Radhika (name changed on request) was forced to scamper from one central Delhi market to another, hour after hour, on Monday night. However, it was not last-minute shopping that was on the 23-year-old executive's mind.
"I had reached Pragati Maidan Metro station, which is a five-minute drive from my office at ITO, when four men in a Santro car started tailing me. At first I didn't notice. It was only after they'd followed me first to Khan Market, then to the outer circle in Connaught Place and finally to the Millennium Park that I panicked and stopped my car behind a PCR van that was stationed near the park," said the resident of southeast Delhi's Lajpat Nagar.
Rather than walking over to the officers in the vehicle and complaining about her stalkers, Radhika decided to wait paralysed by fear. She just prayed that the men would lose interest and drive away.
"I guess it was my patience that paid off in the end. I was so scared that I couldn't have stepped out of the car. Besides, the officers in the PCR van didn't even notice me for the half an hour that I was there. I don't think they would have been of any help even if they did pay attention," she said.
Radhika is just one of the thousands of female professionals and students who cringe at the very thought of approaching a Delhi Police officer for help. This is despite the force's best efforts to portray itself as a self-styled law enforcement agency in sync with the times.
"I was recently at a lecture in a girls' college at DU's South Campus. There was not a single student present in the gathering of more than 200, who raised her hand when asked whether girls felt safe approaching the police to ward off potential molestors. I don't think so many women can be wrong," said Dr Rajat Mitra, director, Swanchetan, an NGO.
Criminal psychologists like Dr Mitra and NGOs working for women feel empathy and confidence are the last things that a Delhi Police officer inspires in the public.
"What the city needs is a break from the colonial, anti-community model of policing. Delhi needs a metropolitan police force, we need culturally sensitive officers, instead of musclemen with sticks," he added.