While I constantly hear of rapes all around the country, two recent cases shook me to the core. One was the Delhi rape incident, for the honest reason that I have traversed that route a number of times and done similar late night movie adventures. Second was the recent case of a photojournalist in Mumbai, because I belong to the same profession.
I am not being selfish, only candid. My heart goes out to all the women who have had to deal with a brutality as this, but when misfortune falls on my ilk, I shudder all the more.
My mind wandered to the past, recalling several situations I found myself in during college and job that could well force on me the same fate. But thank God!
Here is one.
I had joined Delhi University’s Miranda House College after school. To ease commuting from my home in Ghaziabad to the college, my father had fixed a car pool arrangement. It was safe, economical and time-saving.
One day, however, the taxi did not come and I had to depend on public transport to reach college and back. I had Physics practical classes that day, which meant I would be in college until 6 pm.
I had tied up with a fellow commuter so we could return home together. She ditched me at the last minute, shamelessly telling me how she was staying over in Delhi with a friend. I did not know the road map to Ghaziabad, but knew that I was supposed to catch a particular bus from a nearby stand that would drop me to the Ghaziabad-Delhi border, also called Seemapuri border, from where I could take a shared auto till home.
The bus arrived not before 7 pm. I was already nervous, as I had not stayed so late in Delhi before. An infamous blue line bus, it was loaded with passengers. Trying to ignore and fight off the lewd glances that men threw, I finally got a seat at Kashmiri Gate stand. Slowly, I observed that more people were leaving the bus than stepping in. I had told the conductor to drop me at the border, but I hardly knew all the landmarks that led to the destination. I blamed myself for not being too attentive in the last few weeks since I had joined college.
By Seelampur, the bus was almost empty, sans the driver and conductor and it was close to 8 pm. I wondered if I should leave the bus too. But auto seemed more dangerous an option and it was beginning to get dark. I did not ask the driver how far is the border, fearing it would give him ideas. But I casually said that the bus has taken more time than usual. “We are almost there. Be patient,” the conductor replied, fixing his gaze at me and checking me out from head to toe.
To my horror, the conductor suddenly stopped talking to the driver and came and seated beside me.
I was trapped. I was numb. My heart was beating so loud I knew the conductor could hear it. I gathered courage and asked him to sit somewhere else. He did.
I got up and went near the door and ordered the driver to stop. He didn’t. “I can’t on the middle of the road. Be patient. We’ll be there in a minute,” he barked. Suddenly, going off the busy road, he took a sharp left turn and into an isolated lane. I must have turned white. I came down to the lowest step, and screamed a faint scream “Bus roko, bus roko…”. He did.
I jumped out, sprained my ankle but ran towards the main road. Thankfully, it was not far but I was very exhausted and panting heavily.
Straight, I went to a petrol pump I saw and asked for directions. I was convinced I was quite far from the border. “Madam, you are standing right there. Cross the road and you can see the many autos lined up towards Ghaziabad.”
I know my poor attention to roads and directions were to blame. But, a small-towner, I had the first taste of the dirty Dilli on that day.