There are cities that are unsafe for women and then there are cities that refuse to be safe for its women. Their dark alleys have beasts on the prowl waiting to spot you on that lonely stretch, to grab you unaware and leave you helpless, in a matter of seconds.
For the past few days, I had been going out for a run after getting home. At 8.45, I turned on my iPod and began on a stretch along the Africa Avenue. Halfway through, I passed a young boy but didn’t care to notice more. Thirty seconds later as I turned around to cover the journey home, he grabbed me from behind and it took me a moment to realise what had happened. I tried with all my strength to force him back, but my arms were locked.
He then pushed me forward and ran away. I shrieked with all the air in my lungs and ran after him, no one ahead, and no one around, the vehicles on the road across the fence went by.
I shouldn’t have taken so long to collect myself - maybe I should have joined that martial arts class. The faceless boy in the black t-shirt vanished. I searched as people living nearby came out. They had questions, complaints and their own fears. I too had mine: something much worse could have happened, and could still happen.
It’s not just fear that stirs the women of Delhi. It’s these unapologetic elements floating in every nook and corner of that take away all assurances of safety for women and force parents to lecture you on ‘why take the risky roads’ and become an ‘opportunity’ for these molesters/rapists.
Most of us take the routine auto/metro/bus/cab rides and then walk home from work or those late evening drinks. While taking these ‘liberties’ (yes, taking the liberty to live our life!) we forget that no matter how emancipated or how brave an athlete you are, those unknown hands will grope and chill you to the bone.
What’s worse is that I am not the first one and this was not the first incident that shook me. I can bet with my experience of over the two-decade long tryst with the city that every woman, who has ever lived and travelled in Delhi, has her own horror story to tell.
Such incidents have led many to never be out there with the same confidence again, never tread that dark patch, never step foot in that swimming pool, never drive alone in the night and live with a constant fear that comes from making the ‘rape capital’ their home. But how long can this camouflaging help?
No amount of shrieks, swear words, FIRs, public awareness can come to the rescue - forget about the government taking decisive action to help you feel safe. As I have realised, and you must too, that if you are alone you have to be your own soldier, your own taser gun and your own brave-heart.
Don’t stop stepping out just because ‘it’s too late’, but watch out for that unfriendly gaze. It is okay to take a friend/companion along, but don’t let insecurity keep you from walking alone. I know what happens when we are caught off guard, but no matter how hard the grip, train yourself to strike back.
They will never be afraid enough, so shouldn’t you.
(The author wishes to remain anonymous)