CHENNAI: When I commute on my two-wheeler, I often change routes; when I’m walking on the street, I look at every person with suspicion; at leisure, I have stopped doing some of the things I really enjoyed — like hanging out with friends late into the night. I became more guarded ever since I was stalked.
I was in Class 10 when I had my first ‘stalker’ experience. One day, I realised a group of boys, all ruffians, had been following me on my way to the tuition class in the evening and also to my friends’ homes. I pretended to be indifferent, and avoided them. But deep down, I was scared and disturbed.
I stopped going anywhere alone; at school, I waited for friends to accompany me home, and always asked parents or siblings to pick me up from tuition classes. I ensured the boys never got a chance to find me alone.
One day, however, they followed me to a shop in the market, despite a friend accompanying me. It was late, and we had to pass a stretch of road where the streetlights never worked. As we entered the dark alley, they egged one of them to come and talk to me. My friend and I panicked, and began walking fast. But so did they. They were getting closer. We were cold with fear.
Just then, a person on the road recognised the boys and called out to them, as he had something to tell them. Using that opportunity, we slipped away and ran into an elementary school building. We ran hard and climbed to the terrace before the boys could hurriedly bid bye to the man. Peeping down from the terrace, we saw them searching for us. Once we were sure they had left, we ran home.
I have never seen them ever after that. But then, I stopped going for tuitions or anywhere outside after dusk. Later, there was another minor instance of a boy following me, but it only took some threats from male friends to stop it.
The dread from the first episode, however, remained, but years went by without much trouble — till about two years ago. It was a holiday. I was returning home on my two-wheeler after visiting my aunt. There was a boy on a bike who had been behind me for some time, which, lost in my own thoughts, did not register in my active consciousness.
At one junction, he stopped and said ‘excuse me’. I stopped thinking he wanted directions. But when I asked how I could help him, he said he was talking to someone on the phone. He had an earphone in place. I continued, and so did he.
His bike came close to mine every once in a while, but I didn’t think it was intentional. He went ahead but stopped a little further down the road, next to a junction of a smaller street, a shortcut I usually take. I turned into the road, and went ahead. There was a speed-breaker a little ahead. As I slowed my bike down, I felt a hand on my right shoulder, pressing it. It was the biker. He had followed me into the street. Fear and panic gripped me but I screamed at the top of my voice. That caught the attention of two security guards who came running, and the guy sped away.
The guards asked if I was ok, and looked around to ensure the biker was not around before letting me proceed. But as I rode on and turned into the main road, I saw him there waiting for me, again. I somehow managed to speed away, risking everything, succeeded in losing him in traffic.
It all happened so quickly that I neither complained to the police, nor took note of his bike registration number to complain about him later. Both I regretted later. But I was very scared, so consumed by fear that my mind had stopped working.
I wish fear had not paralysed me and prevented me from acting against the creep. I wish my defence mechanisms had reacted faster, and my body had switched to ‘fight’ mode instead of ‘flight’ mode. But most of all, I wish I never have to encounter such an experience again.
(The writer is a reporter with The New Indian Express)