Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Now here's something I've never written before.

So, here are some of the memories I have growing up in Delhi. I'm sorry, but I grew up in Delhi and nowhere else, so I can only write about what it was like here.

These memories include ( apologies, Mother  Dear, you may not know about some of these.I didn't know how to tell you.)

* Standing at the British Council Library, browsing blissfully through some books, only to have a middle-aged man repeatedly brush up against me from behind. He followed me and did it twice before I managed to lose him. Went and quietly rejoined my mother, who was browsing elsewhere, unaware of anything wrong. My cheeks were burning.

* Walking home from the bus-stop, lost in thought as usual - only to notice that a large man was following me. I walked ahead, he continued to follow me. I stopped for a bit. He stopped too. I realized there was an alley coming up which had hardly anyone else around on most days. As I reached the entrance of the alley, I turned and ran the long way around. Reached home safe. Scared stiff.

* Carrying my Solar Cooker home from the bus stop one day. A nice Solar Cooker, thermocol, covered with black and silver foil. It was a project - I was in Class 10th at the time. My hands were occupied with the Solar Cooker; a man came up and groped me from behind. I dropped the Solar Cooker and yelled at him, incoherent angry words that I don't recall, but I think included 'Bastard.' He just leered at me and walked ahead. That's all I remember being. Angry.

And so on and so forth. Big deal, right? Everyone's got the same story, and much worse, right? I'm not even going to talk about being in Delhi University - actually, I think those years were better for whatever reason for me.

So anyway, at age 20, I went to Bangalore and subsequently Bombay and frankly - didn't face such issues - also a function of being older, more protected, having less call to walk around alone in these cities - of course. Whatever it was, those years were largely trouble free, and I'm so thankful for them.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't actually like talking about these things. They're in the past. Sure, they're real - but who wants to think about the negative, right? That's why I usually stay silent on these things. They're not in line with my stated attempt of making this blog a 'serious attempt to take life less seriously.'
Well, sorry, but here it is today.

 And here I am again. Living again in the same city that I grew up. With little kids of my own, including a heartbreakingly innocent daughter.

Questioning the decision -, why am I here again?


  1. You not alone. I am not even there any more... but my family is.. and all I think is why are they all there??? what's the fault of those innocent girls to be growing in a shitty place called Delhi :(

  2. I know why you cannot write about these things. Stuff like this makes one cringe... :(

    I grew up in Mumbai and had my fare share of troubles. Have been groped in the BEST bus, train station given the crowd and so much more. This is a story of every woman, irrespective of the city.

    I hope Peanut never has any such incident ever.

  3. Yes remember my one of the friend from Tokyo, his wife used to mention that she has a daughter and she won't like to go back to Delhi. And in reality they settled in Chennai. So the fear was so much , that people do take decision of not going to Delhi.
    That is not a good perception of this city.

  4. I grew up in the North too. And it was awful. We should tell our boys to respect women. And send our girls to Karate classes. Really, we should.

  5. Y, if this helps you leave the post up -- I started writing about unpleasant things precisely because I appreciated the comfort and help I found similar writings of others. Sometimes it helped me by giving me solutions/ideas and other times it just helped to know I was not alone by a long chalk. I still get so many empathetic mails on sensitive posts that I have to believe they are necessary to write.

    Hugs for your bravery. It's not easy to write this stuff. I know this only too well, really.

  6. I ask that question to myself umpteen times a day. Yes... I too, have a daughter I am worried for.

  7. I keep telling this to my friends... if I had a daughter, I'd be paranoid living in Delhi. Maybe even India. This has nothing to do with India bashing and loving foreign shores - u know what I'm getting at.

  8. The sheer quantum of potential violence seems to have gone up, Yash. Growing up female in Delhi was no joke even when I was a teenager, which is a very long time ago, but things seem to be so much worse now. Where does one begin? I look at the lack of respect for women within many families as a prime cause, plus the extreme segregation of the sexes that is often practised in those families. The scenario is horrendous.

  9. I think not a single girl living in India has grown up without such incidents. I grew up in supposedly safe Mumbai, but have been groped SEVERAL times, often in the middle of a huge crowd.

    There was an incident where I was sitting with my very little sister on the backmost seat of a bus, and I fell asleep only to be woken up by the movement of a hand on my breast. I would have screamed, but all I wanted was my baby sister to be safe so just shrugged his hand off.

    I have faced many such incidents when I was in India, but none so far in the US even though I live in the most crowded city here. I think we need to teach our girls how to deal with such situations as the men will not change unless the law changes. That is the sad truth :(

  10. It is great that you have posted on this. This has been eating me away bringing me back all the old memories of being groped in a crowded bus or a lonely alley and this is in Hyderabad. My whole body shakes up with anger when I think about it and there are 2 things that need to happen.

    1. Law that instills fear in bad people
    2. Society - When I shouted loudly at a man who groped in a public bus, no one came and asked. No one said a single word. When I cursed loudly at the man on a street where people were washing their cars, no one came out and said a word. Why will these bastards fear? Who is questioning them?

    I live in US now and every time I contemplate moving back to India, I am literally scared for me and my daughter. Living in US with all the visa stuff is not easy, but still this is lot better than fearing for my safety every time I step out of the office.

    I for one, am thinking of finding non-profit organizations that empower women and donating money to them. A tiny step to help a under-privileged woman, but have no idea how this indifferent society will change. There is no respect and dignity for a woman in this great nation of ours.


    PS: I love your writing style and have never commented before. Its sad that my first comment is about such heart-breaking thing. But everything aside, love your sense of humor. Need to get your book somehow.

  11. I live in Chennai, and have faced similar issues too (, so am not sure you are alone.
    And I have a daughter as well that I am super-paranoid about. So, from one mother to another, hugs.

  12. It is really disheartening that all of us girls/women/ladies grow up with similar experiences.In the nights while returning from coaching classes there would be someone trying to snatch away your satchels or even your duppatta while u will hv 2 forget d experience on returning home n concentrate on ur studies instead cz u do not want 2 fail in d exams d next day even if u r reminded of d incident during d exam & so it goes on till u hv a daughter n u take an oath never 2 let dt happen 2 her only 2 ur dismay u find dt over d years like ur confidence d confidence level of dese demons has grown as well....

  13. Ma'am : Salutes for not letting such malevolent weaklings get the better of you.

    A lady friend narrated an incident from years ago when shopping in a mall in New Delhi, she noticed a male trying to misbehave on the quiet with her younger sister (then a college student). She confronted the male, caught hold of him, slapped and punched him, while screaming at him. No one else came to intervene. After a while, the male left the scene.

    There are a few lessons here:-

    1. Safety for women in public places is dependent upon how quickly and forcefully they/ their friends react to an assault. In the absence of adequate policing this seems to be the only way, unfortunately.

    2. The people around chose to be interested bystanders. (Difficult to picture public apathy like this in Kolkata, where people look for any reason to bash someone or the other up.)

    3. Perpetrators of such cowardly assaults get emboldened by getting away cheaply. This should also never be allowed to happen.

  14. The country can arrest the accused but the idea remains ingrained within the minds of the sick lot and I'm afraid there's no escape. And it's heartbreaking, day by day.
    +To Me It Matters+

  15. First time on your blog and a confession - I was looking for funny- coz for the last one week I have burned in rage - so much so that it doesn't even feel like a very merry Christmas to me- and first time in days I said to myself enough I have to think of something else but alas I am back to the gut wrenching pain of knowing that all of us are so helpless in a way - I wanted to laugh for a change and here I am literally shivering with anger..yet again.

  16. It's just not about Delhi Y, though, that's the city I feel the most unsafe in. I grew up in Chennai and during my teens, had to use the public buses a fair bit for classes, outings and otherwise. One of my most vivid and unpleasant memories is of a possibly middle-aged man in the bus brushing against me and my feeling a prickly sensation, without really understanding what was happening. Women near me saw me being harassed and made all the dirty faces. But, that was all everybody did. It was much later that I realised as to what had happened. Like you, I have never really spoken about this and shelved it to a dark recess of my mind. Perhaps, that was the wrong thing. And, I wonder as to how many schoolgirls continue to endure all this on a daily basis and stay quite about it all...Scary, it is.

  17. Now the World knows how unsafe Delhi is!
    And the shame lies in the fact that Delhi happens to be a capital.
    Is Delhi only reflection of Mother India??


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