I woke up this lazy morning and did the usual. Brushed my teeth, strolled around the house sipping my morning tea, making my way to papa’s study. He didn’t have to go to work today. He sat by himself on the rocking chair reading the day’s papers. He usually yells out a piece of news that he finds interesting, he feels that the whole family should know what rocks the nation’s boat. Not this time though. He sat pensive and looked terrified, while still reading on in rapt concentration. This was no bomb blast, this was no flood or epidemic, not even a political catastrophe. This was the story of a young girl of 25 who lived in Mumbai. She was killed by the watchman of her building for resisting his lusty advances. Her throat was slit and when her boyfriend came home the next morning (he was at work all night), he found her swimming in a pool of blood. They were to be married this year.
Pune has some fantastic weather and my usual morning swim was in order. So I slipped into my costume, over which I wore shorts and a green t-shirt. I was just about to leave the house when he walked up to me and asked ,Where do you think you’re going?”
I looked at him quizzically, “For a swim. Like everyday.”
“Well no, you can’t. Go in the evening when the pool is a little crowded and don’t forget to take a bath robe. A towel wouldn’t do.”
I was clearly confused. After a little argument with him, he finally came out with it.
“That girl in Mumbai? She could have been you. And one can’t leave any stone unturned as far as safety is concerned.”
A single woman in this country deserves a gallantry award. She really does. When you’re just out of home, struggling to make ends meet, running a house, tackling tempestuous bosses, unreasonable landlords, travelling back home and still managing an active social life, you’re truly nothing short of a goddess.
This one is for you, all you young single women, who struggle everyday to beat the harrowing glances and advances of perverse men, those of you who learn how to fix things around the house ,thereby negating the very need of a man, those of you who make successes out of yourselves despite not having the comforts of home and its people. You make the truest friends because you are well aware that in an alien city, your friends are always family. Having a man in your life makes little or no difference when it comes to your daily war with everything outside your front door.
I got sick of all the above so I came home, which is why I look up to each one of you even more. Because maybe I wasn’t strong enough. In Delhi, my roommate was stopped by 3 drunk men. While 2 of them held her back, the third forced her to watch him ejaculate. My roommate in Mumbai was pinned down by 8 men and brutally molested. Is this some sick way of telling us that we don’t have any business being independent and have the guts to have a career? I’ve always maintained that the Indian woman may have moved from the bedroom to the boardroom, but only on paper. We’re still a vile nation, where our men still get away with anything and we should stop denying it.
This is the first time my thoughts are flowing with no real direction. Because that is just how livid I am with this incident in Mumbai and the general state of women’s safety in this country of ours. And I don’think anyone gets it. If you live with your parents you don’t get it. If the only time you've lived away from home is to study, you don’t get it. So don’t even try.
And darling Mumbai, stop being so conceited, you’re getting as depraved and as nasty to your women as any other place. You should really stop boasting about how women can catch cabs at 3am in short skirts because you know what? This is Mumbai, not Miami.
To every single young working woman out there, you are a hero. You cry, you break down, you suffer, you may break your bones under a moving truck, but you can still manage to stand right up, dust yourself and walk on to catch a cab to work the next day. It is outstanding and you have to walk on with immense pride and dignity. Be safe, take care.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm humbled as always to have ever been a part of your community. It has given my heart and soul all the strength it carries today.