One thing that has always bothered me is how a woman’s safety is sometimes a game of privilege. Safety, especially for a woman travelling alone late at night, comes at a steep price.
Why not take the cab? Because a lot of women have to haggle, even with their own security.
Public transport is perhaps the only way millions of women can afford to travel to their offices, and back home, every day. I had been observing many such women, and I must confess that was the only option that I had, up until a few years ago.
And so, through my Snapchat story, I wanted to document how a woman, without privilege, has to sometimes haggle with her own security, while returning home late at night.
For many of us reading this, booking an Uber/Ola electronically is the de-facto option. But bear in mind that this is not an option for a lot of women who are negotiating with their security everyday.
I won’t lie: When I was about to set out from Connaught Place, the place did seem a bit hostile, with its deserted walkways, and drugged-out inhabitants. But the metro ride in the women’s compartment was comforting, and my anxiety soon evaporated in its air-conditioned compartment.
As soon as I stepped out of it though, my anxiety creeped in again.
I was either too foolish, or too bold, to walk into a shared auto rickshaw which had five men. Now, of course, this isn’t the safest means of travelling alone, but allow me to explain.
There is a smooth transport mechanism in and around the Malviya Nagar Area in Delhi— in the form of its shared auto system. Five or six people sit in one auto, and reach a common destination, thereby pooling the cost. It benefits both: The passengers pay less, and the rickshaw drivers earn more.
I wouldn’t have done it had I not been sure of the area. I know the men around my house. Even the autowallah (in the video, you’ll see) had been completely normalised to the idea of seeing a woman travel alone late at night.
And the men, too, minded their own business. At least, most did. One man did say some filth to me, when I was walking home, but I believe that for every man who says filth, there’s another man to shut him down.
Through my story, I also wanted to contest the common narrative that every man out and about late at night is a rapist who views every woman as a potential target. Throughout my visual journey, you’ll see that there are many men who don’t threaten a woman with their presence.
Why I Did It
I did this because I wanted to show how millions of working middle class women travel alone late at night. This fear, this compromise, is made by many women, for no fault of theirs. Should women, who can’t afford to travel in cabs or cars, stop moving about as the sun sets? Why should freedom of women’s movement be the privilege of a few?
Fear is an inherent compromise that comes with being a woman. Not that we allow it to cripple ourselves, we sometimes battle it, sometimes reason with it, and sometimes simply give in to it. But I say, we must rebel against it.
You, my dear friend you — who chooses to pay Rs. 30 to travel in a bus that’s far more economical than the Rs. 300 cab that will get you home safely — I know your decision isn’t an easy one to make. You have to discount for the fear, the anxiety, the compromised security, and the barrage of questions and character insinuations that’ll follow if god forbid, something terrible happens on the way.
Maybe that’s exactly the dilemma that Nirbhaya was in, when she boarded the bus that fateful night.