Column: Women of Mumbai

Replugging my column from The Goan on Saturday.

This week, yours truly was planning to dedicate a piece to anti-superstition activist Dr Narendra Dhabolkar who was recently shot dead. But just when I was about to start writing, something terrible happened in the city. Television news channels began broadcasting about a gang of men who raped a photojournalist in broad daylight in Shakti Mills, near to my workplace in Lower Parel. Soon enough, there was a Twittter roar about the incident. There were tweets that compared Mumbai to Delhi and how the nation’s capital and the country’s financial capital were not the safest places for women.

Like me, there are many women who come to Mumbai to build a career. Most of them take up bold jobs such as journalism that do not fall under the 9 to 5 work timings. My question: Are they supposed to stop following their passion with the fear of getting raped by some ridiculous men with raging libido?

After this incident, I was forced to bring to mind a lot of my wee hour traveling memories in the city during the past years. There were times when I left work at midnight, took a train (where the ladies’ compartment was guarded by a cop), took a bus (and sometimes I would be the only lady in the bus), and would reach home safe and sound. This trend followed for a couple of months and I never felt threatened. There were times when I also took an auto and reached home safely. Out of habit, I would slip into a conversation with the auto driver about his past, which part of India he hails from, why he decided to ride an auto etc.

But now, I might want to reconsider stepping out when it’s dark. And to remind all of us, this gang rape happened in broad daylight. Does that mean I’m not supposed to leave home at all?

There were times when eve teasing went overboard and my friends from college and I started the concept of ‘Adam-teasing’ to counter attack. Slowly, we saw this deteriorate. We felt safe whether alone or in a group.

According to data from the National Crime Record Bureau, sexual assault cases in Mumbai rose to 11% from 553 cases in 2011 to 614 in 2012. If I get my math right, it’s a 45% increase in sexual assaults in the city.

The only question that arises at this point is whether there is a solution. And till the top guys churn out an answer to such attacks on women, should we be staying at home? Not at all. Mumbaikars are known for their boldness, and with the same spirit, we women will step out every single day to pursue our passion with the cooperation of the city’s cops. Would we do justice to ourselves by not following what we came here for? After all, we do have a living to earn, right?

P.S. Next week, let’s bust some superstitions.

Categories: Open Letters | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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