When I had first watched Catwoman in 2004, I wanted to be one. That’s it. I wanted to be Catwoman. For her shapely body and for her sexy leather garb, of course. But more because I wanted to feel safe. I wanted those powers, superpowers.
Rewind. That young girl sat next to her mother in that bus I had taken to work that morning. A man sat on the seat behind her. He held the back of her seat as if to keep balance. But it was not to keep balance. He was touching the girl. It was 11am, in Delhi, and the bus had about 20 people in it. In my mind, I became some form of Catwoman, got up from my seat, packed a few punches on this sick man, dragged him and threw him out of the bus. Violent? Okay.
Outside my mind, reality prevailed. Nothing happened. I was 22, only a month old in Delhi, and, I would admit, kind of scared to speak up. Or not scared really. I was intimidated, by the people around. What will people think? ‘A reporter of a leading media organisation locked horns with a sick ruffian’? No no! I didn’t want to get noticed that way! So kept shut like all the other 20 odd people in the bus.
The mother and the girl got up after a while and got down of the bus. The man lusted at the girl till she was out of sight. The girl had no expressions. She never even looked back. Not even once. Even when he was feeling the side of her back near the breasts, she seemed lost in some other world. As if nothing was happening. She just kept looking out of the window.
I never understood if the girl got it even or not. Probably she was too young to understand touches. She looked like 12. The whole sequence was nauseating. I hated it. It has played and replayed in my mind forever. And I have cursed myself that many times. Why was I so helpless?
Later, when I watched Catwoman, I knew that that morning in the bus I had imagined myself as not some form of her but as her. As powerful. But I still couldn’t get the guts to do anything. Now, watching her in action, someone of flesh and blood, gave me an added courage. It was the kind of guts you get when you are injected with some kind of magic potion. I felt powerful forever thereafter. I was not intimidated by the hostility that hung in the air anymore. I knew I could handle it. I just knew. The stress was gone. I felt unburdened. And that’s what made me powerful and inverted my whole body language.
In that capacity, my mind fails to register the protests that have erupted against United Nations’ decision to make Wonder Woman, the new DC superhero, an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women. Protesters say she is unreal.
A niche comic series where a superhero fights violence against women is slowly becoming popular in the Indian subcontinent. Priya, the superhero of comic books Priya’s Shakti and Priya’s Mirror, resurrects after her own ordeal. With her new powers, which the Gods bestow on her as reward for her prayers, she sets out to save other women who have gone through similar trauma. Real life superheroes Jyoti and Laxmi, are Priya’s inspiration. But there are many who would not have it inbuilt in them. They may need to look at a Priya or a Wonder Woman or, yeah, a Catwoman to know the powers that rest within.
We must move aside and make way for the superhero. The unreal has to be the new real.
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If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more