Viewpoint – Safety Pins, Pepper Spray and Other Survival Tips for Delhi Girls

How not to let the city’s perverts snatch away your freedom to explore and have fun.

[By Pearl Toppo; picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

No, I’m not paranoid. I just live in Delhi! Born and brought up here, I know the place like the back of my hand and like exploring new places in the city but let’s confess – unknown faces make me nervous. It’s not only my fear of being attacked by a pervert, but also because some places make me uncomfortable. Like the way the people look at me.

Ok, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about my look. I dress up appropriately too. So then why the stares?

You see I’m a movie buff. Due to demanding work hours, I could manage time out only for the late night shows. But I always have to coax my ‘movie-buddy’ before this venture. You wonder what is a movie-buddy? Trust me being a girl and wanting to do things in this city, you need ‘buddies’ – namely movie-buddy, shopping buddy, photography buddy and a trip buddy! Each time I go for a late night show and my buddy leaves my side for few moments, I receive stares that seem to ask: What are you doing here? Are you alone? Are you looking for company?

Some stares make me feel like I am there to make a proposition!

Unlike abroad where single women go out clubbing on their own without the fear of being harassed by people, clubbing alone in Delhi is an impossible task. Okay, perhaps possible but surely not something I would want to try!

One particularly nasty place in Delhi is Connaught Place. Yes that great historic shopping district! CP after dark makes me feel like a sex trader. As the sun dips down in the sky the office-goers, shoppers, tourists, makes way for pimps, drug addicts, and prostitutes. (Yes in our CP!) There would be prostitutes sitting in autos. The drivers would double up as pimps to take customers to rest houses!

But CP is not the only seedy space for Delhi girls. How could I forget the bus rides of my college days? In my first year I commuted in DTC buses to Indraprastha College and back home in Vasant Kunj. There wasn’t a single day when one wouldn’t be felt up by guys. Even now shivers pulsate down my spine just thinking about it. However, soon I learnt my lesson and started carrying a safety pin – yes, a safety pin to poke anybody getting too close for comfort!

To think of it, there’s no public place in Delhi where a girl won’t feel nervous after dark. But amazingly this hasn’t stopped me from living my life on my terms. I guess it is all about taking the right precautions.

Based on my experiences, let me share some pointers for all those girls daring enough to explore the city after sunset hours:

Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Act as if you know where you’re going even if you’re lost. Never express by your words or actions that you’re are nervous.

Carry a pepper spray and don’t be scared to use it. (A Deo spray works well too!)

Make sure at least one person knows about your whereabouts.

Avoid using poorly lit streets, narrow alleys and short cuts.

Never hesitate to create a scene if you ever encounter a bad situation.

Always follow your instincts; trust me they are strong!

Keep these in mind and you would be fine. So go ahead, explore my city…my Delhi!

[The author is a media professional who loves travelling, exploring, photography and watching movies. She runs the blogsite Journey Called Life. This article was written exclusively for The Delhi Walla.]