Life changed irrevocably for me in 1974, the year I entered college and left the comparative safety of the schoolbus for the dubious pleasure of travelling by Delhi Transport Corporation's teevra mudrikas and U-specials. It was like a physical metaphor for Life itself, a daily test of my nerves against the collective will of the Unknown. I was in a constant state of high alert, good training not just for the years ahead, but also for the profession I chose—journalism.
An abiding memory of my college days is fighting my way into a bus, avoiding a sea of groping hands, then struggling to the front through a thicket of bodies, using an umbrella to clear a path. If I was lucky, I would find an empty seat, hoping that the male passenger sitting next to me—if it was a male—wouldn't get uh... adventurous. After college, I would brace myself afresh for the 15-minute walk from the Dhaula Kuan circle to the multi-storeyed flats on Sardar Patel Marg; on most days, I was followed, even though it would only be late afternoon. If I was absolutely alone, I would stop and confront the stalker, waving my weapon, the umbrella.