Monday, January 14, 2013

The fear that is...

It was a calm Sunday evening. I had plans for dinner with friends at 8pm. I stay at a place that is one kilometre away from the main road. The area is not connected by buses due to road that is being dug up and filled at regular intervals for the past 6 months for God knows what! That has left the residents with the option of walking to the bus stop on main road or taking an auto for extra charge. Auto guys act as if  I  dug up the road!

 I prefer walking if the weather is suitable and if I have enough time. But for the effort I have to put in to cover your nose for the first half 300-metre stretch to escape the thick dust, I enjoy walking. Since it was a pleasant evening, I decided to walk to the bus stop. I had to catch up with friends at a restaurant that was some 4km from home. I thought of taking a bus from the main road. It was around 7.15pm and i didn't feel it was too late to walk alone.

I was dressed in jeans, T-shirt and a jacket. I had covered my nose with a hanky. Right from the first few minutes, stares started following me. Men walking from my opposite direction were almost walking into me. They expect women to give them way. I noticed this experience was not only mine, but of every other woman on the road.

Motorists rule the road with no footpath, leaving hardly any space for pedestrians. Some men on two-wheelers expect you to jump in to the open drain, going by the way they ride into you! I came across a deserted stretch where the road was taking a turn. A boy on a bicycle, must be around 20 years, sped past me from the opposite direction so close to me that I was startled. On the go, he craned his neck towards my face and passed some comment. Since I didn't know the local language well, I didn't have to brood over what he said.

I continued walking. The stretch leading to the main road was poorly-lit. There were not many people on road too, hardly any women. I had already walked for almost 15 minutes and just a 5-minute stretch was left. The experience of the previous 15 minutes instilled some strange fear in me. I was scared by any shadow I could see next to mine, any footsteps behind me and any stares in my direction...

On to the main road, it worsened. There was no streetlights at all from there on to the signal near the bus stop. With huge trees on both sides and a post-office that was shut with no light on the premises made the stretch eerier. I was almost sweating even in the evening Bangalore chill. I didn't wait to reach the signal to cross the road. I ran through the middle of the traffic and managed to reach the other side where the bus stop appeared closer.

The bus stop too was deserted and dark. I was looking suspiciously at the few men who were standing there. I got into the first bus that came and joined my friends in five minutes. When I was explaining this to my male friend, he said women are all hyping it up about stares and stuff. He said any guy would steal a glance at a woman who pass by.

"Feminists are out to criminalize anything," he added.

Getting angry with a silly eve-teaser is feminism? Expressing wish to feel safe while walking on the roads is feminism? I was puzzled.

May be he is true that my worries are unnecessary. But no woman around will deny that they too get the jitters every time they are out in the dark alone. Whether it's hype or not, women are feeling more and more unsafe. Another friend of mine, who is the mother of a 4-year-old daughter, says she is worried to leave her daughter with anyone other than her husband or parents. I'm sure many mothers are feeling the same.
How much ever you try to ward it off, the fear is back to haunt you in no time...

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