A Bengalurean being accosted by a sexual pervert in broad daylight, with her pleas for help ignored by passers-by has caused a ripple of concern amongst city dwellers. While most women say they haven’t encountered anything worse than the occasional catcaller, Supriya Chandran and Neha Anand tell Joyeeta Chakravorty that women’s safety on the streets can no longer be taken for granted.
The time was 1 p.m, the day, August 6. A woman, Rajyashree, waiting by the roadside on the NICE stretch for her husband, who had gone to fetch a mechanic to repair their malfunctioning scooter, was horrified to find a man wearing a bindi and lipstick, and clad in a formal shirt and jeans, approach her. As he began to unfasten his shirt on drawing closer, she began to shout for help, but all the cars simply sped by on the highway and it was only after she began to take his pictures that he fled, leaving her shaken and fearful.
The episode has left women everywhere aghast at what could happen in a few unguarded moments even in broad daylight on the outskirts of the city. "It is disappointing and horrifying to hear about this. It is only when you read about such an episode that you begin to think about your preparedness as a woman," said 22-year-old graphic designer, Supriya Chandra who hails from Dehradun.
"It is actually shocking to read about these cases as Bengaluru is still safe compared to other metros and the working class here is more educated ," agreed 21-year-old Neha Anand , who works in a technology startup in the city.
Although the duo have never encountered anything apart from the occasional stare from passing men, they are unwilling to take anything for granted anymore. "I guess we have been lucky, but, then you cannot say what's going on in anyone's head. So we need to be informed and also confident in dealing with such situations," they added.
The fact that the woman, Rajyashree, took to the Bengaluru city police’s Facebook page to narrate her ordeal and also tried to contact the number of the NHAI patrolling vehicle, but got no response, is even more worrying to the two.
"I think the cops need to check for drunk drivers not only on Fridays and Saturdays but also be equally alert on week days at least in certain pockets so that such elements don’t feel free to indulge in such activity," suggested a worried Neha. "If it can happen to X then it can happen to Y too. So such cases cannot be treated as a one-off as sexual perverts are everywhere. We need to take care of our own safety and security,” she observed.
"Today people do not wait to help anybody. But it is important for men to come forward and help a woman in distress, especially if they see something fishy going on. People should want to help their fellow citizens," stressed an equally strung up Supriya.
What would have been their reaction in such a situation? "We would have definitely called the police or reached out to friends on speed dial. But it is hard to say how one would react," remarked Supriya, who is all for women being taught self-defence tactics either by their companies or the government. What about the array of safety apps now available? The two look blank, seeming unaware of them, but then agree they are worth a try. "It is better to be safe than sorry," summed up Neha.