Marathons and men

Instead of filing a police complaint or refusing to run the race in a sponsored marathon event, actress Gul Panag has gone to the media. Or else no one would know that she was groped. Her reason for highlighting the incident ought to reveal the genuine problems faced by women everyday, but what we see here is a diatribe against Delhi culture and story of personal bravery.

Since she was brushed against in an inappropriate manner at the starting point of the race where the crowd took advantage, there are chances of other women participants having experienced something similar. Had she raised an alarm and alerted the authorities, it would have probably resulted in some arrests.

“Against which one of the 400 odd people I was stacked with at starting point shall I file a complaint?”

It would have at least sent out a clear message. These marathons are for specific reasons/causes and participants often include celebrities who are roped in for their fame. The point is that the organisers need to be careful. Many changes in civic law have taken place when people have brought such incidents to notice as examples. She says:

“Of course I’ll run again. I am a fighter.”

What exactly has she fought against or for? It is also a bit odd when she states:

"I won't advocate running around the city to women in Delhi. When you are at a busy junction here, you won't know who has touched your butt or pressed your breasts. It has to be the ugliest experience for a woman, but here you have no choice but get used to it.”

There are a multitude of women who need to use public transport and the roads to walk and run. They have no choice. And I think people know what groping means so this explanation of where women get touched is wholly unnecessary when dealing with a sensitive issue.

Then there is this thing about Delhi. I always love to hear someone lambasting the city!

"I am not at all shocked by the instance. It is most likely to happen if you are in Delhi. I just wonder when it's going to change, the typical north Indian male mentality. Just by having pretty roads and good infrastructure at places, you cannot sit back with a Capital city that's totally unsafe. It is difficult being a woman in Delhi.”

It is, but there are women living and working there. The local trains in Mumbai aren’t exactly havens if you happen to travel in the general compartment. Crowded places aren’t much different here. Our police chowkies have been rape dens and there is sexual harassment in the workplace here too.

While I detest Delhi as an idea, and having worked there for a bit to know it well enough, I dislike the branding of men and women in regional or race terms. The north Indian male mentality would be evident then even among those who live elsewhere. And if the South, West and East do not suffer from such a mentality, then we should check out the figures of women-related crimes in these places. No paragons of virtue in those.

I do not know what the expose has achieved and there is still time for her to register a complaint. Perhaps the organisers can be pulled up. Unless the organisers must not be?

End note:

"Pope softens up on condoms"

I thought TOI had finally come up with a rather lovely headline, till I did a quick check and found that it was not original. Hard as it gets, eh?


  1. The part where she advises women not run/move about on the streets of Delhi...that is just horrible. Though nothing about this story is not horrible.

    On a similar note, a friend once related an anecdote about how, in a bazaar, a little kid was making tentative attempts at touching her butt. She had a hard time bringing herself to set him straight, so tiny was he.

  2. The anecdote you relate could be just a child acting up, depending on how young the kid was. But this is a problem faced by women everywhere.

    I am disappointed to read a comment by Ms Panag, supposedly from her tweet, that appeared in today's TOI edit page!

    "Will be groping back at next marathon."

    They even say it refers to her recent harassment. I mean, a good pun is good, but does anyone need to capitalise on such a horrendous personal experience? I thought she was a fairly articulate and sensible person from a couple of panel discussions on TV.


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