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A Woman’s Travel Blues…

June 1, 2014

It is time for me to fly to Doha.  My flight is scheduled for 4.30 am and as usual I have to take a call taxi to the airport around mid night.

This time my son is accompanying me but there are times when I travel alone including to the airport and from airport.

 

So what is it for women who travel alone/with family in India?

NIGHTMARE, don’t ask me.

 

LOCAL TRANSPORT

I will highlight a couple of cases that are my personal experiences.

I quit driving scooter and car and ever since the 3 wheel auto-rickshaw is my refuge. My hubby and son drive me around if they are free. I don’t employ a driver.

As a woman stationed in the city with son, with husband working abroad, (my MIL shares her days with all her sons’ families on rotation) and as someone who divides her time equally between 2 countries, I have to double up as both the man and the wife of the family at the same time.  Whether it is going to ATM or attending my husband’s best friend’s father’s funeral to attending weddings to housewarmings, I have to do it alone.  Not that I mind.  Atleast ever since we are having internet banking, i am able to pay our taxes and bills and insurances online now in the last few years.  I am saved a lot of outside work and time that way that used to consume a lot of my energy just 6-7 years back.

Still there are commitments and commitments and work to be done.  Who else will do our work?

It means I have to depend a lot on auto-wallahs and call taxis.

My city, mercifully, is almost free of crimes against women.  Atleast violent physical crimes. Extremely rare to see brutal crimes committed against women, and if it does happen as recently it did with a girl working for an IT company in the outskirts, the criminals almost always would be North Indians.

But that hardly gives me any consolation.  As a woman who takes 3 wheel auto-rickshaw everywhere, one embarrassing thing that happens to me always is, how these male drivers adjust their rear view mirror to look at you – the woman passenger.  There have been incidents when they would switch on the raunchiest double-meaning Tamil filmy songs in their stereo.  I would then politely ask them to switch off their offending music that would leave me squirming in the back seat.  There are those times when they stop at the petrol bunks for re-fill and dare to look at you from the small window/glass at the back.  Anything to look at a woman! If this is the case of a middle-aged woman in a supposedly safe city like mine, just think of other creepy places in India where lowly illiterate men turn out to be dreaded criminals ready to pounce on unsuspecting females. Because auto-wallahs, a majority in my place, are decent and educated.  Those few baddies spoil the name for everyone.

In case of an auto, we can always jump out if the driver is lousy!!!  Call-taxis – i never trust totally.  The call-taxi crime incidents are already reported in other metros like Delhi and Mumbai (but unavoidable for drive to airport).  So for local city round-up and shopping, I still think auto rickshaw is safe plus cheap and best (especially if the driver is good).

 

HARASSMENT ALL THE WAY, FROM THE DAY YOU ARE BORN A WOMAN…

We have all had our share of being pinched, fondled in crowded buses, super markets, cinemas etc etc – i used to take bus to college and work.  Even my motherhood did not spare me in the bus from ugly male hands reaching out in the dark, so I switched over to driving a 2-wheeler to work totally disgusted, soon after my son was born.  It not only saved time but also saved me from needless harassment. Women who take crowded buses to work have a lot of things in mind: about the kid they are leaving behind, about clothes left unwashed, about the persisting doubts whether the gas stove has been turned off and the fans switched off, about whether the doors are locked proper etc etc.  After all, before taking a bus, a woman needs to complete her house chores first – from cooking to feeding the family before getting ready for the day’s work..  The last thing we want while on our way to work is a pinch in the bottom or a squeeze anywhere else.  Oh what a way to start your day! Sometimes I remember such a small dirty thing would have the effect of spoiling my entire day, putting me off thoroughly. The worst is, you do not even know the face of your offender.

 

MEN CAN’T HANDLE WOMEN IN DRIVER’S SEAT?!

Whether we consult a professional advocate or chartered accountant or architect or insurance guy or whoever, we women also draw maximum attention to ourselves. That a woman acts as a sole entity by herself without any male interaction keeps these guys guessing.  Within minutes of meeting these men, I make it known i mean all business.  Mostly there has been no trouble so far, but there is always this curiosity factor about them wanting to know where my husband is and why a wife gets to plan and execute so many important matters!!!

My legal counsel presented me with a sleazy hardcover (a best seller) signed personally – a perfectly happy married man.  I was shocked to learn that he actually drove through my street on some pretext ‘to see how and where I lived.’  He is still a friend – we have to stay that way for life, no option.  I figured out he was testing ‘my boldness’ and ‘openness.’ These are the things you can never confide in anyone.  A woman’s heart – it is stashed with secrets, just ask me!

 

MENTAL HARASSMENT AT WORK PLACE

Thank god, the office phase is over for me now.  I was working in a bank HQ and in my department of 32 members I was the only girl – a girl of hardly 23 years when I joined.  We had manual typewriters too at that time that were gradually being phased out (electronic typewriters were making their way and the computers department was just being set up).  There was still some manual typing work to be done.  I needed the Erasex – the erasing fluid from my co-worker in the first week of joining.  All new staff are usually loaded first with typing work before being entrusted with any other clerical work.  I did not know the name of the stationary as i was new to work and in any case the men referred to it as ‘white fluid.’  I remember the first time I asked a young guy sitting opposite me the white fluid and the whole floor burst out laughing.  All 30 plus men including the manager.  Naive me, i did not even realize what the joke was about. Tears stung my eyes as I got this inner feeling that a very cruel joke had just been cracked on me.

From reading in front of me the magazine ‘Debonair’ with its middle page spread open, my young bachelor officer a couple of years older than me, did everything in his capacity to embarrass me in those days.  He was the one I was sadly reporting to.  He made sure I saw all the crap he was reading in office hours.  I wonder what he is doing now – he who did this to me for a continuous 2 years.

I was the youngest staff and single female in the whole floor so I  became the object of everyone’s attention.  Never been so conscious of my clothes until then.

I believe the ‘white fluid’ joke was a big hit in the men’s lunch room and in our Union room.  For months i was feeling low. Other department men would walk into ours and ask innocently for white fluid from their friends and the next moment, the entire floor would erupt in a big laughter.

This was the office working condition in my place until atleast I left working.

I have to also admit that the same men – all 31 of them (of all cadres from managers to officers to clerks) attended my wedding reception and some even came to my Muhurat.  After I took to driving my scooter, in the evenings, some of them would make it a point to start it for me and wouldn’t let me kick-start. (Auto-starts were new then).   Some offered to take it out during lunch to load petrol and do the air-check.  I guess my marital status and motherhood somehow changed their behaviour with me.  I stubbornly resisted talking to them and never made a single male friend in the department still.  I think that had an effect finally on the men – my non-reaction and cold company.

Years or perhaps decade later I met my ex-bank colleagues in 2 friends’ family occasions.  The men have changed drastically, seem to have more respect for women now than they did in early 1990s.  India has changed a l…o…t in these twenty years and women are everywhere.  Back in my bank days also women’s strength was good but it was my badluck that i got posted in an all-male department.

In my recent 2 meetings with my ex-colleagues in informal conditions, I found that they respected me a lot more now – may be given our aging in these years?  The 6 bachelors and now married – back when I was working i steadfastly refused to look them in their eyes or talk to them.  Now atlast we are easy and free with each other.  I never took a ride from the men in their scooters/bikes or cars in my working days – and once when there was a sudden bus strike, I refused their offer of lift and walked 6 km to my house (before I got married).  The last thing I wanted was to be linked with any of them in office gossips  – and workplace is the worst place to have an affair I knew.

So that raises one more important point:

What is the problem with Indian men accepting or respecting single women/spinsters/divorcees/widows?  Why is respect always tied to a woman’s marital status?

After the refusal of lift on the strike day, the men did stop for a couple of days their jokes and endless meaningless banter.  One of them – a bachelor guy – came to me and apologized that if I was put to unease by their behaviour, he was sorry on behalf of the department.

Even when I was working, there existed this legal provision that came to the aid of women who were mentally harassed.  But the problem is most of us women would rather grin and bear it than make it a big issue.  In my case , my husband never accepted that I was harassed in the first place.  He would argue, me being the only female in the department, I had inadvertently spoilt the fun of an all -male department… so after a point the guys grew daring, started ignoring me and carried on with their usual, normal manner as if I did not exist.  The point was not to insult  me, I was told,  ‘boys will be boys”  I can’t understand male psychology sorry.

“Have you done that to a lone female?’ I used to counter back and he would agree he never did it to anyone and never would do so in future.  I know. Still it would irritate me that the man in my very own home refused to believe it was sheer harassment I was going through.  It was nothing but fun for him.  The point is, when something makes you squirm in your seat with unease, is it not harassment enough.

Women today are at par with men in India in every sphere and the cruel double-meaning  jokes no more make the rounds I am told in the present generation office set-up.  My own ex-colleagues have reformed I understand and the banking scenario in itself has undergone a revolution.  Back in those days, the ATMs were making a beginning in India, one by one the banks were starting to get computerized, there were Union-Management scuffles and regular fights in board rooms resisting mechanization – but the unions eventually fell in step with sweeping banking reforms by 1996.  I was about to quit work – by this time I was a staunch unionist to the surprise of my male colleagues.  They never expected to see this rebellious streak in a quiet me.

Until this day I am a unionist even though I quit working long back.  My union guys added me to this secret Facebook group (where they are still cracking adult jokes online but atleast here i have more female company).  It is impressive, they still think of me as one among them, ‘the baby of the department’ (my name in those days) (when they never did the time I was actually with them). (The unions today exist ‘naam ke vaaste’ only.  Ours was a wing of the powerful NCBE).

1990s were a whirlwind period in Indian  industry – with the Desi software guys starting to make a mark both in the Silicon Valley and in Indian domestic scene.  Bank mergers and take-overs were order of the day.  My bank was in itself swallowed by a giant nationalized bank, with the union screams muffled in the background.  Thank god, i left before the dawn of the heart breaking day of vacating our offices to take duty in a nearby nameless characterless branch of a strange bank calling itself our parent institution.

My colleagues suffered in the process.  I believe the men in my department were most affected.

I understand after I left service, many men were transferred to remote branches in northern India  – those of whom who did not want to adapt themselves to changing conditions resigned.

Indian men were thus tamed somewhat in 1990s I guess.  My office guys were atleast.  Now the tables are turned on our men with women surpassing them in every field.  Men are reporting to women wherever, whatever.  Women are a dominant force in India today, despite the unabated rise in crimes like rape. Antagonize a woman at work – you are finished.  Law heavily favours women in India and the onus of proving innocence always lies with the man.

My banking days also saw for the first time Paternity leave sanction of 2 weeks offered to men to take care of their newborn and 3 days’ leave plus financial incentive for men opting for family planning.  Happened after my delivery but many families stand to benefit a lot by this move even today.

Another major milestone in 1990s:  Pension in banking sector was outright abolished and replaced with only PF on retirement.  My batch would be the last to avail bank pension.

Large-scale mechanization had began:  ‘perform or perish’ became the mantra. Although I did not realize it then, we were witnessing a revolution in making in Banking and IT sectors in this period at both national and international level.  The number of times we went on 2 day bank strike against management/govt orders/decisions is limitless.  India changed for ever.  1990s are very crucial years of development in our economic history – like a turning point.  I am glad I was a part of it all then.  Yes, feel a twinge of nostalgia even today when I cross my bank branch that now bears an alien name.  I would have completed over 20 years service by now, eligible for voluntary retirement and part pension, hmmm!

What I went through at work, I am sure not many women face in my city anymore in current times.  (HQs are still the same, says a friend.  Branches are different though where none has time for anything other than work).

NOW A WOMAN MS. CHANDA KOCHAR HEADS THE ICICI GROUP, THE LARGEST PRIVATE SECTOR BANKING INSTITUTION IN INDIA !  (they are into everything: capital markets, insurance, banking, what not!)  That is it, the bold, independent, strong Indian woman has arrived.

 

HEALTH AND WORKING WOMEN:

How easy to tease us, harass us?  When I was carrying my son, the most embarrassing thing for me was to walk across the hall to the restroom every  10 minutes especially in the last 2 months.  Atlast atlast, I saw sympathy in the men’s eyes then.  Men for once held open the elevator doors for me.

I have a friend working for a foreign bank here now in Chennai.  In mid 40’s she is suffering from onset of menopause. She is in cash – and what she is going through, only we women can understand.  She is dreading the day she is going to spill everything in the floor of her branch in front of staff and customers.

One more friend who works as teacher is bleeding all 30 days of a month.  She underwent DNC yet she is in the same grave condition.  She is presently awaiting biopsy results on her uterus.  Yes, suspected cancer in the uterus.

Many of us women in our 40s now ail from everything: diabetes, hypertension, severe back ache, onset of menopause, cholesterol, mood swings because of hormone imbalance, weight gain, etc etc.

A friend says her boss who is 50+ offers to drop her home or take her out in evenings because she is a divorcee.  Even though the man has a family. Thwarting his advances is her biggest headache.  What an unwanted menace!  Compounding to existing problems.

Well, I almost forgot to add:  already lost a friend to breast cancer 3 years back – my son’s schoolmate’s mom.  She sat side by side with me with enormous pain, filling up college application forms in Feb 2011, and on Mar 6 on the day of Chemistry exam for class 12, she was no more.  Latha Raghunathan – I never name my friends in my blogs but I owe her one.  She is the reason my son attends this college in the first place.  She convinced me to try for admission when I was not so sure.  A dying mother who was full of dreams for her son, who was heartbroken she was leaving her husband…  Latha, you will always be there in my memories…

 

WHAT IS WITH WOMEN DRIVING CARS/SCOOTERS IN INDIA:  Mostly women who drive cars are safe.  In my personal experience, I have had my dupatta pulled when I used to drive my 2-wheeler to work.  Women have died in my city thanks to this worst eave-teasing practice, strangulated instantly to death. A working friend once got her kameez torn with her dupatta on her way back from work on a scooter.  Momentarily she lost control and fell headlong in the flyover, but escaped from being run-over by automobiles.

 

TRAIN JOURNEYS:

Never had to take the suburban trains or the MRTS to work or anywhere.  Funny, I am born and bred in this city but I have never taken a ride in overhead MRTS in all these years!  Once or twice been in the suburban in college days.  I hope to catch a ride atleast in Chennai Metro Rail that has a stop close to my place when it is inaugurated.

Mostly for short trips within the state, we book overnight trains and travel by 2 tier air-conditioned coaches that have only 2 berths on each side.  This fits our budget and also the restroom facility is good.  For women like me, this is very important.

I always book online in advance for a lower berth for night sleep in trains.  I take care to cover myself with the supplied linen head to foot, leaving only my face revealed.

Mostly I travel with my husband and son in trains – never have travelled alone.

A woman’s subconsciousness never goes to sleep, believe me.  During one such night travel sleeping lower berth I had this weird feeling I was being watched over. In the faint light when I opened my eyes, I saw the middle-aged man in the upper berth looking down right at me.  Even in the darkness our eyes met.  Right across my berth, my hubby was sleeping and on the opposite upper berth was my son.

After I caught him red-handed, the man on the upper berth turned over.  I never told my family about the man.  How many incidents can you keep telling them?

By and large the co-passengers are okay in air-conditioned coaches.   Still I have a niece who night-travels regularly in trains and she says she shares such experiences.  Despite all, I would rate train travel ‘safe’ in India except for the air-conditioned first class coaches with lockable coupes.  No comments on non-airconditioned coaches or general unreserved compartments.  I recommend airconditioned 2 tier or 3 tier coaches for safe rides for our women.

 

A woman’s instincts are her best natural defence in my opinion.  Staying alert always helps.  Never ignore your inner intuition, never lower your guard.  In over 99% cases you may be correct.

 

AIR TRAVEL:

I travel alone at times, sometimes with my son, sometimes with both my husband and son.

But i must say, the experience is the same in all the 3 cases.

During air travel or wait in airports, we Indian women are subject sometimes to international harassment if I can say that!

There was this incident when a Sri Lankan tamil man was openly whispering (singing) a double-meaning Tamil song direct to my ears.  It did not matter that my son was sitting next to me.  He stretched his neck to by-pass my son, continued with his sadistic song.  I had to restrain my son from getting rough with the man.

If I travel with my hubby, he usually orders Red wine for me in flight!  Me only a social drinker 🙂   (We do in parties hosted by friends – all my lady friends taste wine in social occasions).   Once when he did just that and went to sleep next to me, fellow Madarasi men sitting across the aisle wondered aloud (for the benefit of my ears) whether any husband willing to pour a glass of wine for his wife would be willing to lease his wife to any man any day.

I kept the comment to myself.  Up until the immigration at my local airport, the men were sneering and leering at me – only because they saw me sipping a glass of red wine.  The fact that my husband and son were accompanying me hardly mattered. ‘Chennai women are whores’ breathed the man right into my neck.  ‘What can you expect in a state ruled by a woman for CM and when a woman calls the shots in Delhi ?’ said his friend, ‘this country at this rate is going to dogs! these women are shameless!’

Mostly air passengers are decent, extremely rare to come across such rude or crass co-passengers.  Must be psychos.

But it is hardly strange to see Indian women drinking wine in flights.  I do it only when travelling with my husband and never when I travel alone or travel with my son.  Over 50% of Indian ladies take wine during flights – especially those who travel to US or Europe.  I was by no means alone on that day – quiet a few of my female compatriots shared a bottle across the aisle even in that particular flight.  And our husbands were only too delighted to top up our glasses for us.

Last time I traveled to Doha, I traveled alone and switched flights in Sharjah.

There was this 3 hour waiting time for my flight to Chennai on my return trip.  I was window-shopping at the airport duty free jewelry shops.  ‘Desi maal’ came a comment and i turned to see 3 pakistani labourers leering at me.  ‘Kaisi hai?” asked one and another replied ‘bahut achi!”  And all the 3 laughed aloud together at their own ‘intelligent’ joke.

I realized I was one of the few females out there from the sub-continent dressed in a legging and a short kurthi that came upto my thigh.  The neck was a low ‘V.’  The labourers were obviously waiting for a connecting flight to their own home country and had been without female company for months or perhaps years.

I looked around and saw that besides me, the entire female population in the airport was either in black burqa or salwar-kameez-dupatta.  The men never bothered the  european or american ladies in shorts or skirts or the african women.  The Srilankan ladies were also spared. But it had to be the poor thin tired Indian women for them and none other… reason Bollywood?

From Bangladeshi to Nepali to Pakistani to Indian labourers, we get stock-taking done by every pair of male species’ eyes in the sub-continent.  My anger grew and I wondered whether the 3 pakistani labourers would dare to pass such a comment on any pakistani woman.  Because we Indian women dress breezily does that mean we are open for everything?

Not the first time, has happened to me many times.  My friends in middle-east tell me these labourers never disturb pakistani women but cannot resist passing lewd comments on Indian ladies.  Indian women come in all colours, shapes and sizes and are not severe about their dress codes.  Our necklines are open and deep – and our clothes are tighter, sometimes transparent.  Until middle-east happened, I never concerned myself with these trivial matters with our style of dressing.  In a female-starved desert country,  may be that is the reason we invite so many glances, so many comments over other women.   Our dress code seems to give everyone a wrong idea about us.

Once I caught an Arab looking sharply at me when I raised my hand to reach for something in the top row in a mall – I was wearing a sleeveless dress.  Now I am being extra-careful.  While in India, we ladies never would bother to add up an extra slip beneath our dresses, I do it meticulously in the gulf to avert unwanted glances.  Most of our clothes are transparent.  In the mall I saw the arab following us with his eyes everywhere.  You just do not know what is haraam and what is not here! Never had I been more scared in my life – not because of the man but because I was left confused and perplexed by the constant stare of a native arab.  Back home I took out my clothes and examined them in day light the next day – there it was, slightly transparent.  That happened over 7 years back.

Gulf countries are unpredictable. You cannot report any incident – they will turn the cases against the very females who dare to report men – especially muslim men.  We ladies do not want problem in the first place.  We digest everything and move on, that is it.  But it does make you angry – believe me.  I am usually mentally prepared to take lightly or brush off such unasked for attention, but to my surprise lose my cool very fast.  With a lot of self-control, I manage to keep quiet.

Why should I talk about other country men when my own country men are lecherous?  In our Malaysian days, the men who passed lewd comments on us Indian women or harassed us were Malaysian Indian men always.  I would rather trust the Malays and the Chinese over the Malaysian Indians any day.

 

HOW OLD SHOULD WE WOMEN GET WHEN MEN WILL LEAVE US FREE. SAD TRUTH IS THAT, WE WOMEN ARE VULNERABLE AT ANY AGE, ANY PLACE.  Be it in our home turf or in the road, danger lurks around every corner.

I am not sure anymore, I used to think I would feel safe when I crossed 40 but I don’t still. May be after I cross 50?  This is the question we women ask ourselves these days.

I do light walking in the terrace in my top floor in the evenings.  Across the street is a temple-friend’s house.  She is almost 60 and has grand children.  I was looking out at their house (not in particular) when I saw the friend’s husband come out on the porch. Must be 63-65. Even when I was looking at him, I saw him drop his trousers looking up straight at me.  I came down rushing, sweating all the way to my door.  We are not close friends or anything – meet only in the temple.  But i felt an enormous pity for the older woman that day. Thank god, the street was deserted.

I told my MIL recently about this man and she is furious.  But at the same time she also told me,  ‘even to the terrace don’t go in housecoats, wear a dupatta!  that christian in the upper floor flat looks like a scoundrel – don’t talk to him in the corridors!!!’  My christian neighbour always chats with me in stairs, terraces etc.  He is therefore hated fiercest by my MIL who she adroitly refuses to mention by name. ‘What kind of man will latch on to a woman to talk incessantly the moment she steps out?!’ she asks!

SO WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THESE LECHEROUS MEN TO GO ON?  IS IT NOT OUR SILENCE AND LACK OF COURAGE.  THEY KNOW WE WILL NOT SINGLE THEM OUT & SHAME THEM IN PUBLIC, FOR FEAR OF ENDANGERING OUR OWN HONOUR iN THE PROCESS.  THAT MAKES THEM BOLDER BY THE DAY.  ‘CHARACTER ASSASSINATION’ IS THE BEST WEAPON INDIAN MEN HOLD AGAINST WOMEN.

That is why at times, it feels good to have someone like my MIL at home.  If not for her, my christian neighbour could even knock and come in.  He is harmless and friendly, but I want nothing more than a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ with him.   My MIL scares away any of my male visitors in under 5  minutes hahaha! The flashing incident quietened me like anything for over a week even though I am in my 40s now.  (May be because I knew the offender this time and also his family, otherwise i would brush it off as another pest).  Did not tell my husband but felt a wave of relief after confiding in my MIL.  For her turn she told me how she was harassed just the same way even though she was a mother of 5 kids, in her younger years in the 1960s I mean!!! Assures me she’s seen her share of perverts.  “This is not new, happens all the time. But you women have to take more precautions’ says she.

Now I dread facing the flasher’s wife again in the temple.  I dread going to that particular side of my terrace for walking.  I go to all other sides, walk through other parts but leave out this part.

A friend shares books with her well known neighbour thanks to her interest in reading. One day she said, her middle-aged neighbour had scribbled her name in the entire first page of the book he lent her.  She says she nearly had a heart attack.  “Middle-age crisis, don’t worry.  Ignore and move on!’ I consoled her..  She said ‘goodbye’ to the friendship then and there.  The missus happens to be my friend’s friend.

I want to close this post with this note:

WE WOMEN RESERVE OUR RIGHT TO DRESS THE WAY WE PLEASE. We shall drape ourselves head to foot in burqa the day our men get equally ready to switch over to plain old dhotis all 24 hours a day. Dare us.

As for women, pepper-spray is cheap and easy and best security exercise, a pity i cannot carry it to airport.  For any other form of travel alone within India, i seriously recommend pepper spray in your handbag.

 

URBAN EDUCATED MIDDLE-CLASS INDIA FOR YOU.  JUST IMAGINE THE IMPOVERISHED & ILLITERATE COUNTRYSIDE THEN.

My heart goes out to the 2 cousins aged 14-15 gang-raped and hanged to death in UP recently.  The girls – must have matured only recently.  They might never have even known what was happening to them.  What a trauma they must have gone through.  What is wrong with our men.  Give me a pair of scissors and some magic powers, I want to castrate every single offending male Indian with my own hands.

Pity the younger women – they have tales to tell no doubt.

 

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Everytime I travel to airport at midnight in a call taxi, my family gets jittery.  My son insists on accompanying me or driving me but I decline.  Because most often he would have to go to college almost 50 km away the very next morning – and catch a bus at 6.30 am.  During the taxi travel, I keep talking to my family on the mobile constantly to let the driver know someone is listening to me all the time. Moreover my city never sleeps – it is like Diwali even in the middle of the nights – as I have been seeing for quiet a few years.  The roads are well-lit and there is police patrol every 100 meters.  The IT industry girls drive scooters and cars alone at night as I have been seeing for years.  When these girls think they are safe driving by themselves in the middle of the night, why should I worry too much?

I don’t want to disturb other male relatives either for a drop at the airport.  I have learned to live life independently.  Growing up motherless equips you to handle every situation with calm and caution.

Never been scared so far, but family does even now.  ‘These bast***** do not care if you are a mother or wife or sister.  Female is female to them’ worries my MIL.  Only after I ring back from airport that i am safe and checking-in, my family goes to sleep.  I check in at 2 am always.

Same about my travel back home from airport landing at 3 am.

Everytime I travel alone, even though I am 40+ my family still is worried about my safety and security.  ‘If anyone asks you for anything don’t hesitate to give up whatever is in your purse and all your jewelry, he might spare you!’ says my MIL practically sometimes over-worried.  My MIL’s suggested last line of defence: ‘keep chanting the ‘Lalitha Sahasranamam’ during the entire drive.  ‘Kali’ will erupt in rage if anyone thinks of bothering you!!!’

As for my husband, he is daring and he will laugh at this kind of naivety.  He insists women need to be strong and independent and not scared.  ‘That kind of psychology is wrong, don’t ever show fear, you have to fight back’ says he who holds lots of respect for women, just like my son.  ‘We cannot keep women in our closet all the time and you women should not expect us men to come to your rescue always. Be prepared, anticipate the worst and take care of yourselves’ is his advice. Weak women irritate him somehow.

I have pondered about taking the pepper spray during night travel alone by myself – but it is not permissible within airport complex I guess.

Travelling alone is still a problem for us Indian women.  When free movement is not advisable within the country after the sunset for women, then how can it be said that we are liberated? 

Relieved that this time my son will be travelling with me.  In call-taxi i can breathe free after a long time really! I can attempt to drink in the night sight of my city than be sitting edgy during the short drive of 30 minutes to the airport at exact 1 am.  Finally I can relax!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From → Bharatiya Naari

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