Shades of Grey

5 minutes

It’s always a bittersweet moment when you have that first lesson in how to be assertive and stand up for yourself, one way it’s a great feeling and gives a confidence and ego boost and yet at the same time you wish the ground would open up and miraculously swallow you or suddenly wish for the ability to dematerialize or turn invisible (in my case at least). Especially if one is facing a bus full of strangers amongst who is one lecherous elderly gentleman who gets his jollies deliberately brushing against and making lewd gestures and harassing hapless and not overtly brave college student like me.


He continued his behavior even after I repeatedly glared at him (which took a lot of courage and internal debate) and tried, very unsuccessfully to put some much needed distance between us. My first thought was to get off the bus and climb on another one and continue my journey but my pride put a stop to this and quickly interjected that  I had all rights to sit in my seat and not be harassed and also that I had already paid for my ticket. 

I continued to squirm and shift in my seat playing a sort of dodge game with the aforementioned “despo’s” arm and leg for the next quarter of an hour. It is really astonishing how bus commuters are experts in tuning out the presence of others in the bus and are lost to their respective gadgets, especially when anything “embarrassing” is going on. For someone who has been taught or rather drilled into her head that when anything like this was happening the best course(socially acceptable) was to put one’s head down, try to avoid and never call attention to oneself.

Being so very loyal to that particular conditioning I planned to do the same. But it seems that life that day was dumping a whole load of reality on my lap and forcing me to face it and not cower against the window. Directly opposite to my seat sat an elderly woman who I soon realized was his wife! A truly nauseating moment, as she was apparently very aware of her husband’s behavior and unable to do anything to stop it. My reluctance to loudly protest his pathetic behavior was nearing its end and I so badly wanted to call him on it when I saw the tears in her eyes, silently entreating me to keep mum. The pain I saw in her in that moment left me feeling unsure of what to do next and supremely frustrated about the so many things that was wrong with what had happened. Suffice to say, the whole incident left me with a bad feeling and also a lot of unanswered questions. 

Although I got down from the bus as my stop arrived but the uneasiness did not seem to go away. I felt disgusted and angry at the man but above all I wanted to question myself. I was there trying to avoid him and the feeling of being uncomfortable where he should be the one to feel disgusted about what he did. Such instances have become so common but we still turn a blind eye towards them. I could have done something but I didn’t. 

So many emotions were running inside me at that very moment. It was difficult to judge what was right or wrong. I would like to believe it was his wife’s tears that stopped me. But was it true? Maybe not! It was not his wife. Today we are so ashamed to voice out such issues even when it is not our fault. Fear of embarrassment has taken over the fact that talking about issues like this and voicing out will actually help resolve it. Turning a blind eye and keeping quite will only encourage them.

It’s a lesson I learnt, that the world is in not just black or white but there are many, many varying shades of grey in between.


I totally agree that in situations like these we need to put a stop to such abhorrent behavior and learn to (because in most cases we are not taught to) be assertive and empowered but rather feel guilty and somewhat responsible. But in spite of the increasing focus on this issue and also awareness, how far can we follow or what we can even preach in our own subjective realities. 

Reality is far more different but what can really make a difference is a new thought. A thought that encourages us to voice it out. Have you ever faced such a situation? An incident you were uncomfortable sharing and have kept mum about it? I plead you guys to voice it out and share your story. You would be surprised to see that what we tend to ignore as a one off a kind incident has become a new norm and has become a silent norm for our society. A norm that is making us hollow from inside.


Please SHARE YOUR STORY and voice your opinion (you can choose to be anonymous).


Gayathri is pursuing her Masters in Counselling Psychology from IIPR, Bangalore. She is a part of YourDOST because she believes that every individual has great potential for self empowerment and that listening is more important than talking. She believes in working towards helping people to heal and to create awareness about the importance of mental health. She is a bookaholic, J RR Tolkien and Tom and Jerry fan and also a budding poet.