I moved to the city 10 years ago. Back then, all I knew was that it had a reputation for two things — a famed nightlife, and the fact that it was safe for women. All of 17 years old, my friends and I pushed all the limits, living it up and being reckless. We took the last local train, partied till 4 am, sipped tea at a deserted Worli Seaface at 5 am. And we only realised last week that we would have to be out of our minds to try any such thing today.
My faith in Mumbai is at an all time low. Both those aspects that I loved about it can no longer be taken for granted. And although it was the Delhi gang-rape that really horrified us, the Mumbai gang-rape gave us a scary wake-up call; one that said our city is no different. Some weeks ago, a colleague’s friend was leaving a bar in an area as posh as Pali Hill in Bandra (W) at around 11 pm. A car pulled over and a man reached out for her arm. That’s when she rushed into a nearby building. To add to the horror, the guard insisted she leave the premises lest he gets accused. Another friend was followed home by guys in an SUV at midnight. The car lurked around her house for a good 20 minutes, as her roommate and she peeped out at the road from a dark room. Working women — and there are a lot of us here — have, for the first time, been given strict deadlines by family and friends.
The city’s head hangs low. Arguments about Delhi being ‘unsafe’ and Mumbai being ‘safe’ now end abruptly. Cans of pepper spray have promptly replaced Cadbury chocolates on the ‘Raksha Bandhan ki thali’. Advertisements have begun promoting empathy, reminding people to stay alert, something this city never needed to be told.
Even Mumbai Police’s constables have hit the big screen in an attempt to help. Yet our faith in the fact that the news will, perhaps, bring with it more reasons to be afraid the next morning, remains intact. Knowing that Mumbai’s Police Commissioner, Satyapal Singh, is capable of saying things like “…on one hand, we want to increase and support this kind of culture, and, on the other hand, we want to stop cases of sexual assault against women” also doesn’t help. But what it does do is remind some of us of a certain lawless fictional city; one that writer Bill Finger said he didn’t call New York (he called it Gotham instead) because he wanted anybody in any city to identify with it.
Mumbai’s identifying with it at this time more than ever. Now, all we need to do is channel our inner Bruce Wayne, I guess.