As I stepped into the big city with bright lights, all that I expected to see were opportunities staring down at me. I walked ahead and an expanse of eyes looked deep into mine, scrutinizing every bit of me, every part of me.
I clearly remember the time when a popular news channel carried a survey which listed Delhi as the most unsafe Indian city for a woman to live in. This was a week before I was supposed to shift to the capital and my mother’s apprehensions knew no bounds, however, I chose to ignore polls based on the opinions of a hundred people out of a billion strong population and embarked on a journey without knowing what it had in store for me.
Delhi has always been referred to as the ‘rape capital‘ considering the high frequency in the incidence of the same.Yes, I am aware of the fact that rape is NOT a hobby of all the males in Delhi, but then they do stare as if the XX chromosome is exquisite and rare. Women have been forced to be paranoid about their safety , as being leered upon is the commonest of things that could happen to you. Every single time I travel in the general compartment of the metro (those rare occasions when there is no breathing space in the one reserved for women) I cannot help but eavesdrop on conversations between the several men and a continued observation forces me to conclude that all of them start with a girl’s pretty face and end at how hot her legs looked.
I come from a city where walking down a deserted alley does not make me as nervous as walking down a relatively crowded street in Delhi does. I never knew how to use a pepper spray, nor did I own a knife which was to be used for something other than chopping vegetables and helping me spread jam on my bread. I was not enlightened enough to know that cars could follow young and ‘scantily’ clad girls if in case they were out on the streets at an unearthly hour. I had never heard school boys sing cheesy Bollywood numbers when I walked past them nor had I spoken to an old man who directly referred to my voice as tempting. No, I do not hail from a Luxembourg or a Helsinki (some of the safest cities in the world) but my hometown does not really have men who take the liberty to lift a girl and dunk her in a drum filled with colored water on the ‘auspicious’ occasion of Holi, my city does not have men who stand outside college gates only to masturbate everytime a girl passes by and the city I call home does not report one rape case everyday.
I am a woman, I am proud of being one and I believe in the power of my femininity to feel liberated and not susceptible. My clothes do not decide whether I am a virtuous girl or a slut, nor does the fact that I am young and free make me vulnerable. I however am not ashamed to admit that Delhi does make me question my courage and strength. The city does not make me feel safe and the newspaper reports add more salt to my wounds. I do not fancy walking down the road, clutching my bag as tightly as possible only in order to avoid getting pushed or elbowed by the several men walking past me, I do not like talking over the phone while walking back from college only to feel secure, I do not enjoy being restricted from exploring the city the way I want to only because a GB road will devour me the way a carnivore feasts on its prey, I do not like to depend on a reliable male to escort me to my residence only because the time is not appropraite for me to travel alone, I do not like my independence being put to question, I do not like being a female in the city.
(You can think that I am affected by paranoia, but NO, none of this makes me a man-hater)
If this is what is needed to ensure my security, then dear Delhi, I pray to thee:
Please keep me safe Delhi, could you?
I don’t want to be somebody’s meal,
I shall not venture out after 8 I promise
I shall wear ‘decent’ clothes I swear
All I need is some peace, please give me some. Please do.
The writer is a student of Journalism and also the editor of The Saltlist.