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Horror in Mumbai, deja vu in Delhi

The degrading public humiliation of women in Mumbai on New Year’s Day has shocked the nation, but for most Delhi women it’s only a reminder of daily life. HT reports.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2008 04:26 IST
Hindustan Times

Alone at the bus stop

There is just no way to escape lewd comments or staring eyes at bus stops after 8 pm. If the capital’s onmnipresent eve-teasers are not staring at you, they just stop their car and offer you a lift. Some even try to drag you inside. “After dark it is scary to stand alone and wait for a bus. Men will be men, even if they don’t have much to say, their eyes talk louder — they almost X-ray you, as if they could look through your clothes. Others make you feel like a prostitute. They simply can’t understand that a working girl could be waiting for a bus to go back home,” said Shanti Kumari, who works as a nurse at a city hospital.

The torture does not end at the bus stop: the buses are worse. “I always prefer to take the office cab, even though it is available only at 10 pm, which means an extra hour at work. I am petrified of taking buses in the late evenings,” said Devyani Mazumdar, who works as a copywriter in an ad-agency.

Car is safe, parking isn’t

It is a vicious circle. Since you can’t bear to wait at a bus stop or board a bus and not be molested, or haggle with an auto driver, you buy a car. But once you have it, you can’t even walk down alone to the car park near your office. If you do manage to venture out, you are taking a chance. For somebody is out there to grope you at that secluded, unpaved, dimly-lit parking area.

Priyani Saran, an investment banker, always looks for company to walk her to her car every evening, after an incident that terrified her. “Once this man at the parking lot held my hand as he pretended to return the balance amount. As a spontaneous reaction, I slapped him. He would have pounced on me had other people looking for their cars not come to my aid. I ran for my life,” she said. “There is not one parking lot in the entire city of Delhi, which is adequately lit,” added Vitusha Singhvi, who works at Bhikaji Cama Place.

Careful on the road always

If you think you are safe in your car, a look at the rear-view will give you a different perspective. “Leave alone late nights, even in broad daylight if you are driving single, there is good chance of you being followed,” said Karishma Kotha, a college student.
“Once I was chased by a man driving a plush Lancer, all the way from Janpath to Green Park entrance gate, where the guards check cars before letting them in. Recognizing me, the guards, let my car in, but he was stopped and questioned. As I drove further into the lane, I looked at my right view mirror, only to see his car reverse. I breathed a sigh of relief,” she adds. In the 20 minutes that she was being chased, she was on the phone talking to her husband, who advised her to keep driving, with all doors locked and the windows rolled up. “If your not safe in your own car, where else can you be safe?” asked Seema Tandon, who has been followed several times.

Stalkers at Metro stations

If you thought the Delhi Metro was safe, think again. The reality is that even while traveling by Metro you can’t be completely sure of not being stalked. Sometimes the travel is safe but the way to and fro the stations could test your nerve. Several stations, like those in Dwarka or Rohini, become barren in the night. The walk home requires courage.
Preeti Jain (name changed) travels to Rohini every day. She often boards the last Metro train on her route. “I have eyes tearing into me every single day. On two occasions, I was molested and I actually can’t count the number of times I was followed,” she said. Two strangers followed Saavi Srivastav on her way to the Kashmiri Gate Metro station. On complaining to the police personnel in the same compartment, she was not just snubbed but also laughed at by co-passengers. One of the accused defended himself, saying, “Who would follow an ugly duckling?”

Subways or crime dens?

It was December 31, 2007, with just a few hours left for the year to end. Dhwani Sharma was making her way to a parking lot in the inner circle of Connaught Place. “Fearing being hit by the fast moving traffic on the outer circle, I took the subway connecting Kasturba Gandhi Marg and CP. It was pitch dark. Not a single light was on,” she recounted. As she walked up the steps, there was a man in tattered clothes, sitting on the steps glaring at her. Nervous, she made way to the road, when a bunch of drunken men greeted her. “It was only 8 pm. Not even late. I promised not to use the Delhi subways ever, even if it means paying a fine for jaywalking,” she added.

The subways in Bhikaji Cama, Nehru Place, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Asaf Ali Road, Jangpura are poorly-lit and in dilapidated condition. Come evening, most become the haunts of the drug addicts. Some like Nehru Place have guards, who aren’t there usually.