It was a typical Friday evening. I was at the bus stop carrying a somewhat heavy luggage, ready to go home after a week in the hostel. ( I went home every Friday). Its funny how much your mind gets filled with thoughts when you are in wait. My thoughts ranged from the health implication carrying the bag had on my backbone to the audaciousness of the bus driver who didnot stop. I had to wait for another hour for the next bus all the while changing my posture with the bag, observing the busy crowd, wondering where all these people were transiting.( Yeah, there are a LOT of people. Its India afterall.)
It was a two hour journey and losing that one hour meant it would be dark by the time I get home. Then a thought occured in my mind. Should I call my father to pick me up once I reach the first bus stop?( Oh! I forgot to mention that I have to catch two buses – one from the city to my native town, and from there to my village? And when I say ‘village’ don’t picture it as a poverty stricken under-developed area, for the place is developed enough and most of the people are well-off).
Usually I would call dad, but I am not a kid anymore. I am a graduate, ready to take up the challenges of the world afterall. So I decided not to call him. He would only know when I arrive home. It would be a piece of cake.
Its not that I haven’t travelled alone before, its just that I haven’t travelled alone at night before, atleast not from the town to the village. But what was the big deal anyway. Well, the big deal was “safety”. Is it safe for a woman to travel alone at night, that too in India?. The clearcut answer is NO ofcourse. But I couldn’t just swallow it right away. So before calling dad, I decided to observe first.
The bus I got from the city was crowded. So I had to stand for a large part of the journey that too amidst a lot of men. There were a lot of women too – from students to middle aged ladies. And nothing bad happened. None of the men misbehaved, they were actually pretty helpful with my bag and all. So far so good, I thought.
By the time I reached the town it was dark and the rainclouds made it even worse. As I observed, I saw a lot of women walking through the streets unabashed by the fact that it had been ‘night’. Its no big deal afterall, I sighed. I decided not to call dad. If all these women can be brave why can’t I? ( Is it ironical that I used the word “brave” for something that is not a big deal?)
On my way to the village from the town, all I could think was how brave I had been and was so happy about the fact that I did not trouble dad.
From the village junction I have to take an autorickshaw to reach home. Now thats a tricky part, for in an autorickshaw you are alone with the driver and it was dark. But none of that thoughts troubled me since I was convinced that nothing bad is ever going to happen there. So I got on an autorickshaw. The driver was a man of my father’s age and was pretty descent to me.
Atlast I reached home. Mom and dad were both taken aback at their daughter’s courage. But their reaction was not what I expected. They chided me so much that I was on the verge of tears.
“Night travel is not safe for a woman in this country and especially in villages. It maybe okay in the cities, but not here. You don’t know what will happen. The auto guy could have kidnapped you. You hear news about sexual assaults every day. You cannot recognize a perpetrator by just looking at his face. This was not a risk worth taking. Never do this again.”
My spirit shattered. All my dreams of becoming an independent woman were questioned. How can I be independent if I can’t even travel alone.? This is one of the moments in every woman’s life when she wishes she was a man. I envy my guy friends and my brother for they can travel anywhere they want at any time. The society doesnot frown upon a man if he is seen outside at night. He can chill all he wants with alcohol and what not, and its not a big deal but it is when a woman does that.
All I tried to do was keep aside the negative thoughts and do what a normal person will do. But I am not normal, am I? I am a woman and hence not entitled to travel at night.
You cannot change people just through words and tags. You need to act. Well, atleast thats what I believed. Thats why I did that and it was a simple thing to do. I tried to debunk the myth of night travel for woman and I was discouraged. My parents did that out of concern for my safety so I cannot complain about them for not being supportive, can I?
I believe we are entitled to freedom. Its not something we should get because there is a law or a back-up. Its something we own. At the same time we should respect the freedom of others as well, irrespective of the gender. Change is inevitable.
And to a woman who want to fly high with her dreams I would like to say
“She believed she could, so she did.”