When Is The Right Time For A Woman To Speak Up

Almost 10 years ago, I was preparing for the Chartered Accountancy exams and looking for tuitions for the same. I had recently moved with my parents to Mumbai following my father’s transfer.

My father had asked his colleagues for an appropriate tuition class for me. I did not want to attend a big coaching class but wanted more personal attention. After asking his colleagues he found out an appropriate person.

The new tutor would be a man in his early 60’s / late 50’s.  A man with ample experience in teaching.  There would be two more students along with me – a boy and a girl. It was on the way from my office to home. My father had accompanied me on the first day. He took me there. Introduced me to the teacher. Met him. Spoke to him. Looked at the place.  Checked out the washroom. Met the other students.  Once he was satisfied that it was all good I started attending classes there.

Since the classes were in the evening after office hours, there were times when all three of us students would not be able to make it.  The other girl had gone on vacation. The other guy would be invariably late.  I would end up alone a lot of times. This tutor would give me a problem to solve.  While I would be working, he would move around the room. He would be singing some cheap song while checking me out.  He would then narrate the most inappropriate stories from his college days. Once he told me about some women who was very beautiful who fainted and how her skirt got lifted up. I don’t remember the rest of the story. It was too disgusting.

When the other girl came back, I told her how weird he was. She agreed. She told me some other incidents where his conduct with her was objectionable too. Our exams were coming up. It would be difficult to find another tutor who would complete the syllabus from where we left off, and be available at that precious one hour where we stopped by after our work, and be located on our way to our home. We both decided that he is an idiot but we cannot afford to leave the classes. And hence we continued. And so did his strange behavior.  I did not even know what to tell my parents so I just stayed silent.

One day, it was full house with all three of us students. The teacher asked me to solve a problem which I could not. He said it was an extremely simple problem.

“I do not know how you cleared the first level exams. If you do not even know this much! How will you pass the final exam, I wonder!!”

This was something he loved to say to us. Tell us how stupid we were and if we did not work hard we would fail. But this time something got to me.

It does not matter what you think. I have a passing certificate.” I replied. The other students looked up from their notebook. The teacher looked horrified.

“What do you mean?’

“I mean that your job is to help us clear the exams. Not to demotivate us. We do not need your certificate on our past achievement. We paid you to teach us for the next exam.”

He was fuming with anger. His face was red.

“How dare you talk to me like this!”

“Shut up!” I replied.  I was shocked at my own anger.

“Get out of my premises! Now”.

The other girl and I quickly packed our bags and left. The guy was a little slow. He was not sure whether he was supposed to leave. Would that mean he is joining our protest? Or should he stay there and express his solidarity with the teacher?

The girl and I were by now “out of his premises”. We both had not said a word to each other until now.

“Tanvi.. he asked for it!”

‘Yes he did!”

“You did not say anything wrong! When you said ‘Shut up’, you should have seen his face!! It was red!”

And then we both laughed. Of course I did not go back there again. The other two students continued till the syllabus got over.

I stayed in touch with the girl. She told me that the other guy felt I should not have said ‘Shut up’ to an elderly person. The teacher said to him that I was rude, uncultured, disrespectful. The student also felt I had unnecessarily been difficult. Of course, he had no idea how much anger had built up inside the girls all this time.

Perverts are everywhere. They come in all ages. They come from trustworthy sources. An elderly, harmless looking man introduced by your parents, someone they have met and verified.

Why didn’t I say ‘Shut up’ when he was singing a cheap song, looking at me from head to toe, stripping me with his eyes?

Why didn’t I say, ‘Shut up, your job is to teach’ when he was narrating that horrible skirt up story?

I don’t have an answer. I am just glad I spoke up when I did. And I would not want to change that.

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