One morning, as I rarely did when working for an airline in Calcutta around the year 1997/98, I visited the gym in the morning before going to work, instead of the evening. After my usual hourly workout that I wrapped up with the butterfly arm press while chatting with the instructor, I hurriedly collected my bag from the locker room and rushed out. I was one of the last ones to leave that morning, and was going to rush home – nearby, and then drive down to the airport about 12 km away through office-hour traffic. Other than the instructor, to whom I always chatted liberally, I did not talk to any of the all-male members who used the gym. Other women used it during the day.
As I stepped out on the road, I hurriedly unlocked my car with the remote key and chucking my bag on the adjacent seat, seated myself at the steering wheel. It was only when I was about to release the accelerator after turning the ignition on distractedly, that I looked up at the windshield. To my shock and immense horror, something that resembled a large grey rat, was plastered on it. I turned off the ignition and jumping out walked over in front, to be struck by revulsion. A dead pigeon, perhaps run over by a car, or electrocuted on the wires above, was positioned on my windshield, with both wings spread well out. It was actually smothered on the glass and there was muck all around.
I ran back into the gym in immense fear, as I had an intuitive sense of being targeted and perhaps attacked further in a nastier way. I felt vulnerable as one might during a riot. I breathlessly narrated the situation to the instructor, who was also just leaving. He rushed out with me and looking exasperated, guilty, and somewhat ashamed even, from the obvious sexism hurled at me for no apparent reason, he removed the poor creature. He had to turn his face away from the horrid, decaying smell that hit his senses. He assured me, that there was nothing more to worry about and I could go home now and he advised me to get the car washed before leaving for work.
This part time gym instructor, much older to me, incidentally a Facebook friend now, was actually a cop in service – even as he still is, from the intelligence wing of the Calcutta police. And yet, right under his nose, also that I was in conversation with him, obviously some idiots who noted my using the butterfly press, had implanted that rotting sense of sexist and perverse humour in wings, on me.
The next day I went back to the gym in the evening as usual, but I never tried to find out who had done the dastardly act, or bother with an apology or seek punishment. It never struck me even for a moment, that my reserved behaviour or by my merely being a woman, I had incited this perpetrator. Sexists, stalkers, molesters, rapists – it’s them who are to blame not those who they victimise, no woman should ever doubt that. Why would I give him further perverse pleasure, having watched my reaction to his nasty prank for sure, of having got my attention – with his vile psyche for which he chartered the rotten wings of a dead creature, perhaps even squashed it himself!