I Curse Myself Everyday For Not Standing Up For The Girl I Called My Best Friend And It's Too Late To Say Sorry

Anonymous Anonymous in Your Story on 25 October, 2016

My dearest friend was a woman. Let's call her Sheetal because if I give you her real name, you'll again judge. That is our society - we judge. That's what we do.

I badly feel like reaching out to her today and tell her that I am sorry. Not because of what I did, but because of what others are doing to her. I am not from a very big city. I was raised in a conservative family. I have a sister and several female cousins whom I love and feel very protective about.

When I started my work in Bangalore, Sheetal was literally the first girl I spoke to on a daily basis. I am not somebody who uses the word "close friend" carelessly, especially when it comes to a girl. But that's what Sheetal was to me. Nothing more than that, but she was a really close friend who was very precious to me.

She stopped talking to me abruptly one day. I did not do anything wrong... Well, I'll explain. But I understand her anger.

Some weeks ago, I was called to the team manager's cabin. We were discussing about a few things and then the topic deviated to something else. Suddenly, he asked me,

"That Sheetal, what is going on between you two?"

I told him we were just friends. He did not believe me, so I insisted that we were only very good friends. But what he said next shocked me. I had really not expected that from him.

"Abbey, yaar. You should take the opportunity when it is so easy. It is so simple with her. Just drop a condom in front of her face. Woh bhi uss type ki ladki hai!"

Till then, I didn't know friendly girls have a category. I was paralyzed. Right now when I think about it, I kick myself for not saying anything to defend her. I think of a hundred things I could have told him but that sense did not come to me when I was still in front of him. I chose to walk out like a coward. But the worst part was, Sheetal was standing right outside the door. By the look on her face, I could tell that she had heard every single word. But shamelessly, I put on a straight face like nothing had happened.

As soon as I realised something was wrong, I tried to talk to her but she did not listen and I could not create a scene in the office. I tried calling her several times. And those several times became several hundred times. But she only kept ignoring me.

When I had joined this office, she was the only person who made me feel welcome. She was the only person who helped me and made sure I got used to the city. She was my pillar and now we are not even on talking terms. Just because she was being nice to me, the entire office assumed some sort of a relationship between us. At that time, every man I saw looking at her I couldn't help but wonder where their eyes actually were.

I can recite word for word what men in this office say when a woman doesn't interact with them much- "She thinks too highly of herself". But when somebody like Sheetal is comfortable enough to engage in some light-hearted banter, it becomes "That girl is characterless".

They call her the "modern-type" of girl as if it's an illegal profession. She is one of the smartest and boldest women I know. Sometimes I wish my own sister was like her. Then when I see how people judge her, I think it's better my sister is not.  And is it really her fault for being good-looking as well?

Just before I joined this office one year ago, she and her boyfriend broke up. The other women in the office are either married or they are the kind who never, ever talk to men. Just because Sheetal had a boyfriend, and broke up with him too, I don't know why people thought it was justified to have an opinion about her. Her worst crime was dating somebody else after somebody else. I know she thinks some hundred times before she goes out on one single date. So far, at least till she didn't hate me, she had not been so lucky with love. She went on some dates with a guy and it did not work out. She carried on cheerfully later on. People called her "loose" for that. It hurt me a lot and I tried to protect her from it but again, I didn't defend her when she probably needed it the most.

The incident with the manager taught me the harsh truth that you can actually not protect a woman in India in any way... Physically or emotionally. This is because people will keep attacking her with their twisted mentality and harsh judgement. I really regret not defending her, but I was too shocked to react when I heard such a thing from a superior.

It has been a really long time since she last spoke with me or even made an eye-contact with me. It hurts me every single day. I keep hoping to talk to her, say sorry and become friends again. But she has gone into a shell and she is not being herself. I have never seen her like this and I can't imagine how much she is suffering inside. She looks tormented every time I see her. It haunts me and makes me beastly angry.

Every day, I used to drop her to the bus stand or sometimes even to her home if it is late. Now she walks one and a half kilometres in the evening to reach the nearest bus stop. It breaks my heart to see her go alone after dark in this December cold.

She might never talk to me again and I might be forced to accept that. But when I think of how it all happened, it makes my blood boil. Who the hell said that a girl can't be smart, good-looking and outgoing? Who made the rules that a girl can't fall in love or try to fall in love again? The same hypocrites who judge a woman for being bubbly will label her "uptight" when she doesn't talk to guys.

I was one of them until I saw my friend struggling to be herself. Now I feel like slapping everybody hard across their faces and make them mind their own business. No girl is ever a loose character. And because this is India, all girls are extremely careful about how they behave by default.

What is the point of educating girls and making them capable enough to take up jobs if you are still going to not let them talk? You might as well lock them up in the kitchen and not allow them to vote.

I am sick and tired of this narrow minded mentality. I am frustrated with the double standards and the hypocrisy. Because of this, I lost a very valuable friendship. I am ashamed because even I had a different view of women before, but not any more. Girls like Sheetal are real gems and we give them a hard time because they are not afraid to be themselves. They are not spoilt or characterless. In fact, they have more character than us and have a very dynamic personality.

A girl like Sheetal is not a slut. She is a tigress. People who judge are cowards who are only intimidated by her.

I hope Sheetal and many other girls like her are reading this. And I want to apologize to all of you for what people put you through. Don't ever hide your real self, not everyone is brave enough to fight with this society. I know you are, I know Sheetal is and if she's reading this, I hope she comes out of her shell soon enough and gives me a call.

Author's Note: I feel like I'm swimming against the tide in my workplace. I hope from the depth of my being that there are people who agree with me. If you know a girl like Sheetal, please stand by her.

Editor's Note: Share this article so others may find the courage to share their stories too.