With Independence Day celebrations going on all over the country, we are reading a lot of positive reports published by the government and the media. India has indeed come a long way since 1947. From science to technology and literacy to employability – all aspects have undergone substantial progress. However, there is one segment of the society, which is still a slave – women. Yes, we are all slaves to our own existence because we are not safe. And before you assume that this is just another ‘rant’ from a ‘feminazi’ on the basis of some statistics and data (which, by the way, are crucial) – let me tell you that this is coming from a personal experience.
On August 11 2017, at 7:15 pm, I experienced the threat of being a woman first hand, for the first time in my life. I was scared, I was shaking but thankfully, my brain remained functional and here I am documenting the mishap.
I am a 27-year-old working woman who lives in the Nangloi area of New Delhi. My office is located near Bhikaji Cama Place. I am a daily (two times a day) Ola rider. Usually, on weekends, I either visit my Bhaiya and Bhabhi (brother and sister-in-law) who live in Noida or go to my sister’s place in Dwarka. This Saturday, I had plans to see my cousin sister. After finishing office at 6 pm, I started for my cousin’s place. I travelled with a friend till Agai Marg (near Hotel Taj) and booked an Ola from there.
Being a regular Ola rider, thoughts of not being safe were nowhere in my head. I had had a terrible day in office (the usual politics blah blah!) and just wanted to be with family as soon as possible. I booked an Ola mini and details of the white Wagon R car along with the driver’s info flashed on my screen. I spoke to the driver who very courteously agreed to come and pick me up from the said location.
He came after a few minutes. I bid goodbye to my colleague and sat in the car. I shared the OTP and the ride started. As usual, I started watching random videos on YouTube on my phone while paying required attention to the route. The driver was professional enough and remained quiet as he drove me through the flyovers and underpasses of Delhi. After almost half an hour, I realized that I was already in Dwarka, so I put my phone aside and started paying full attention to the route. In some time, I arrived at the Chowk from where my cousin’s place was hardly a stone’s throw away.
The driver had to take a right and I would reach my destination. I asked him to take a right. He said nothing. He waited. I asked him to take a right again. He turned left. I got confused but not scared at this point. I thought he got mistaken. I repeated that I had to go right and that he had taken the wrong turn. He did not say anything. I got desperate and my volume increased involuntarily. Agitated, I yelled, “Arrey Bhaiya! Right jana tha! Kahan le jaa rahe ho? (We had to take a right! Where are you taking me?).”
He smiled and glanced back at me. He said, “Chilla mat mujhpar, main tera personal driver nahi hun. (Don’t shout at me, I am not your personal driver).” I said, “But you are taking me in the wrong direction!”
We had come almost a kilometre ahead in this gali (narrow lane) like area.
I shouted, “Take a U Turn right now! I had to go right. You took a left!” His reply sent chills down my spine. He said, “Tujhe right aur left ka maza batata hun. Chal abhi maza chakhata hun. (I’ll teach you all about right and left. Come, let’s have fun).”
This was more than enough for me. I don’t remember the exact flow of events after that. I remember putting both the window shields down (I acted in reflex – contact from the outside world made me feel safer, I guess). I also remember struggling hard to unlock my phone (you would be amused to know that my phone unlocks when I touch the round Home button with my thumb – this detail had escaped my mind then!) I wanted to press the SOS button. Tears were rolling down my cheeks, my body was shaking out of fear and the man was saying nasty things to me as we drove further – this was the worst nightmare of my life that was coming alive in front of my eyes.
However, the moment I started yelling loud enough for the people around to understand that something wrong was happening, the driver slowed down. A PCR came into the vicinity and that was it. The driver took a U turn from the nearest cut and drove me back to the red light. I screamed and yelled, and people started looking. He dropped me at the red light and I ran with dear life (read dignity) to my sister’s house.
This event was too much for me. I felt assaulted. I felt scared. I got an idea about what it felt like to be out and alone with an unpredictable abusive man. After I was home and back to sanity, I took a screenshot of the booking details and posted it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook tagging OlaSupport and Ola Cabs on all these platforms. Ola responded within minutes. The guy was suspended and everything was taken care of. I even received a call from the Ola Support team – Mr Amit was extremely patient and supportive. They even refunded my drive fare (which was not needed but I appreciate the gesture).
I appreciate the entire Ola Support Team for their immediate action and support. I felt reassured and safer. Another thing that I realized last Saturday was that I have a few but very loyal friends. The moment I posted the incident on social media, I received so many calls from friends and relatives asking about my well being. It felt good. I hope this Independence Day, we swear to make India a better place.
Update: After my story was shared on Youth Ki Awaaz, Toak production house reached out to me to make a video which went on to receive over 120k views.