All you need is a personal experience to realise why people say ‘Delhi is unsafe for women’.
It was just my second time in the Delhi metro (I’ve travelled alone – in buses, trains, Mumbai locals, taxis, autos, and then Delhi metro happened).
Chandni Chowk was two stations away, and while we laughed and made jokes on how there is no place to stand, we also shared an uneasiness of being the only girls in that compartment. My guy friend tried to make sure that no one touched us, but we still felt some movement of hands here and there. But given the rush and the benefit of doubt we let it go. As my station was about to come, I moved towards the exit door.
Sandwiched between men (and I’m short in height) waiting for the doors to open, for a few seconds I felt two hands on either side of my hip, running up and down. I wasn’t sure of what just happened and showing my unease I tried to move these hands away. I tried my best to protect myself from being touched in a train where there was no place for me to even move my hands, or breathe, for that matter. There was a man behind me, breathing heavily, then there were his hands which, I was hoping deep down inside me, had touched me by accident. How I wish now that I had yelled at him right there.The station came, and because of the rush. you don’t have to move to go out, there’s just a wave of people. All you have to do is keep standing and you’ll be thrown out of the metro anyway. So while I was being pushed outside the metro, suddenly a hand that came from behind and grabbed my right breast. In that rush of trying to get out, my breast was held by some man. I was being felt.
I immediately yelled, cursed, and slapped the man who was behind me. I slapped him thrice, I felt violated, molested, and I can’t explain this feeling of helplessness that ran through me. “How the fuck can you grab me like that?!” I was screaming and beating that man, and the rest of the men just looked and stared at us, and the man himself looked at me with such innocence and asked, “Maine kya kiya? (What did I do?)”. Looking at his expression, momentarily, I doubted myself on whether I was even hitting the right man.
Someone from behind just grabbed my breast in a metro full of people – I can still feel that hand come from behind and haunt me a little. I feel shaken, I feel sick.
I’ve been looked at many times from what seem like ‘eyes of a rapist’s intention’ when I walk on the street, been touched here and there by men who can’t behave themselves. These are “common experiences” for a girl. But this…for a girl staying in a city like Delhi, is it common? How can it be common? How shameful it is that a word like “common” gets associated with an experience like this.
I asked the people around me to hit him; I was standing there and asking people to help me, and all they did was nothing. Just stood there and stared. Why did I think that they will help me? That someone will come to me and ask me what happened? No, I did not want sympathy, I just wanted that man to be taught a lesson never to do that to anyone ever again, and not to let him get away with that. I went for him again, held him by the ear and slapped him once more.
I had never seen this side of myself, didn’t know it existed. At that time I didn’t think of the repercussions, I was alone, my friends were still inside. I didn’t think about what would happen if he stalked me after this, what if this turned into a rape later. I simply retaliated and I’m glad I didn’t let fear stop me from doing what I did.
That man still kept asking, “Kya kiya maine? (What did I do?)”. And I felt short of words. I couldn’t say it. There was a lump in my throat. An old man came by his side and looked at me as if I’m mistaken and his son is too innocent to even look at me, let alone grope me.
My friends from inside saw something happened and rushed out before the gates could close. They quickly took me to a side and asked me what happened. I hugged them and cried, I closed my eyes. I wanted to take him to the police station. But he must have gone by now.
I didn’t want to open my eyes.
After this, I had to be accompanied by my friends outside the station where I had to meet my parents. Suddenly, nothing was safe. I wanted to beat the hell out of every man who’d even dare to look at me. The city was not safe anymore. All my life, I’ve travelled alone with such confidence, I still will. But something had changed.
All I can say is, welcome to the Capital of India – rape, molestation, groping are common here, don’t mind! Swallow it down as easily you’d swallow a pani puri.