Auto-rickshaw wala

The bus stops in front of Bikaner House.

Its almost midnight.

Way past the ‘decent hour’ for any woman to be out in the city.

I alight after a thoroughly enjoyable 7 hours of journey from Jaipur. Right behind follow my almost-6-year-old daughter and my mother.

We walk a few steps looking around for the best mode of transportation that would safely take us home. We have barely made it to the exit-gate, in comes a herd of auto-rickshaw drivers encircling us..offering us to drop us home. “Madam, kahan jaana hai?” “Auto mei baith jao”

We have another 20-25 kms of travel yet to cover to finally reach home.

Each of them has his eyes firmly fixed on us.

Right then, a flurry of thoughts come hitting me like a curse,“So which one of them would end up molesting us tonight?”…

“What if one of them drags us to a deserted land and rapes us?”..

“Which one of them would eventually succeed in looting us..and killing us?”

No sooner do these thoughts creep into my mind than I clutch my child tightly and hold on to my mother protectively.

I look around to see whether I can find a cab for us instead. Yet again the crippling thought seeps in.

‘What if the cab-driver ends up knocking us off?’

“Dont be crazy”, I tell myself. There has been no untoward action by any of the auto-rick drivers that drives me towards such thoughts.

None whatsoever.

Each one is merely doing his job of convincing us, persuading us to sit in his vehicle so he can earn his bread & butter.

Then why worry?

Brushing those thoughts away, I, along-with my mother and daughter get into an auto. My mother, the firebrand that she is begins to argue with the driver about the outrageous fare he quotes.

Paranoia hits me yet again and I urge her to stop provoking him lest he harms us in any way. I keep chiding her,” Stop it Ma, this is not a safe time and place for two women to get into scuffle with a man. We still have a long way to reach home”. Of course I tell her this in Malayalam. I dont want his ears to get what I am saying lest he thinks we are helpless and an easy prey.

All through the auto-ride I am alert.

The auto-driver is driving at the perfect speed. He is cautious and minds his own business.

Yet. Every time there is a sharp turn or a delay in taking a turn my heart skips a beat.

Every time we reach a dimly lit road my heart skips a beat.

In my own crazy head I prepare and plan to fight him in case he brings the auto to a stand still in those unlit roads and tries to come at us.

Nothing of that sort happens.

We, then, reach a well lit road. Vehicles plying either side continuously. But not a single soul in sight.

I wonder out loud to my mother about cities like Mumbai where people freely move around till past midnight with no fear of safety. Or so I have heard, correct me if I am wrong.

Wistfully, I wonder if I can even imagine a similar scenario in my own city. I wonder if I ever will get to associate my city with safety and security without a shudder or cringe.

On the way I spot two girls standing at the side of a road, perhaps waiting for a cab.

Our auto-driver swiftly turns to give them a look.

And my scary thoughts go on an over-drive again.

“What did that look convey?” “Did he see prospective passengers in them?”. “Did he hope to fetch them and earn some more money and retire for the day with a content heart?”. Or. “Did he have any lustful intentions brewing in his mind?”

As these thoughts play havoc in my mind, I realize that the auto-wala has safely brought us home. I pay him and walk in to the safe confines of home with my daughter and mother.

All of this sets me thinking….

Is this what my city has come to mean? Is this the city where I was born? The city that brought me up, made me stand up on my feet? The city where I didnt care what I wore, but today I stand the risk of being blamed for my dressing if I get attacked? The city where I didnt have to think twice before venturing out, irrespective of the time or day, but today I have to keep my guard up even in broad daylight? Is this MY city where I stand the risk of being blamed for getting molested because I went to the bar? Because I wore a skimpy dress? Is this MY city where I am forbidden to move around after 8 PM lest I get raped?

Is this MY city where I dont even have the freedom to walk freely as I please?

Never have I felt so helpless and unsafe in my own city.

Happy Independence Day BTW

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37 thoughts on “Auto-rickshaw wala

    1. ohhh Now that i read the post , I shud not have been that excited ..

      Sad sad if you thought of all this. I dont know what to say Deeps. I mean is this is the feeling one gets when going to their own HOME then nothing is safe…

      I wish things were different in my country but sadly it is not to be, I wish I could say that it is safe and nothing to fear.. BUT it is better to be safe..

      All i can say is SORRY that you had to feel that way.. there is omething wrong with us all , WITH ME as a indian that I have let the country come to this level…
      sad

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      1. You dont have to say sorry, Bik! Just that I had been so disturbed by the recent happenings in the city that this was the best way I felt I could let myself out.. The lack of safety and public apathy is really scary and concerning at times 😦

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  1. ha well another 15th august is upon us reminding us how regressive this society has become..where even a few month old kid is raped and women are advised to wear sensible clothes…where education is for everyone and yet only a few educated people can be seen..

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  2. I think more than the city it is the recent affairs that might have ticked you off…recently all that is happening consecutively might effect any of us and we surely would feel unsafe,which is natural.

    When a lot of people can just pass by watching the tamasha that Guwahati guys made of a teenage girl, then on deserted road anything happening would go unnoticed…

    But for the fact that you 3 reached safely to your detination, I’m glad.

    I think it will be sometime until we live with the fear of being raped,molested,robbed…sad state but true!

    P.S. Happy Independence Day,ha, indeed!

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  3. Am glad u all reached safe Deeps! Hugs!
    And it really feels sad 😦 Bcoz of some mischief-mongers, we start to see others in their fraternity in the same light too, and even we are helpless when situations make us feel so at every little thing.
    I wrote an altogether different hopeful post and read this now 😐 But I still remain hopeful bcoz there are good samaritans too out there and am sure they will rule some day. Happy Independence Day πŸ™‚

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    1. I will surely come and read it Swar! Your posts always evoke hope in me- hope to see and live in a better and safer world :). I am sure I will be heartened to read you this time around too. I want to be hopeful, really do πŸ™‚ Hugs!

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  4. Its sad that we don’t feel safe even in our own city with our own people… The moment it gets dark our mind itself starts coming up with all sorts of possibilities and sometime even in the day light if the place is quiet…
    Glad that you all reached home safely… Take care…

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  5. I’m just glad that you reached safely.

    I can totally relate to what you are saying. One starts to worry at everyyhing, especially after all that we get to hear these days. And knowing that we may or may not get help when we need it. These days I have workmen in the house, and it worries me, makes me wonder if any of them have the wrong intentions, and what worries me most is that I don’t even know whom to ask for help. Back in the UK, I knew that a 999 would help. What here? Even if I do get through to a policeman, would he even bother to listen to me? Scary, and sad.

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    1. It is so scary! And what makes it worse is nobody wants to come forward to help..everyone wants to steer clear of ‘trouble’. A couple of days ago Ma and I were on a cycle-rickshaw. It was a fairly crowded street and right in front of us was another cycle-rick that was carrying two girls. And then suddenly this moron of a driver takes his car out from a side so rashly that it bangs the cycle and knocks the girl out on the road. Luckily the fall was not that bad and the girl was ok. Ma and I were screaming at the top of our voices blasting the driver..and the idiot, as expected, just zoomed away without taking any blame, much less a sorry to the girl or the rickshaw-wala. Even more pathetic was to see a security guard standing by the side and watching the whole drama without inching a step forward! Such a shame!

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  6. I am so glad you all reached home safely.

    I must admit that I too have had such scary thoughts on many occasions. It sure is a sorry state of affairs but I seem to fail at my attempts of staying calm and carefree after having seen and read what all has been going on around us in recent times 😦

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  7. Deeps, Till the end of the post I was on tenterhooks, being from the same city , experiencing it most of the time, it is really sad and unsettling.. hugs Deepu… to you, nammu and my most beloved Teacher…. take care..

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  8. The experience that you have shared with us is very obvious for any woman to think of. When I was in Delhi a few years back, the same thoughts came to my mind when I rode an auto-rickshaw during midnight. Shame on the woman dominated Delhi Govt!

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  9. Glad you reached home safely, Deeps. I could totally relate to this. The auto-wallahs, for the most part, are creepy fellows at any hour of the day, which is why having to deal with them at midnight terrifies the daylights out of us. The recent spate of ‘incidents’ do nothing to assuage our fears.

    I can only hope I’ll live to see the day when women would be able to venture out at any hour confidently and unafraid. With apologies to Tagore, into that heaven of freedom,my father, let my country-women awake…

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  10. Can totally relate to this, Deeps! However strong I make myself out to be, I am really scared for our children at times. The only thing we can do is to give us and them the strength and courage to face anything, come what may!

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  11. Were you in Jaipur this month??? OMG, we could have met, had I known you were in our city!! 😦
    I can so relate to this… especially in Delhi, I somehow never feel safe and whenever and whatever time I have to spend in an auto or cab, I am so stressed, vigilant and with a hyperactive mind. Somehow, I never experienced such a fear during our 8 yrs stay in Mumbai. 😐

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  12. Very well written post. I was born & raised in Mumbai, lived there till I was 22. I was taught to be super-cautious, and why not because forget about getting into public transport, you couldn’t walk in a straight line down a footpath without having to dodge the pervs who try to brush against you. This was a daily feature of my life thru college & work. You learn to scan faces & spot the ones who’ll try to grope you. And attire doesn’t matter, it happens even if you’re clad in a simple salwar kameez. I’ve had the same experiences in Bangalore & Kochi. Sad as it is, I don’t feel safe being out & about in India. As long as I’m outdoors, I’m on high alert.

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