We invited readers to comment on how young people can deal with stalkers and obsessive lovers. We also carried professional advice and a few harrowing accounts from young women. Here is Rinku Sinha's* experience from when she was in college:
I was 19 years old and an engineering student when I experienced stalking. And you may wonder, or it may sound disgusting, but the stalker was not an unknown person -- he was a lecturer from our college department. He was also one of the most respected people on campus -- even I respected him before I experienced his nonsensical behaviour.
Everything was going well until my second year. He handled one of our subjects and by the end of that semester, I started encountering his unusual behaviour. He used to stare at me, give me a smile when I walked down the corridor or on campus, and he was constantly observing me.
For a few days I ignored it -- I thought I may be mistaken, but the situation got worse day by day. When we had classes in the laboratory, he would be there; he would sit opposite me and stare continuously. I started ignoring him and he would get angry, scolding some student or the other for some silly reason, in order to draw my attention and intimidate me.
When I waited at the bus stop for my ride home, he would come by in his car, slow down near the bus stop and stare at me. Whenever I tried to wish him, he would just smile in a weird way that was really irritating. I tried to put an end to this by talking to him, but I could not bring it up because I was so young and he had a good name in the college. I was frightened that something may go wrong and I may get a bad name. I could not bring it to the notice of my parents for the same reason.
I literally started hating to go to college. Once, I revealed my problem to a close friend, but she didn't believe me and said he was a very nice person -- that it must be my mistake. I was completely devastated when I heard her words and I thought that I would get the same response from anyone I revealed the situation to.
I could not concentrate on my studies, I got backlogs in semesters and it was the worst experience of my college life -- my health was also upset. Sometimes I got bad ideas of committing suicide. When he used to come as internal examiner for lab exams, I would get so scared that I didn't write anything in one exam -- I was sweating so much that I came out of the exam hall. Everybody thought that I wasn't prepared well for the exam and so I was frightened. But when the results were out it was a miracle -- he had passed me in the exam, because he knew he was responsible for it.
Things carried on the same way for nearly one and a half years. I was very good at my studies earlier, but after the stalking I couldn't cope; I became an average student. I suffered a lot alone and could not tell anyone. My parents used to scold me that my academic performance was worsening. Meanwhile, I got a job with a company and I got even more stressed -- I knew I had to concentrate on my studies and boost my percentage in order to preserve my job, but the stalking was haunting me.
Finally, since the situation was such, in the final year I took a bold step and went to his cabin. I asked him straight out why he was behaving like he did with me. He was so frightened, I don't think he ever expected me to react; he denied it and said he had not done anything as such, and that he was very scared that his colleagues may find out about his nonsensical behaviour. When I left his cabin, in fact, I was very confused. Did I really misunderstand him?
Then it was time for the semester exams again. I thought, now he will be too scared to repeat his behaviour, since I may reveal in public what I confronted him about. But my belief was wrong -- his behaviour continued. Luckily it was my final year and I didn't have to spend too much time in college, since I was doing project work in another city.
Finally I did obtain my degree, but even today, I'm scared to go back to that college. I do not want to reveal the lecturer's name because my brother is also studying there, in a different branch. Anyway, I do not want to take the risk. This is the first time I'm revealing my problem publicly. Many girls experience this kind of situation and I hope I never face it ever again. It has created a psychological scar in me -- even today, I'm scared of recalling what happened.
So my advice is, just ignore it and concentrate on your work. Stalkers want to do everything in a disguised way, they are scared to make things public. Now I'm 22, but at a young age everything seemed new and at that point in time, we can't take any step to confront it.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you deal with it? Please share your experiences and suggestions with us. Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: 'Stalker experience') and we'll publish them right here on rediff.com
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh