I buzzed and lit up with a banner on my screen which read "you have three new messages". The light caught her eye and she immediately typed in her password. When she saw that the prompt was from Facebook, she sighed and rolled her eyes. For the past two weeks, she had been receiving the most outrageous of messages in her "other inbox" and was beginning to wonder how many creeps could possibly exist on the internet. The figure 1.2 billion loomed ominously in her mind.
As she slowly opened her inbox, she saw a message which read "ma'am, u r beauty with brains". Seeing as she had never met the sender before, she wondered how he could possibly be so well acquainted with her intellect as well as her appearance. She almost replied "wake me up at 6am for work and then we'll see who looks beautiful", but clicked on "block sender" instead.
The next message was a series of "hello ji" being sent relentlessly every single day. She had thought it amusing and had wanted to test her cyber admirer's tenacity. And he did not disappoint. After attempting a barrage of salutations, he had resorted to quoting needlessly melodramatic Bollywood lyrics that invariably managed to blur the line between emotional blackmail and courtship. Once again, her finger hit "block", this time with considerable frustration.
I often wondered if other women faced the same plight as her. And if they did, why did it happen? Is it because the internet is a large and open platform which when placed in the wrong hands becomes the virtual equivalent of a crowded marketplace full of small minded people? Or is it because the internet tends to guard one's true identity and makes the lack of proximity a non issue for the likes of importunate harassers?
What exactly was it that made these men so confident in their pathetic attempts at attracting attention? Perhaps it is the ease of it all; typing a lewd message from the comfort of one's home and sending it off is the only real effort required, after all.
As I mulled over this, she opened the third message which read "can't you see I'm flirting with you?" This time she nearly slammed me down with anger. I felt her grip tighten around my sides as she typed "NO and even if I could see that, I wouldn't care!" This had been a particularly appalling message seeing as the sender was a complete stranger from a different city.
When she was finally done blocking the last of that day's vermin, she angrily pressed down the lock button and tossed me away. A few minutes later, a friend of hers called and she ranted about the fresh stock of harassers who had crawled out of the woodwork.
Half an hour into their discussion, I began to envision a rather depressing future in which such messages would continue to be written off as "harmless" and "not worth complaining about". But I had seen her face contort into expressions of discomfort; had felt a sudden anger in her grip; and had heard her yell in frustration. I finally decided that perhaps the internet in the hands of such imbeciles was comparable to nuclear codes in the hands of an incompetent leader...