It's winters.........the days just got shorter. Earlier I used to be comfortable walking down that road even at 7, but now even 6 seems like a big mistake......Well guess what? Today I broke the "norm" and ventured into the city all alone. Don't worry, I am back home, comfortably positioned in front of my desktop. But a few hours ago my preconcieved notions about the city had got my BP shooting up as I desperately looked for an empty auto-rickshaw while walking all alone on a completely broken and dug up pavement with not a single street light in sight.
For those of you familiar with Delhi, I'd like to explain my predicament a bit more in detail. I work in Qutub Institutional Area, in a building on the far end of the inner road. I left office today at six, as I wanted to reach the Vasant Valley School in Vasant Kunj (near Mahipalpur) before seven. So I roped in a friend and got a lift to the bus stop. There were quite a few people at the stop, including women, so I felt comfortable. So far, so good.
And then the "night"mare commenced. Suddenly everyone got on to a bus and the stop and street were left completely deserted. As I waited for an auto (please don't get me wrong, I love travelling by bus; but there is no bus that would go into the "posh" Vasant Kunj locality), I realised that most of them were already occupied, by women like me rushng to ge back to their safe cocoons. Of course, I too had the option to call my dad to bring his car and take me to the school and back home. At this point of time, however, I decided not to.
Seeing that the prospect of getting an auto was bleak, I started to walk. Fortunately, I love walking and have the stamina to walk a km or two without too much difficulty, cause I had to walk right past the JNU gate before I got lucky with an auto. The walk itself would have been pleasant had I known what I was stepping on. Alas, I could not see a thing, save the glimpses I caught out of the reflection from automobile headlights on the road. I could have fallen down at any step, but somewhow managed. With no street lights and a completely uneven surface, it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that I was completely thrilled to practically jump into the auto within moving traffic (For the unenlightened, I personally don't like travelling by autos).
Part A of the story ends here....I reach Vasant Valley School, safe, sound and well within time.
---- Part B -----
After being delayed within the school premises, I finally got out of the place at half past seven. Of all the places I would want to avoid walking in at that time of the day, Vassant Kunj figures at the top. But with my usual luck with autos,I had to walk right up to the turning into Nelson Mandela Marg (all this while negotiating with my mom on the phone as to how she could pick me up, and not too many other people on the road) when suddenly an auto rickshaw approached and I promplty got in. Now I was sure I was going to get home safe.
And at 8 pm, I was at my doorstep, completely fine and having completed all my work.
To most people this might have sounded like a usual day....what's the big deal? And I sincerely pray that those people are correct. 'Cause it was a great relief to be able to freely travel in the city and reach home without not so much as an uncomfortable stare from a random guy on the street.
The last time I felt this comfortable at night alone, I was in Bombay (oops...Mumbai). And so I shall remember this day, when Delhi felt like Mumbai :)
I look forward to many more excursions like this one. And expect to get back home safe each time. I can feel the change in Delhi. And I have to be a part of it. Like a very wise friend of mine said,
"cities that are safe for women are usually the cities where women are not confined by their families into their cocoons after nightfall, so that there are women on the street at all times."
Here's my toast to that day in future....