Is Bangalore safe for women? Ask me, I’m a Bengaluru hudugi

It’s amusing to see men from Bangalore share posts on Facebook about how Bangalore is a safe city. And that, what happened on New years’ was just alcohol-induced.

Firstly, dear men of Bangalore, hold that thought. Would you care to ask a woman how she feels, before you post another status on Facebook?

I’m a Bangalorean, I was born here, and lived here all my life. I am as Bangalorean as  and I can tell you this: I do not feel safe in the city. Not a decade ago, not now.

When I’m hopping on an Uber at 6 pm: my dad wants to track my location. Why do you think that is?

“You never wear skirts to office!,” a colleague remarked once. Why do you think I don’t?

My friends tell me that I never smile when I am walking on the road. Why do you think that is?

I always put my bag in the front, and jut out an elbow while walking in a crowded place. Why do you think that is?

The not-so-great times

Here’s some incidents from my life, if you care to read them. My friends and relatives have gone through worse. I’m just sharing three of the many many things that happen at an almost periodic basis.

I was 17 years old. So this was almost a decade ago, mind you. It was 6:30 in the morning in Malleshwaram. I was headed to my weekend tuition class. One kannada-speaking person called me: “Aye! Illi nodu” (Hey! Look here!)

I looked at the person. He was without a pant or an underwear. Naked from the bottom. He winked at me, one hand on his hip the other on his crotch. I ran, in horror and disgust.

Oh by the way, what was I wearing? A chudidar with dupatta.

I was 20. I was in the Majestic bus stand,  headed to my college in Basavangudi in South Bangalore. While going from one platform to the next, I sensed a person following my friend and I. Senses on alert, I quickly sprinted to an empty bus 45E, and sat in the front seat, right behind the driver, and beside the conductor. Two seconds later, my stalker tugged at my dress from the window of the bus. I screamed for full five seconds in shock, anger and horror. The stalker ran away. What did the conductor do? He simply shook his head. And the driver? He moved the bus forward by 2 inches.

And what was I wearing: A pair of jeans and a top that reached all the way to my knees.

I was 21. I was heading back home from the Majestic bus terminal. I found my bus, chose a spot on the right hand side of the bus, beside the window. I was happy not only because that I had a seat for the hour long journey, but also because it was in the women’s section. As I sat down, someone called to me from the window.

“Where are you going?” he asked in Hindi.

Thinking he making a bus route enquiry, I said “HMT.”

“Will you sleep with me?” he asked, again in Hindi.

Disgusted, I moved to the left, away from the window. I did not know if the person hopped on the bus. I was too afraid to even find out. I spent the entire journey, putting my head down and hiding my face, afraid that the man would make a move on me once again. I did not have the patience, energy and courage to deal with another horny bastard.

Oh, and again, what was I wearing? Chudidar (or what is commonly called salwar-kameez), with a dupatta.

Do you see the pattern, dear men?

It’s not the drunk men. It’s men from all walks of life, from Bangalore and outside. It’s not during the night. It’s 24/7.

One need not be provocatively dressed to become a victim of these eve-teasers and molestors. I hope you’re intelligent enough to know that by now.

Coming back to the main point: The overarching mindset across the many FB posts are: “Bangalore is so safe! We host so many events, and it has always been safe! Look at Kadlekai Parshe. Such a peaceful event where no one feels threatened. (I was groped at the parshe, FYI). Look at Pinkathon (I participated in this. This was a largely women’s-only event and thankfully, no sickening incidents occurred). Look at all the call-center employees working in the midnight. (Please talk to them. They face these issues regularly.) Stop giving it a bad name, and go back to your city if you find it problematic.”

‘Sshh.. Don’t tell anybody’ 

My close friend once asked me to not shout or attract attention. This was right after when a man tried to graze my crotch while I was standing in a crowded place.

Kannadigas, by design are soft-spoken folks who try to be as accommodating as possible. I know, because I’m one.

And when Kannadiga women face these incidents, they just talk to the family about it, and bury it deep down. “Don’t tell anybody!” we’re advised. Who wants controversy, right?

That to me, is part of the problem too. Women don’t talk, for fear of judgement from peers and family alike. Maybe that’s why, this piece of news and the opinions sound so jarring and unreal to you.

Dear men, if anything, this episode should make you realize that:

1. You should open up and talk to the women in your life – your office, your neighbours, your relatives about how safe they feel.

2. Acknowledge that the problem exists, and try to find a solution to it together, as a community.

Your devotion to the city is laudable. I agree that Bangalore has graduated to a multicultural, multilingual city in a very short period of time. But blaming it all on the people who’re coming in is just.. well, stupid.

If you really love your city, you’ll tackle the problem head-on, understand why this is happening, instead of forcing people out of the city like bully.

Where’s your atithi devo-bhava spirit now?

PS: I refer to the old name of Bangalore, instead of the new Bengaluru purely out of a personal choice. You can follow me here.