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  • Writer's pictureBushra Parveen

THE PARANOIA OF TOUCH

“First I thought I was being paranoid, then I felt it again.” - My friend.


As much as I feel detested by it, I’ll have to admit that most women have known what a ‘Bad touch’ is. As though the word exists just to remind you of the fear you ought to carry within yourself every time you step out or even in. A few days back, I found myself exceedingly disturbed by the frequently occurring incidents that pestered and even attempted to harass women I know. And these are only the stories I have been all ears to or paid any heed. But, as I walk through life daily, I have realized how deep the fear holds within me, how awfully it has been rooted in each nerve of my body. In the moments when I take a look around me but get instantly creeped out because someone else was already looking for the attention, The side-eyes and shady smirks, the compulsion to keep looking behind just to make sure that there is nobody following you or taking a 3 seconds deep breath before asking men to leave the women’s coach in the metro.

What is even worse is when it happens and you get stuck in paranoia. They rightly say women have a sixth sense, but in moments like those, all your senses are knocked-out. When you want to smash their face but are too stunned to utter a word. When your eyes are ready to roll down a tear but you press your nails against your palm and clench your jaws. When your entire body is left with one all-consuming, paralyzing thought, ‘What if it was an accident?’


You keep on perhaps justifying- maybe it was just an accident, maybe he is a good person, what if it can happen to the good men I know, the ones I have been bought up and surrounded by. And by the time you gain your momentum back and get flashed by reality, the unstoppable world leaves no choice but to keep moving, more so, like nothing happened.


The conceivable conclusion of my paranoia that I've come to is also the good men, the men of honour who have taught me that the world is a good place and most people are good people. Men like my father have allowed me to witness a safe haven, the purity and softness of a touch coming from love and hitting home.


But keeping aside my delusion, is this not our existing reality? Is it not the fear you see in every eye of a female body? Is it untrue that we are not the victims of unwanted gaze no matter whether our bodies are covered in a niqab or a tank top? Whether we keep our gaze low or try to fight them back with a stare full of wrath? Or how ingrained it is that leaves me to question, “What is wrong with me? Maybe I'm just overthinking?”


A corner of my heart is at peace to know that my 7-year-old nieces are fully aware of 'Good touch and Bad touch’ but altogether breaks my heart to know they’re growing up in a world like this from where there is no escape. They will become the next generation of women to grow and live with an internalized fear and to be ready to scream, make noises and learn to protect themselves. As despicable as it is, this is the truth. This is what we come to as a society- horrendous and brutal. A world where every touch is not just a touch anymore.


I wish there was somewhere, at some place, in some time that is a safe haven. Some place where only tenderness runs the world and gentleness soothes our paranoia.

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