How Pink holds up a mirror to a Delhi girl’s life
Last week I finally got around to watching Stranger Things. Afterwards, I had to keep reminding myself that our house does not have wallpapers that monsters can come tearing through. I also had to sleep with my mother for the next three days.
But watching Pink was a scarier experience. Because let’s face it, the chances of me in a cabin in the woods, next to a top secret military facility with a portal to another dimension are next to nil. A night out with the friends going horribly wrong, because of a bunch of guys unversed with the concept of consent and incapable of taking no for an answer, however, is entirely feasible.
Pink hit a nerve because it was spookily relatable. Watching movies such as Boys Don’t Cry, Matribhoomi and Antarmahal have been highly disturbing experiences which have left me raging, but they have always been stories about someone else – someone I can sympathise with, maybe even empathise but still, someone else – an Other who is not me and who does not inhabit my part of the world. Minal, Falak and Andrea – the characters played by Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang – in the movie live four kilometres from where I do. In a courtroom scene in the movie, Minal talks about how being touched against her wishes by someone feels absolutely disgusting and icky. I know exactly what she means. And in that moment, when a shadow memory of times when I have been touched without consent makes my skin recoil, I wish I didn’t know what she was talking about.
A part of me wishes I hadn’t watched the film; because those three distraught girls on the screen could so easily have been me and my friends. After all, I am young(ish) and have lived alone. I drink, I drive (not at the same time), I come home late sometimes. I use dating apps and meet strangers. I wear jeans, and sometimes tiny short skirts. I laugh with and at boys. Sometimes I even flirt with them. And mostly it’s all nice and fun, until it is not. I am not saying that every time I step out something bad happens, or every man I meet tries to get handsy or force himself on me. It has however happened; and happened enough number of times for me to have to mind words and actions that come naturally to me. Everything I do or say or wear or emote, it seems, can and is used against me. An ex colleague of mine once deduced that I clearly had “a thing for him”. I was trying to be friendly, he thought it was ‘flirty’. A boy I met on Tinder told me that he really liked me and wished he had met me somewhere other than a dating app. Because “the kind of girls” you meet on a dating app aren’t the kinds you can take home to your mother.
It is not only Pink’s overarching plot that is relatable, but the small things. The movie is interspersed with these scenes where the three girls are subjected to the nosy stares of their neighbours. Having lived alone in a colony predominantly occupied by families, I know exactly what it feels like to be gawked at. My landlady once asked me to not wear short shorts in my own house because apparently the neighbours had complained that it made them uncomfortable when they peeped through the kitchen window (well, maybe not in these exact words, but still!). This I found hilarious and did nothing about. What was not funny, however, was the time I saw my creepily possessive and prone to violent rages ex boyfriend standing outside my window, three consecutive evenings.
The first night I saw him, I was worried but I locked up and hoped this was a bad dream that would disappear with daylight. The next day when I saw him outside my house on returning home, I carried my yellow hammer from my car back with me, locked up again and stayed up all night panicking about what I would do. There was no one I could turn to. I couldn’t turn to the landlord; he’d write me off as trouble and kick me out of the house. I couldn’t tell mum and dad, that’d be the end of me living alone. The third day when I got back from work he was there again and this time he saw me.
He insisted we talk. I didn’t really want to. He had started screaming at me by now and the neighbours started looking. The only option I seemed to have in that moment (at least in my overwrought head) was to invite him inside and it was terrifying. He knew this and was kind enough to point it out. I remember sitting on the beanbag, clinging to my yellow hammer that lay on the floor next to me, not paying any attention to his rant. All I could think of was now he knows exactly which house I live in. Eventually he exhausted himself, called me some names that would put sailors to shame and left. This idea – that he could invade my privacy just because we had been together once – is emblematic of the sense of entitlement that many men carry around.
I am sure I’d lost three years off my life out of fright that night. The thing is, I wasn’t so scared about what he’d do to me. I was aware that he was capable of hurting me. And that did scare me a little. But what terrified me more was that if something did go wrong, no matter who got hurt, it would be my fault. In the police and court room drama that plays out in Pink, this biggest of all fears, comes to life.
Ankita Biswas is a freelance writer and a former marketing professional based out of New Delhi.
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