented, but Anuja lacked street smartness. Gayatri was worried, but there was only so much she could say.

The next day Anuja took the train to work. She got into the general compartment by mistake. Entirely unaware of the uncomfortable situation she had put herself in, she put on her headphones to shut out the world. Without any untoward incident, she made it work. She felt so accomplished on that day.

Days went by. She had become comfortable while commuting to work. One day while returning home, she got into the general compartment along with a couple of other girls. As usual, she put on her headphones. She was humming under her breath when she heard a large commotion. Taking off her headphones, she heard the two other girls yelling at a man twice their age.

“Why are they yelling? He looks as old as their father. Shouldn’t they have some respect?” Anuja thought.

As she heard the entire conversation, she realized that the girls were yelling at the man for consistently bumping into them from the behind. Everyone else in the compartment was ignoring them. Abut Anuja couldn’t. She had seen the man bumping into them once or twice, but dismissed it as a mistake because of the motion of the train.

The anger on the girls’ faces and the guilty expression on the man’s face was enough to tell her that that was clearly not the case. She offered the girls her help, and they decided to get down at the next station and file a report against the man. Even though it seemed like not a big deal to so many people in the train, evident through their indifference, it was not a small thing.

 The simple process of speaking up made a difference. She could have just as easily ignored the scene unfolding in front of her like everyone else. It takes great courage to stand up for something you think is wrong. She might not be street smart, but she definitely knew right from wrong.

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