An epic fail at flirting ironically also acts as the beginning of a ‘till death do us apart’ romance in Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1. It involves characters Faizal Khan and Mohsina, and the ‘dhinchak’ moment is played delightfully by actors Nawazuddin Siddique and Huma Qureshi. It goes like this –
Faizal Khan, who’s had a crush on Mohsina since childhood when he first laid eyes on her outside a single-screen cinema hall where she was begging the ticket collector to allow her inside for free, finally gets to spend time alone with her sitting on a bench close to a lake. The asocial loner is very shy like any other guy who’s speaking privately to the girl of his dreams for the first time. He does start of nicely by asking her why she wears green all the time, and she replies that she loves green (duh), and then mentions that she’s wearing a new dress. Faizal continues his Joan Rivers act by praising the choice of nail color she’s worn to which Mohsina says that she likes red (much easier now to get ‘likes’ with Facebook, nah? If Faizal and Mohsina had Facebook, he’d have liked everything she posted and she’d yet not realize that he’s got a crush on her because there’ll be hundreds of others who’ll be liking the same!). Our hero clumsily adds that she had said she liked green moments ago and Mohsina only answers “I like both” as if she’s meaning “Can’t I like two colors, dodo?”.
This is followed by a moment of silence only broken by Mohsina’s disapproving “What?”; the moment of silence breaks because our hero Faizal, totally novice in the art of flirting, places his hand on hers and slightly nudges it. Any woman would certainly not like a man getting close to her so soon, and so Mohsina’s “What?” is completely understandable. She gives him the “Are you kidding me?” look, asks “What’s this?” and “Why are you smiling?” (to Faizal smiling stupidly at her) and then indignantly says “I’m not liking this. You think you can act as you please and I’ll let pass”; our poor Faizal is tongue-tied by her hissing retorts and Mohsina then tells him, cooling off slightly, in what’s become a famous dialogue “You should’ve taken my permission, nah? If you’d asked me for permission to keep your hand on mine, I’d have replied something, right?”.
Faizal apologizes to her and gets up to leave; Mohsina notices that he’s crying like a child who committed a mistake because of sheer naiveté and had no bad intentions in mind, and so she tells him not to leave. Faizal sits down obediently and is comforted slightly by her. The scene ends with a long shot of Faizal and Mohsina still sitting together but we know that he’s won her over even in his failure. And the sole reason for that is that he never did mean to make her feel uneasy; she knew that having a guy who isn’t smooth and yet who respects her dignity is much better than falling in love with a man who does the all right moves for the three-letter-word only (yes, there was a time when promiscuity wasn’t viewed positively, unlike now when most relationships are like in relationship- in&out, in&out – completely out).
Now why do I mention this scene today? Because I felt uneasy and offended at witnessing an incident of eve-teasing, a mild one yet disgusting nevertheless. It happened in a public bus depot at Villivakam area in Chennai, where I’m currently undergoing my internship programme. I boarded the bus which would take me from Villivakam to Chola Hotel in Anna Salai (of course, I don’t have the rupiah to stay at the five-star hotel for two months; I then walk down to my aunt’s home in Alwarpet) and took my seat towards the back end of the bus. There was a woman sitting alone in the last row (you know, the long one where about five thin people or four fat people can sit comfortably) and I was four rows ahead of her. There were a few aunties sitting in the front on the left corner of the bus (reserved for ladies) and a couple of gentlemen like me sitting on the right corner. Two men entered the stationary bus shortly and took the seats behind mine and the lady asked them when the bus was to depart. One of the men discontentedly told her that it was impossible to say when because of India’s habit of tardiness in everything. The two disgruntled men left the bus soon (maybe for a Satyagraha against Chennai bus drivers!) and the spots were left empty.
While I was answering a phone call, another man entered the bus and took the seat two rows behind mine. He knew he’d get brickbats from me as well as the other passengers on the bus if he’d openly hit on her without the lady’s consent, and so the bastard got down quickly and stood near the window next to where she was sitting. I remember him asking for her mobile number quite a few times but because she laughed at first (maybe out of embarrassment), I thought they were co-workers and so did not respond. It went on for about five minutes and I heard her say “But I don’t need your mobile number”, and that’s when I smelled something dirty. He did leave her for a moment, after which I looked at the lady’s disposition and saw her slightly frazzled. I did not speak anything only because I was still not sure whether the two knew each other or not; some Indian men can be unusually clingy and annoying with girls and assumed he was one of them.
But when the bus began to move, I noticed him on his bike following the bus. He whistled at her shamelessly and all she could do was look nervously at him. But soon he was gone for good and yet she was extremely anxious. I calmly asked her whether he knew her or not, only because I didn’t want to ask her directly whether she was being harassed and she replied “I don’t know the guy at all!”. I momentarily didn’t say anything, and my neck started to burn because of what I’d seen; the girl, maybe in her early twenties, became jumpy and requested me not to worry about the matter. I heard her say “It’s I alone who is bearing the insult. You don’t worry about it” and I sensed a sisterly affection in her. I then suggested that she sit with the group of ladies in the front instead of sitting alone at the back but she said she was waiting for her female friend to join her in the bus at the coming stop. I said nothing further expect looking behind once or twice to see if she was alright (the leg space under my seat was less and so I was angled in a way that I could catch her sight without turning). Slowly, the bus filled up and I took the rest of the time pondering about the event I witnessed.
What was totally unacceptable was how the guy literally was adamant in giving her his mobile number even when he was totally a stranger. Even Barney would be flushed watching this rascal deep-throating her with his mobile number – I heard the lady say at least ten times “I don’t want your number”. His intentions were maleficent and his mentality sinful, and it shudders to think that this can happen on a bus (not really unexpected, after all we’ve all heard of the bus rape incident). But here is where you go “What will you do?” and there’s no John Quinones here who’ll come later and say “Hi! This is all a part of our show ‘What will you do?’ and these are actors” – this is fucking reality! What can you do as a witness? What should the girl do who’s being harassed?
I could directly approach the bus conductor or ticket collector and inform him about this man. It would take seconds to throw the guy out of the bus. But I need to be sure that I’m not crying wolf. Otherwise there will be a long misunderstanding; the worst scenario would be in case the girl is being harassed and yet she doesn’t validate my accusations for fear of being embarrassed further or being threatened or attacked by the accused at some later date. I could alert the other passengers who would be a collective force in driving the guy out, or I could confront the person myself. The last option is the bravest one and I’m not sure whether I’d do that expect when I’m extraordinarily confident I’d make him leave without a fight. Fighting is the last resort and not a good one really – being aggressive is a prevalent ideology among many but I resent it only because it leads to the accused not learning anything.
The tricky part comes when we talk about what a girl can do in this scenario, and I believe a girl can either explicitly or impliedly ask for help from others. Unless the girl has guts like Mohsina to directly confront the person without fear of any consequences, she should try and get help. Asking for help isn’t an act of cowardice; in fact when even a man is being attacked by another, he tries to get help from people because he knows he’s in deep shit if he fights alone. A girl may do the brave thing of confronting and yet it may not be the best option as a person who’s capable of turning into an eve teaser in an instant is also capable of turning into a monster. So a girl should ask for help and she’ll get it.
She may either approach me, another passenger or the bus conductor himself or simply raise her voice so that attention is directed towards her. Others will realize she’s being harassed by a stranger and directly jump to action. Most men in Chennai are extremely respectful about a woman’s dignity and will try to be as chivalrous as possible; it’s indeed a good sight to see a ticket collector instructing men who are occupying lady’s seat to either find seats on the men’s corner of stand. The girl can also impliedly ask for help by following the advice I had given her – to sit where there are people. The guy won’t tease her anymore once she’s in good company and in this case, there doesn’t even have to be confrontation.
I’m borrowing generously from Harry Potter when I say “Help is always given to those who ask for it and those who deserve it”, and this poor girl deserved to be helped. What kind of contentment did the man get? Only that he could frighten and embarrass the poor girl who’d now feel unsafe about using bus transport at night. Maybe the guy was married and was only doing something he’d seen in poorly made films, not realizing that he’s being totally obnoxious. Maybe he should watch the ‘permission sequence’ from Gangs of Wasseypur (YouTube’s already got it) after brushing up on his Hindi and learn from Mohsina and Faizal. It’s better to be careless and yet sincere in your intentions than being obnoxious and insouciant about the girl’s feelings. No good girl’s game for a greasy frankfurter.