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I am a 23-year-old woman. I am independent. And I am also...scared.
Like scores of other women in Delhi, my day too starts with arguing with an autowala. Metro and buses aren’t convenient for the route I take and so I’m left with taking an auto, my default mode of transport to work. It is not that the auto drivers have a problem with the fare, in spite of being out and about on the roads, they just refuse to take you where you have to go.
One day, I had to take an auto from Hauz Khas Village to my place and like always, out of the 10 autowalas present, no one agreed to go. I was so paranoid that I asked a police officer to help me out and well, he did. He made me sit in an auto and told the driver to take me wherever I want to go. That week, EVERY day that police officer helped me get an auto but then when one day he wasn’t around, I had no clue what to do.
Now that’s when it hits you.
I stood there wondering what will I do? How will I get home? And so, I went and sat in an auto like the police officer had told me to. And NOT to my surprise, the auto driver refused to take me. Of course, I was furious and so I started questioning him and from what I could gather - he didn’t have a license, he wasn’t wearing his uniform and there was no meter installed in his auto, so he couldn’t go past the Green Park metro station which was hardly a couple of kilometres away (lest he was noticed by the cops). I decided to leave that auto and stepped into another one. This time, I knew I was not going to move until he takes me home. And after 15 minutes of if and buts, when he realized I was adamant, he agreed. And this is just one incident out of a hundred.
While I was doing all this, there was a part of me that was scared. I know I wouldn’t have done all this if it wasn’t in the daylight. I knew my safety was at risk.
Even when the police officer helped me get those autos, there was still a part of me that was scared. Because what if the auto driver agrees in front of the police officer but later, drops me mid-way. Or what if he misbehaves because I almost complained about him. What if he tries to do something that I’ll have no control over?
All THIS at the cost of my own safety.
This is the everyday life of a middle-class woman living in the National Capital of India.
Having lived in Delhi all my life, I have always loved this city. But over a period of time, I have developed this sickening feeling that makes me want to run away from this place. I know I am not safe here.
I don’t own a car and I don’t have the luxury to travel in cabs every day - hell even cabs aren’t safe. This alarming state makes me realize that being a woman in India is always rife with consequences. For now, taking an auto is my only option.
And God, I wish I didn’t have to.