“It’s great that many people are boycotting New Year celebrations this year. It is a genuine tribute to the young girl. But I suppose there are others who differ from this view.” This exchange between two colleagues in the Connaught Place’s Inner Circle summed up the larger mood in the Capital on Monday, hours before the city welcomed 2013.
Around them, CP was slowly coming to a grinding halt: shops started winding down their shutters, lights were switched off, the vuvuzelas seemed to have no takers and the Rapid Action Force took their positions at every corner. With temperatures reaching an all-season low of 5.5 degree Celsius, the scene seemed like curfew had set it – an unprecedented sight over New Year’s Eve.
CP’s favourite pastry shop Wenger’s was bustling with last-minute customers. “Several people have chosen to stay indoors this year,” commented Wenger’s Manager Charanjeet Singh. “We had prepared ourselves to face a stiff crowd on Sunday but due to the protests and the Delhi Metro stations having shut down, we did not receive many customers,” he said.
All that changed on Monday, by 6 p.m., the counters were cleared off leaving people with only the leftover plum cakes from Christmas to ring in the New Year.
Yet, the modest bustle that was prevalent was soon to give way to deserted corridors.
“I have no intentions of hanging around CP around midnight,” said 27-year-old Rashmi Rekha. Hailing from Odisha, Rashmi had spent the last two New Year’s Eve at CP which had “incredible energy at midnight” but “not after what recently happened. I feel very insecure now,” she said.
Insecurity or not, the city’s residents were also avoiding celebrations as a sign of respect with tweets such as “Not celebrating New Year’s Eve. Mourning for Delhi rape victim”.
Across the Capital, several hotels, clubs and business houses had announced that they will drop or tone down celebrations this year. Among them were The Press Club of India, Chelmsford Club and the Gymkhana Club. “Every year we usually go to the Gymkhana Club but this year, everyone has been pushing for cancelling the celebrations as a token of our respect to the young girl,” said a resident of Anand Niketan, calling it a “Black New Year’s Eve”.
Mark of respect
Elsewhere, people had organised initiatives to “Reclaim our streets” in place such as Saket and Dwarka.
“It makes sense to be out on the streets at midnight, and since not all of us can join the street party at Jantar Mantar or Saket, let us hang out in Dwarka (hopefully the cops will not mind),” said an invitation on Facebook.
At Jantar Mantar, Jharna Bhatnagar did not plan to go out with her friends or family nor will this resident of Patparganj drink and go crazy to welcome 2013. Instead, she will stay put at the venue in solidarity with the cause of an India safe for women. Along with her was Ashish Gehlot. “I want to take the pledge to stop and prevent all kinds of violence against women,” he said and what better day to do so than New Year’s Eve.