Rubina’s Story: The Genesis of Hollaback! Chandigarh

Agar kissi cheez ko sache dil se chaho, toh poori kayanat tumhe use milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai.” ~ Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om

(If you want something strongly enough, the entire universe conspires to help you achieve it).

That is exactly how I found Hollaback!

A few months ago, my best friend and I had gone out for dinner. We decided to stop by a bakery in Sector 9 for some dessert. While coming back home, we noticed two cars were following us. Having lived in the city for most of my life, I was quite used to it. Cars follow you on the Gehri route all the time.  I would ignore them and eventually they would stop following me and start following someone else.

But that night was different. One of the cars just wouldn’t stop. I drove around for about fifteen minutes but they still continued behind us. They started hooting and tried to stop their car in front of ours. When this didn’t work, the guy in the passenger seat rolled down his car window and started making kissing faces. It had never reached this level before. We were completely in a fix.

We finally decided we couldn’t let this go on and had to go back home. I reached my house and parked in the driveway, appreciating the security of my home. The men in that car however, were not going to let us be. They started honking outside the gate and then actually had the audacity to enter the driveway! The ten seconds that we took to go from the car to the door were filled with panic. We were both literally running towards to door.  Once inside, we looked at each other with fear in our eyes, trying to fathom what just happened.

I spent the night tossing and turning in my bed. I’d faced street harassment in the city many times before. But, this was different.  I had never felt so vulnerable, so insecure, so terrified. This was my city. This was my home. And some random strangers made me feel s**t scared in my own home. I simply couldn’t let this go.

The next day, I talked to some of my friends. Surprisingly, everyone had their stories and most of them were a lot scarier than mine! Following, staring, commenting, even touching and molesting in public places. All of this was happening around me but somehow no one ever talked about it. It was easily swept under the carpet and all people would say is that ‘We’re used to it.’

I still couldn’t let it go. I’ve spent many years of my life working for human rights. The five years I studied law, I knew all my fundamental rights by heart. Every person has the right to be treated with respect. The right to walk the streets free from fear of any kind. The anger and helplessness I felt had to have a solution. There had to be some way to deal with this issue. And soon enough, I came across Hollaback!

Hollaback! provided us the ideal platform to share our stories of street harassment. It gave us a start, a perfect start in the right direction where instead of repressing such incidents people can get an opportunity to come out and share their stories and eventually take suitable action to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Author:

Rubina Singh is Director of Hollaback! Chandigarh.

4 Responses

Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments

  1. Nandini says:

    Rubina,

    I am a recent resident in Chandigarh. Having lived in a few cities in India and a couple outside, i can relate very well to the street harassment emotions. I am glad that you’ve brought this initiative to Chandigarh.

  2. Vivek says:

    Hi Rubina,

    I read an article on you in today’s DB. Congratulation to your decision and being attached with this cause. Very few girls have such thinking to do something for society. We are NGO working on the social causes and spreading awareness on saving girl child, eve teasing, street teasing, female feticide etc by our expression exhibition Bitiya Ki Chithiya. Would like to present you one book on the same. Please provide your Email address.

    Meanwhile check our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/bitiyakichithiya

    Vivek

  3. […] Why did you start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback! mean to you? Street harassment had become a daily reality for me. I was tired and had no idea what to do about it. One incident in particular, triggered me to find a more long-term solution. I was followed home by some men in a car and it scared me to death. I wasn’t sure what would happen and I just froze. I didn’t do anything then but it really got to me and I knew I had to do something. That was when I found out about Hollaback!. I wrote about it once here. […]

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