As a crime reporter from Mumbai, I have reported on a number of crimes, including rape, molestation, murder and physical abuse. Over the years, beat reporting has hardened me as individual. But as more details emerge from the horrific rape in Delhi, a few kilometres from where I now live, I was stunned. I had never worried about issues like women’s safety. “I am from Mumbai and if someone tries to misbehave with me I will thrash him!” I would often tell my friends.
Just days after I relocated, Delhi has tamed me. Not as a reporter, but as a woman. On the face of it, the infrastructure has improved. Everyone goes about their business. But I ensure that the last dialled number when I am taking a cyclerickshaw back from the metro to home daily is of a family member. I prefer taking the longer and more populated routes as against isolated short-cuts. Things I never bothered about in Mumbai.
Back there, it was perfectly normal for me to leave office at 10 pm or even later. In Delhi, ‘being late’ means reaching home by 8 pm, and ‘being safe’ means to agree with whatever fare the auto driver quotes to ply me home from the metro station, never mind that he’s hiked it up because it’s 8 pm and hence “late”. All I care about now is to reach home somehow. As a woman, often on my own, I also keep a Swiss knife and a pepper spray handy. I have learnt that it’s better being safe than sorry.