Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Do I love Delhi?

The events of the past few days have repeatedly made me reminisce about the times I have been out on the streets of Delhi, at not so earthly hours.

Two of my batch mates from Lady Hardinge and I decided to attend the Pulse festival at AIIMS campus probably more than 20 years ago. Since, I lived in East Kidwai Nagar, opposite AIIMS and my parents were out of town, it was easy. We used to cross the Ring Road at 1.00 AM or so after the festivities got over. I am sure all of us remember the heady feeling of youthful excitement,fun and wrongdoing which accompanies such events. The laughter, the late night chats, the music, the crowds and the dressing up.

We had made friends with guys from Grant Medical College, Mumbai who seemed very worldly wise to us, innocent Delhiites at the time, when they said- "There is no night life in Delhi, your roads are deserted by seven in the evening....what about pubs? Don't you have any?" We hadn't heard of pubs or night clubs then, even though Mumbai seemingly had many.

I came to Delhi when I was 15 after having lived in Bengal where small girls are addressed "ma" and where the worst thing which happened to me on a public bus, was a man saving a seat for me and asking me to sit beside him.

Being in a DTC bus or attending a crowded event like trade fair in Delhi is a totally different ball game, I soon discovered. But nothing serious can happen in crowded places we reassure ourselves, use our bags as a shield and develop great elbowing capacities to ward off pawing predators to hone our survival instincts and carry on.

But living on the Ring Road next to South Extension was a creepy experience. Waiting at the bus stop or walking along the road was bound to attract the wrong kind of attention with cars slowing down or stopping. This is a red light area, I was told. Then one day after the evening shift in Safdurjung Hospital, I walked home and was grabbed in the staircase leading up to my flat. All I did was throw away the bright yellow flowery hair clip which I happened to be wearing that day and after that I wasnt allowed to walk home at 8 pm. The law abiding public hasn't got many options, when it comes to eve teasing, stalking, even molestation.

Delhi registers twice the number of rapes as compared to Mumbai followed by Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and least in Chennai.

There  are many theories of why rapes happen, theories of psychopathic men who come from broken households or disturbed childhoods, or are revengeful because they are marginalised ...but honestly nothing really can be an explanation for the horror experienced by the victim.

Having manned the Gynaecology casualty in Safdarjung Hospital during the time I worked there for four and a half years, I remember the familiar MLC ( Medico legal case) book being carried by the Delhi Police constable as he/she accompanied women who were alleging rape. A lot of times it used to be that a minor girl had run away and then been found by the parents who were lodging a complaint against the boy/man. Registered rape cases are only the tip of the iceberg it is claimed.

Delhi is in one of its darkest moments today, as it struggles to fight for justice, as it collectively prays for the young victim and demands a change in laws, yes but more importantly in the mind sets of people, in the cultural ethos of the city.

When I was studying in Delhi Public School in 11th class, my friend and I were returning from the post office in an autorickshaw when due to being engrossed in folding inlands, my dupatta flew out on to the middle of the road. I got scolded by my friend while the Sardarji driver on hearing the commotion and learning about what had happened stopped the auto. We got out and watched as an approaching DTC bus threatened to go over my favourite multicoloured Bandhni dupatta.

But to our joy and surprise it managed to precariously stop in the nick of time, just before the front tyre went over my dupatta, which was then rescued by the very paternal Sardarji driver who after suitably admonishing me, asked me to get into the auto to continue our journey back to school.

May the DTC driver's and Sardarji's tribe increase.


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