On the same night of the dastardly gang rape, this journalist had to make her way home as has been a daily practice for nearly two decades – in a local train. It was past 10 pm, and on boarding the ladies compartment, one noticed a fair number of occupants inside, in the range of 25-30. It was a decent number, enough to make one feel ‘safe.’ Needless to say, and as spotted on countless occasions earlier, there was no policeman on duty inside the compartment.
Most of the women commuters -- a mix of working women and housewives, seemed oblivious to this, and continued chatting with their groups, ‘whats app’-ing their pals, chopping veggies, putting their kids to sleep et al.
There was an unspoken sense of confidence that pervaded -- one that this journalist has been privy to on numerous commutes -- one that relayed a cold, harsh reality that they would have to fend for themselves lest confronted by anti-social elements of any kind, at any hour. Often, we’ve heard women advise fellow commuters to move to the general compartment if they were the lone occupant to a far-off destination, or have spotted groups of women gang up against over smart vagrants and vandals by forcing them to get off from the women’s compartment. Rarely, very rarely has one spotted our ‘protectors’ take such elements to task by acting swiftly be it to nab a flasher, a wrist-slasher, or a bag-snatcher. It has, and continues to be a case where women in the city have learnt, very quickly that it is they who can and must protect each other. The railway commute is one example that reflects this security net that we believe will take us through our daily lives in this city, as women of this city.
We’ve fought too hard to make this city a safe place: a city where we can move freely in our buses and trains, our roads and spaces.
And as with the recent horror, day by day, increasing lawlessness has seen increasing attacks on women. It’s a tough reality to digest for Mumbai’s women but now is the time to remind ourselves and stoically hold on to this collective will power, mental strength and bravery so that it doesn’t get jaded and lost amid the despair. Better security and many other hollow promises coupled with the sheer apathy and lack of sensitivity by the powers can and has lead to disillusionment, already. More reason why that the need of the hour must be to re-ignite the courage and resolve to condemn such acts of cowardice and to stay strong, united and confident. We must speak up, advocate, educate, share and promote every possible avenue to help ensure that our city and all that it once stood for doesn’t slip away from our hands, for good. Allowing that to happen will mean that we’ve played into the hands of these sick cowards.
-- The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY