A young girl lost her life in New Delhi on October 25, allegedly at the hands of a jilted man. How do young people deal with stalkers and obsessive lovers? Professionals tell you how to handle such a situation here.
Below, 26-year-old Sunaina Pundit* recounts the harrowing months when an unknown boy followed her everywhere she went:
I was 17 when I first noticed him. He must have been a few years older than me and had sleazy light eyes. Initially I ignored his presence. But soon enough I realised this boy -- who would call himself Rajneesh* -- followed me everywhere I went.
When I'd leave for college he'd be across the road. After classes, he'd be waiting outside the college gate. At the bus stop he'd drive over and offer me a lift, which I'd promptly refuse.
During the one year that he was stalking me, there was never a time that I stepped outside the confines of my college or home and he wasn't there.
My parents have been the non-interfering kind and I have never been subject to scrutiny. So when this started, I didn't know how to react.
For the most part, I ignored him. But what do you do when he manages to trace your telephone number?
He'd introduce himself to my parents as my friend and unsuspectingly, my parents would hand me over the phone.
This went on till I made it clear to them that I didn't know him, let alone wanting to speak with him. Things began to get ugly when he started calling up at odd hours of the night. There was no way of stopping him.
Those days, mobile phones were expensive and not common. No one in my family had one. There was no way they could reach me and ensure my safety.
It was my first year after school and this definitely wasn't the way I hoped for my college life to begin.
Once I fell ill and he came over with a bunch of flowers at a time when he knew neither of my parents would be with me. If I'd miss my computer class, he'd call up and ask why I had bunked that day. It was eerie how much he knew about me and my life.
Much later I learned that it was in those computer classes he had first seen me. But I had no idea of his existence so there was no way I could have spoken to him or led him on. I simply didn't know why he had picked me from among so many other people to stalk -- that was perhaps the most disconcerting part.
There were occasions when he'd make sure to cross my mother's path. Once she realised who he was and asked him to stop following me. My father too made it clear to him that he wouldn't stand for any misbehaviour.
Thankfully, my parents were very supportive. They asked me if I had ever given him the impression that I might be romantically interested in him or if he had made any attempts to hurt me. I denied it, they took my word for it and stood by me all through.
My father would drop me to college whenever he could. He wouldn't sleep nights and would often come over to my room to see if I was okay. It was very traumatic to see him suffer that way.
My friends too accompanied me wherever I went and assured me that they'd be there for me whenever I needed them.
Everyone who was close to my family knew about Rajneesh, but were divided over whether we should go to the police.
At 17, when you've seen very little of the world you don't know what to do in such situations. You are scared and would rather not get the police involved. It had been a year since this started.
Finally, I confronted Rajneesh and in full public view yelled at him and asked him to stay away from me. He went away then, but the stalking did not stop. After the outburst I consciously ignored him. Eventually I stopped seeing him.
I am 26 now and have contacts in the police department and the judiciary. There is no section under which a stalker can be booked. But if this were to happen to me today I would not hesitate in going to the cops. My first reaction would be to slap him in public -- something I have done to someone else in the past -- make a noise about it and embarrass him.
If Rajneesh were to cross my path again he's had it. I cannot forget the times when he made my family's life and me miserable.
Deep down, though, I still feel scared. I avoid going to the places where he would wait for me. I can still picture him looking in my direction.
It takes me some time to I compose myself. And then the phantom disappears.
*Names 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