The news these days are filled with stories of rape, molestation and abuse against women. While we in Bombay love to point fingers at Delhi and talk about their crime statistics, Bombay has been catching up in recent months. We have to face the truth, gone are the days of safe Bombay. What happened to my city?
When I was 17, sneaking out of the house at midnight, catching cabs and loitering about town was never as unsafe as it is today. I ran around in the skimpiest of clothes and no one batted an eye at me. We would steal the car and adventure into the forbidden streets of Kamathipura at 2AM. Three curious girls in a car, in an area where anything could have happened… but fear never entered our minds. I grew up next to one of the largest railways of Bombay, which was famous for 500 meters of heroin addicts sitting outside. As a child you should have feared them, and as a teenager avoid them, but yet, the concept of fear was far removed. Gone are the days I could spend a new year’s eve with a hip flask and 3 friends sitting on Worli Sea face. Gone are the days of teenagers with illegal substances in dark khopchis. Those are only reserved for more heinous crimes these days.
Now all I hear is women being raped/murdered in the safety of their homes by their security guards; girls being stabbed to death in broad day light at the Gateway of India; people posing as cops and molesting innocent women on New Year’s night at Juhu beach; cops raping women 400 meters from my home in Marine Drive ; cops physically assaulting a female lawyer and taking photos of her in her dress; and my favorite, Mr. Dhoble’s assessment that I am a prostitute simply because I am in a bar.
What happened to Bombay? When did we lose our freedom and safety to exist? Not only do we have to fear and judge any man who walks within fivefeet of us, but also reconsider approaching the authorities for help. For years I could argue that I could do almost anything in this city without ever having to question my safety, but these days I would lose that argument. What kind of a city have we come to be where I am scared for the safety of my hypothetical non-existent children?
As a friend well summarized about Bombay, “She is a fine wine with a bad after taste.” So is the current state just a bad after taste, or will she change once allowed to breathe?