While making her payment across the counter at a wine shop in East of Kailash, a 25-year-old financial analyst, Raksha Arora, felt a hand on her waist. On looking back, she found a middle-aged man groping her. “I did not raise my voice fearing he may create further trouble; I just moved his hand away and left the shop,” said Ms. Raksha.
The incident took place in February this year around 8 p.m. Ms. Raksha said earlier, she was a regular visitor to wine shops even though she was always stared at. But after this particular incident, she feels uncomfortable standing amidst the crowd in the wine shops. “Now I request my male friends to buy alcohol for me,” she added.
Alcohol buying experiences for women vary but there is an underlying thread of scare that is common. While women are equally keen to avail of the discounts and pick up liquor of their choice from a wine shop, it is the endless male gaze and comments that disturb them.
As the sun sets, the isolated wine shops in the urbanised Mayur Vihar Extension-I turn into unsafe zones. The lane in front of Star City Mall is a narrow path, not made for vehicular movement. As it gets dark, people gather here and can be seen openly drinking and playing loud music, nearby residents said.
To curb open drinking, the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 puts the onus on wine shops to ensure no dry snacks kiosks or food outlets come up in their vicinity that encourage people to drink and loiter around the shops.
However, the ground reality is different. Several women complain that people hang around the wine shops and ogle at them.
Many similar complaints of open drinking have been reported from areas with wine shops at ITO, Kailash Colony and East of Kailash. Several women told The Hindu that they fear crossing such places. When they walk, they try to avoid eye contact with anybody or use their phones as a distraction.
Varada Nair, 27, a teacher by profession, said men often give a “creepy look” when they see a woman purchasing alcohol at a wine shop alone. She recalled a recent incident when she was buying alcohol while holding a cigarette in her hand. “Three men in their forties looked at me lecherously, spat on the ground in front of me and left,” she said.
According to the Delhi police, the beat staff is deployed in different areas across the city depending on the number of complaints received. “We keep an eye on all districts, and police officers are present at all spots 24x7,” DCP (PRO) Suman Nalwa assured.
“We understand the gravity of such situations. Women’s safety is our top most concerns and we hope every woman dares to file complaints regarding such incidents,” the DCP said.
“Whenever a complaint comes to our notice, we devise different strategies based on the number and intensity of cases,” Ms Nalwa said. “We welcome all sorts of feedback, suggestions, and complaints; women should dial 112,” she added.
However, apart from dealing with perverted men at wine shops, women also encounter unwanted moral policing at such places. Women say they have no other option but to ignore it.
Charu Pandey, 28, mentioned an incident near an alcohol shop in Kalkaji. “A man who looked 50 walked up to me and said women like me dress up in a certain way, consume alcohol, scream on the streets and disrupt the society,” she recalled.
“Though I put up a brave face and asked what his problem was, deep within I felt unsafe in that space and requested the shopkeeper to hurry up with my order,” she said. Ms. Pandey said there were at least 10 more people in the shop, including a few inebriated ones. “None of them showed any guts to tell the man to behave. I have lived in Delhi for seven years and this behaviour is quite normal here. It no longer enrages me,” she said.