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Be Safe

by Sahil Mehta

To put everything into context, it is twenty one minutes past midnight on a Wednesday night, or a Thursday morning. I have to leave home at 8:30 a.m. in the morning for work, and I really should be asleep. I feel sleepy too. I’m tired and I want to sleep. But I can’t. 

I can’t sleep because I’m scared. I’m scared of the nightmares that may come when I do actually close my eyes. You see, a female friend of mine was due to travel alone late at night today. And despite my telling her to message to let me know she had reached safely she hasn’t. And right now, I’ve got no fricking clue whether she’s safe or not. 

Or course, I shouldn’t really worry. She’s a bright, sensible and independent girl who’s probably done this before. My anxiety should not be taken as a reflection of her being careless or immature, because she isn’t. 
But I am worried. And I’m scared. Because, deep down, I know what can happen, and what does happen in this country. I wake every morning to headlines of rapes and gang-rapes. I look at these articles in despair and anger. I wonder what kind of animals would do this. And I berate the authorities and government for not preventing these hideous crimes. 

Today I’m feeling another emotion, something that the newspaper stories don’t me feel. I’m feeling the fear that thousands and thousands of Indian women and their families feel every day. And frankly I’m terrified. 
But it’s not just fear. It’s helplessness. I’m sitting here and typing this in the clear knowledge that if anything untoward does happen, I won’t be able to do anything. And perhaps no one else will even bother. 

It’s not one incident. A couple of days back my mom had a work dinner. She told me in the morning before work. As it would happen, the driver was on leave as well. She told me, and I completely forgot by the time I got back home at 8 p.m. Now, I’m used to mom working late. And I don’t usually worry because she’s in the office and the car and driver are right there. 

This particular day she wasn’t in the office, and there was no driver or car. So after a couple of hours I got kind of concerned. So I called her up. And her phone was switched off. I called, a little stupidly perhaps, repeatedly. And the phone was still off. 

I’m not going to get into details, but when she did return home I unloaded on her like I’ve never done before. It wasn’t her fault. But I still did. And while I apologized for it, if something like this happens again, I probably would do it again. If not for any other reason than simply because, there’s nothing else I could have done. 
I can’t really describe how worried I got then. But after today’s instance, when I look back at things, I’m a little amazed. I shouldn’t have to fell scared if people I know are not at their home or their offices. No one should have to live in the fear that some tragedy might befall their dear ones just because they aren’t in the confines of familiar surroundings. 

I, we, live in the world’s largest democracy. We shouldn’t feel like prisoners in our own homes. 
If you think I’m making this up, you’re wrong. If you think I’m overreacting, then wait until you have to go through this same thing, though I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. 

And then there is this one final thought. Why am I so helpless? I’m 23 years old. I’m reasonably smart, and passably strong. More than anything else, I’m educated with morals and values. I should be doing something. I shouldn’t let this environment of terror prevail! 

I’m pro harsher rape laws. I’m all for death sentences for extreme cases. But that’s not making me feel any less concerned about the safety of my friend and mother right now. If something were to happen to them, then I’d probably go into a mad killing rage anyway without regard for the law. But nothing I could do then would change what happened. And that thought sickens me.

I can’t go out patrolling the streets every night like a vigilante. I can’t be present at the scene every time a woman is harassed in this country. But perhaps collectively we can make a difference. 

And perhaps we can start by being more sensitive to women in general and stop saying inappropriate things. If you know someone going home alone, drop her! Wait till she’s inside if you’re dropping her. And for god’s sake, stop making a pass at every girl you see! 

I’m at a loss now. I’m not na├»ve enough to suggest that government should educate people about this. A. They don’t have the capacity. B. I don’t think people need to be taught how to act as humans, or atleast they shouldn’t. 

But till we can fix this disease in the society, I just want all the ladies reading this to be safe. And please do carry a pepper spray. It might feel like nothing to you, but it makes me sleep easier at night. 


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