(The following is The Times of India photojournalist Uma Kadam’s reaction to the Mumbai rape incident. Ms. Kadam has worked with various publications of the Times Group for the past 13 years.)
I started my career as a photojournalist in 2001. At the time, I was among the few woman photographers in the city. For the first two or three years, I was timid and scared in this male bastion. But circumstances changed me. I have made myself strong so that I can put up a fight. But now I wonder what I would do if attacked by five men.
When we are out in desolate or sensitive areas on assignments, we face problems. Being a woman in such areas draws attention, in any case. With a camera, it becomes worse. When the mills were shutting, I did a lot of shoots there. There are other areas in the city which are desolate, such as the Sion Fort and the Mazgaon Dock. I remember being followed by men at Sion Fort a few years ago. It was scary, but I managed to get out quickly.
Another problem is dealing with the advances of male photographers. Often, we have to be in places where all the photographers are huddled close together to get a photo from the right vantage point. Although some photographers have tried to take advantage of my physical proximity to them, there are others who have taken care that I was standing at a safe distance. It was equally frustrating to be treated like I wasn’t good enough because I was a woman.
My job takes me to all kinds of places at odd hours. I have gone back home at 2am alone. But now it has become scary. My mother was so worried after the rape case that she asked me not to venture out the way I do. But how can I stop doing the work I enjoy? Recently, I met a woman cop on the train who told me she didn’t feel safe in this city anymore. If a cop doesn’t feel safe, how can I?