The other night, hanging out a friend's house, I got up to go home and checked the time. It was 2 in the morning. Normally, this would be okay, he
lives close by and it wouldn't take me more than ten minutes to get back anyway. But I was surprised by a distinct feeling of unease. After all the hullabaloo in the papers about the molestation at Juhu beach on New
Year's Eve, there's been an aura of 'this city is not safe' hanging around my women friends and I.
Of course, we're in the 21st century. No city is ever completely safe. There will be violence and robbery and rape, no matter where you go. And because you can try--but the sad truth is--you can't change the way people think in this country, it's best to just play it safe yourself. Allow your pride to let you have a male escort home whenever you can. Carry a chunni to wrap around yourself and your party clothes when you're traveling. Don't walk the streets after midnight. Don't get drunk. Don't smoke a cigarette. Don't wear a short skirt. Don't ever, ever let your guard down.
Because why? Because we're treating the mob--the men who grabbed and tore and watched as the two women fell helplessly to the ground--as animals. No, not animals, we're treating them as people who have no control over what they can feel. Oh, so you showed a little skin? No wonder you were groped, the poor guy just couldn't help himself! "It's a small thing," say the cops. "What do you expect, they were drinking," says the Shiv Sena and while some of us are indignant, the sad truth is, most of the country concurs. I can guarantee fathers reading the papers the next day shot smug grateful looks at their own covered up daughters ('see, what happens when you let your children run loose!'), that some members of the family of the two victims were secretly jubilant ('I always said she was a fast girl!') and that mostly, the general verdict is that they had it coming, that they asked for it.
Which is why my friends and I, on a 'girl's night out', check our watches and ask each other how we're getting home. We don't do the stuff we do when we have male chaperones--it never enters our heads for instance to get a midnight snack at a roadside vendor, or go in search of more alcohol somewhere. We're tempted, sometimes, and sometimes buoyed by the liquor in our systems, we're "foolish" and then we embark on an adventure, only to tell everyone about the next day in hushed tones. How brave are we!
(An aside: Another thing that annoys me is when people say, "Oh, Bombay has become another Delhi." I am fiercely loyal to both my cities, but that statement is just ridiculous. Bombay should take responsibility for the non-safety of women in it rather than pass it off as "just another Delhi." At least Delhi acknowledges that the city isn't safe which is why women in Delhi grow up street smart and able, for the most part, to fend for themselves. I realize this is not a Bombay-Delhi argument, but still, the point had to be made. On the other hand, I must admit, there is a certain luxury in being able to think that you could take a walk at one in the morning, something that you wouldn't be able to dream of in Delhi.)
Do we really have a solution to this? Lock up our women? Cover our faces, look away, don't venture out in public by ourselves? Or, wear what you would wear anyway, walk out, look proud, raise a hue and cry when someone harasses you, but then be prepared for the flipside when it seems as though the entire country is blaming you for the harassment? I love how none of the solutions we come up with have anything to do with the men. They're just untamed beasts: Boys will be boys, ha ha ha and so on.
Fix them before you fix us.