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There’s something abnormal about every day in Delhi

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In the fourth part of personal accounts on street harassment and violence in the Capital, Martina Roy , a Delhi-based university student, shares her experiences of everyday life in the Capital…..

Like everyone else I had decked up that evening for Durga Puja celebrations. My friend, who I was visiting, lived 3 km away so I decided to take an auto-rickshaw. On the way, the driver kept staring at me. My mother’s advice constantly ringing in my ears, I covered my head with dupatta and looked away. The market we passed by gave me something to look at. Then, as my auto zoomed past them, a group of men whistled and passed a cheap comment.

Did I want to react? Yes, of course, but I chose to remain silent, like always. Mum says I must avoid any sort of confrontation. Besides, it was getting dark, even though it was just 5-45 p.m., and all I could think of was reaching my friend’s place safely.

I handed the auto driver his money, without even looking at him, and began walking the short stretch to my friend’s house, constantly looking back to see if anyone was following me. The minute I reached her place, I sent my mother an SMS to reassure her. “Reached safely,” it read.

There is something abnormal about every day in Delhi for women. The other day, I was getting late for college and there was not a single bus in sight. I was racing against time and I thought of taking an auto. The driver seemed friendly, a middle-aged man with a smiling face. I wore my sunglasses, which is my way of avoiding eye contact. I plugged in my music.

After a while, I realised he began taking a different route. I stopped him, just in time, and ordered him to take the route I chose. He then kept trying to strike up a conversation. I was nearing my college, but some distance away he told me he had to take another way to go to a petrol pump. He made it sound like an unavoidable emergency. I would have agreed if the route he was suggesting was familiar, but that morning, with almost no one in sight, I couldn’t take a chance. The driver grumbled, but I know I did the right thing.

My university is 15 km away from home. The easiest way of commuting is by bus. Before leaving home, I always get a series of instructions from my mother, mainly to do with avoiding getting robbed.

But actually there are bigger fears. Delhi Transport Corporation buses have a separate section for women. Often, however, men occupy those seats and refuse to budge. It is also impossibly hard for any woman to wait at a bus stop, especially in the late hours. Most of the time one is left with no other choice but to travel in a crowded bus.

Even if you are lucky enough to get a seat, men purposely lean on you, making you feel totally uncomfortable. There are times when men stand so close that you can feel them breathing down your neck. If you complain, they are ready with all sorts of arguments. It never achieves anything.

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