The little red netbook that I use to type this post has a non-functioning key. It's the '...'. (Here, I was trying to type out the key that doesn't get typed out. And this preamble must point to the event that I have come to this blog despite not having anything to post about.)
I did have a subject in mind. One that makes me just.so.angry. Now, I hope I'm reading too much into this. But this rise in crime against women in Bombay has resulted in something that I find very...how shall I put it...uncouth. It has resulted in people in certain other parts of the country deliciously lapping up the city's deterioration and preening about how they are better off. And of course, since my links with all things Delhi go deep and far back, my bones of contention lie there. A couple of conversations and a few things that I read in some magazines somehow disturb me. It's like some woman being murdered in her home or someone else being raped in a gully is now the true Bombay. And the earlier days of Bombay being a safe place is nothing but a farce. These women come tumbling out with stories of their own harassment in the city and then of course sign off with how they are better off in Delhi. (There may be other cities where people feel the same way. But I don’t really care about them.)
Well, I am sorry to hear about their unfortunate experiences in the city. But if you are such a person who does think that the safe Bombay was a farce, well, you are wrong. It is pathetic that these observations come with a kind of relish. A very sickening, cloying relish.
I grew up in Bombay and went about my life in a normal fashion. With other girls my age who were also going about their lives in a normal fashion. Forget the extensive late nights and all (there were plenty of those spent on the roads, and not night clubs, of Juhu beach or Versova or Colaba.) Forget that. We spent a normal amount of time taking buses or hailing rickshaws at wee hours of the morning or night, not to make a point, but to simply live out the time the way we wanted to. We didn’t rush to become some man’s vestigial organ so that we could have someone to drive us to a discotheque or a play. For us, guys were guys. They weren’t a license to a better, more glittering life. We were perfectly capable of ricking it to Razzberry Rhinoceros ourselves or landing up at Prithvi after changing two buses. In the evenings. Without chaperones.
When I studied in St. Xavier’s, I’d take trains – crowded with sweaty, tired people- back home at one at night. As recently as a year ago, a colleague (a foreigner) fainted at a tattoo shop in the city. She was brought home safe and sound by strangers with her wallet and modesty intact. (Sorry if that bursts your bubble about the big, bad city. Such things don’t make it to the papers but they do happen.)
My mother, my aunt, most of my neighbours, maids, friends, friends’ mothers – basically women – have lived free and fearlessly. A neighbour used to be routinely summoned to the neighboring police station past midnight. She’d go and return home by herself. (Her husband would be asleep at home. He wasn’t unsympathetic or anything. He just didn’t see the need to proffer protection when none was required.)
I don’t understand this thing about women from Delhi now suddenly getting all shrill about the safe Bombay facade. Especially after they spend that token one year in Bombay, maybe Bandra or Andheri or wherever it is the done thing to stay at that time. So that basically gives them the license to be authorities on both cities where they go forth and stridently say stuff like ‘the lives you led? That was false’. It reeks of a petty sort of jealousy.
But I suppose if all your life, you’ve had to live some sort of a circumscribed life, I can understand where the animosity would come from.
You know, I’m glad if Delhi is getting safer. I’m glad if women feel free and enjoy leisurely strolls in that goddamn Lodhi Road again. Safety, hopefully like danger, will spread through osmosis.
But I will say this much. As a woman in Bombay, I have tasted freedom the kind it wasn’t even possible for MEN in other cities to think of. And I realize that times in the city are harsh. Harsher perhaps than any other time in the city’s history.
Women like me, though, who’ve spent their childhood by the sea know this much...that just because the tide is low doesn’t mean that the sea has dried up.