Saturday, March 26, 2005

Delhi passes the test

Delhi's pretty much passed the test, as far I'm concerned.

When I moved here, from bombay, five months ago, I was told the most horrifying tales of abuse, eve-teasing and violence, in Delhi.

Everybody had a horror story - somebody's neighbour got mugged right in front of his house in a government colony ("Government colony, can you believe it? If govt servants are not safe... who is?"). Somebody's neighbour's mom got carried off ("A big car stopped, pulled her inside.. and whizzzzz! An aunty, can you imagine?"). Somebody else's sister got felt up in New Friends' Colony; somebody's gold chain was snatched in a bus near Janakpuri.

Delhi was painted as this woman-ravishing monster - a male city, in short. ("It's no place for a woman". "People have no respect for women in Delhi". "Women have no security; you won't survive." "Don't travel in a bus". "Don't wear a chain.")

Again and again, I was told that men in Bombay somehow value women more; that it's a cultural psyche thing; that the cultural psyche of Delhi's menfolk makes them such, that they are always on the lookout for female victims.

Coming from Bombay, I'll admit I miss certain freedoms - trains, late-night trains, women's compartments in trains... but that is more about facilities than freedom.

In five months, I've never once been felt-up. Not even in the much-maligned buses.
(The first time I was felt up, in fact, was on my first trip to Bombay; I've never forgotten, nor forgiven.)

I had to watch the way I dressed; but then, I've always had to think about how I dress, in Bombay too.
I often subjected myself to frumpy clothes, while I worked as a reporter in Mid-day, because I never knew when I'd have to visit a police station, a hospital, a slum, a crowded bazaar... besides, I travelled everywhere by local train and railways stations aren't really the right scene for halter-tops and mini-skirts.

You'll see mini-skirts and large numbers of belted pelvises in Bombay - but that will be in colleges, in discos, in happening cafes...
and guess what? I see pretty much the same in Delhi's discos and 'young' hangouts like the PVRs - the backless tops, the bare arms, the exposed navels.

In Delhi, I've had people stop and ask me if I wanted a lift. But never has anyone tried to cart me off in broad daylight.

Maybe, I've just been lucky, so far. And I won't tempt fate by saying Delhi is a great place for women to be out in.

Now that it is Holi, I've been coming to work everyday, and I have not yet (lest I speak too soon) been hit by a single water balloon!

In Bombay, I remember how awful the last two Holis were. I was hit, not just with water or balloons or colour, but also with chunks of ice! And the sharp, thin edges of ice would cut deep into my shins.

As for colour, not only would I get splattered during Holi, but also during the ten-day Ganpati festival, Navratri, and even Shiv Sena's victory processions!

Here, the cops have been patrolling the streets all day long. There have been no major reports of misbehavior either.

So, even if this city hasn't acquired a distinction yet, Delhi has scrounged up passing marks in my woman-safety test, this season. Reason enough to celebrate, eh?


Anonymous said...

But then you anyway seemed more suited to the fire brand kind of journalism that delhi seems to have more than mumbai journalists.. who are more keen on bottom lines.. and those too not just of inanimate companies..

yes i have to agree, that after seing u there, u do seem more suited for delhi. But dear, mumbai misses u terribly.

those endless coffees.. releasing pent up angst..oh annie.. may be I too will find my niche soon enough.. or just move in with you...job or no job..

jaygee said...

hey that previous comment was by me.....

livinghigh said...

i try to say tis to my gal frnds in bbay, but they won't believe it, coming from a guy! lol

Morquendi said...

When I first went to Delhi I was also told that it was a horrible place. Not because I was a girl (because I am not a girl) but because I was a foreigner and a backpacker.

But Delhi's ok.

All you gotta do is watch your back a bit and people don't mess with you. If you're careless you'll get skinned.

But the bloody vehicle owners in Delhi need to be less homicidal...

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