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Sheila Dikshit spends a day as ordinary Delhi woman, city men leave her dumbfounded


“Here’s the plan. For one day, you’ll not be the CM. You’ll be an ordinary woman. A veiled woman. With me, you will travel like an ordinary working woman has to. In the Metro, in public buses, on the roads and so on. Whatever happens next, will come on its own.”

We sat. Sheilaji was on the window-side. A few minutes later she sprang up from her seat, bewildered. I asked what had happened. She didn’t say a word, just gave the man sitting in the seat behind us really deadly looks. When we got down from the bus, she told me, the man had been trying to touch her from the side of the seat.

It was 7 P.M. The road was pretty deserted. A Honda City, with a gang of drunk guys, stopped in front of us. Somebody passed a lewd remark, somebody else invited us to join in. Sheilaji suggested teaching them a lesson; I warned her to behave wisely. “But how can we just withstand all this?” she asked. Try your helpline numbers, I said.

After a number of failed attempts to reach the Chief Minister of Delhi, NTMN was finally given the opportunity to have a face-off with Madam Sheila Dikshit last week. We were told by the CM office that being just a bunch of students who speak the bitter truth, they did not find us credible enough earlier. But ever since NTMN won an international award, our connection with the youth has become clearer to them and thus, Mrs. Dikshit feels we could help her win the next elections by advertising her among the youth.

At the end of a heated interview about the state of women in Delhi (in which Sheila Dikshit blamed girls and women of wearing provocative clothes and going out alone at night), here is what I challenged the Chief Minister:
“Here’s the plan. For one day, you’ll not be the CM. You’ll be an ordinary woman. A veiled woman. With me, you will travel like an ordinary working woman has to. In the Metro, in public buses, on the roads and so on. Whatever happens next, will come on its own.”
She agreed.

Sheila Dikshit spends a day as an ordinary woman

True to her words, Mrs Dikshit had come veiled. Wise enough, she could still see through her veil. Just what the plot needed. I admit, it was exciting to get the Chief Minister of Delhi live MY life, even if for a day.

We planned to start out from the Janakpuri Metro station towards Rajiv Chowk. For that, we first had to board a bus for Janakpuri. Half an hour passed by, but there was no bus coming. The first that came was already over-brimming with men hanging here and there. Not having the courage to travel in it, we chose to wait. I informed her this is how I usually miss my first class—wait for half an hour at least for the bus to come; and when it does, there’s no chance of getting in.

Finally, a bus came. It was decently crowded so we boarded it. With great difficulty, we managed to get our ticket. Actually there were so many people pestering the conductor from all directions with ticket-requests that it was a challenge to get ours, and not be stared at real bad. Finally, we went and stood near the ladies’ seats. Two young boys sat on one. I tried staring at them, and then at the label that marked the seat as a ladies’ seat, to indicate to them that they need to freaking GET UP. But they continued discussing movies with their earphones plugged in, pretending that they haven’t seen us. Sheilaji then asked them to get up as it was a ladies’ seat. She had to shout twice before they started to get up, that too when their own bus-stop was near enough.

We sat. Sheilaji was on the window-side. A few minutes later she sprang up from her seat, bewildered. I asked what had happened. She didn’t say a word, just gave the man sitting in the seat behind us really deadly looks. When we got down from the bus, she told me, the man had been trying to touch her from the side of the seat. I asked her, why she didn’t retort. She didn’t reply. I assume, it is difficult to be all daring and stuff when you’re not the CM.

We reached the Metro platform. When the first train came, it was all so badly crowded, as the route normally is at that time of the day. We had just reached the platform when the train came, so couldn’t reach the ladies’ compartment. Sheilaji said, let’s get into the general coach. I was dubious, but obliged.

It was nightmarish. With stinking staring men all around, and no one seemed to have any courtesy for the fact that we were two ladies stuck in a crowd of men. I secretly hoped that the ladies’ seat in the coach might come to our avail, but with the ladies’ compartment in operation, it was a sin to even imagine something like that. I jokingly said to Sheilaji, the ladies’ coach in Metros has set up new definitions for men in the city. Many of them are under the impression that except for the first compartment, the whole train is reserved for them.

For the entire journey upto Rajiv Chowk, we had to stand. I winced somewhere about it, considering Sheilaji’s age. But then, there was hardly anything I could do about. There is hardly anything I am able to do in such situations anyway.

At Rajiv Chowk, it was a challenge to get out of the train. To top it, we were in the “general” coach, so those waiting outside were mostly (wild, impatient) men. As soon as the gate opened, the entire crowd bustling with impatience tried to force their way in—thus kicking and pushing and knocking the ones inside. Amid all the chaos, when we were about to find our way, somebody pushed Sheilaji real hard from the front, she was about to fall. It was bad.

We went to a few places from there. Travelling in autos, buses, rickshaws, I made it a point that our honourable CM gets to face all that an ordinary Delhi woman normally has to. Be it the cunning autorickshaw-driver who demands a lot more money than that charged by the meter (knowing that she wouldn’t have the grit to get into a dirty fight) or the rickshaw-puller who will be singing weird songs all along or worse still, the street-men who would try to follow you/touch you and if someone’s day is bad, then maybe even misbehave with you. These are things that not every woman suffers in the city, but the painful fact is, there are things that women do suffer in the city.

Sheila Dikshit on the road at night. She is not wearing skimpy clothes. (Illustration: Rajat Goel)

The most crucial time was here. It was 7 P.M. and we were stuck somewhere. No auto, no bus and the road was pretty deserted. Wintry deserted roads are the scariest thing about Delhi. We stood there at the bus-stop. Several cars passed by. Just then, a Honda City, with a gang of guys—possibly drunk—and music playing in full swagger, came. It almost stopped in front of us. Somebody passed a lewd remark, somebody else invited us to join in. Sheilaji suggested teaching them a lesson, scolding them. I warned her to behave wisely, we were alone and nobody was going to come out and help anyway. “But how can we just withstand all this?” she asked. Try your helpline numbers, I said.

Thankfully, that passed by. We saw an auto somewhere and started walking towards it. Just then, god knows from where, a super speeding bike came, stopped near us and within a fraction of a second, did something. It took us some moments to realize what had happened. The guys just snatched the gold chain our CM was wearing. She looked at me bewildered. I said, let’s just be happy that they spared us. We saw a PCR somewhere, but honestly, the policemen were no less scary. Clearly in a drunk state and ogling at women like an ordinary sick-minded man, they offered the least respite from the fear we went through, then.

The day was over. I didn’t have to do a single thing to let our CM know of the fear, the wrath we have to go through, living in this city. My last words to her were:

I hope you know now, that isn’t the woman’s attire that incites men, or the crimes that follow, it is the attitude. Owing to steeping crime rates in the city, lack of appropriate measures to deal with eve-teasing—somewhat the mildest form of crime against women—dogs like these are fearlessly walking about the streets. There are bad people everywhere, it is to control them only, that rules have to be imposed and action taken, to let them know, they dare not touch a woman against her will.

A man walking without his T-shirt won’t have any trouble. People might just laugh him off. Why then can a woman not get to wear what she likes? A pair of shorts or a mini-skirt or whatever it be, what laws is she breaking by donning such attire? How on earth can then, people like you, Mrs Dikshit, blame the girls for anything wrong that happens to them under your rule?

And you know what, Mrs Dikshit, if you were to go to the Police Commissioner right now, to complain about such people or report about eve-teasing, you’d know how bad it pains to get to hear: who told you to be out at that time, alone? You must have been wearing something revealing.

What the hell, I say. What’s all that shit about woman empowerment, when we can’t even wear what we like, go where we like and have to depend on male-friends to escort us everywhere. If you can’t do your job right and protect the state’s citizens, why should we suffer?

Not that something is happening to every woman here. But a lot is happening with a lot of women here. But what grieves us most, is the stark fear and sense of insecurity we live with, in our own city, daily.


Must-read: A 10-year-old girl’s open letter to Sheila Dikshit


About the author

Sugandha

7 Comments

  • A must read for every Delhite !
    Lol at the incidents which you talked of Sugandha !
    and at the place Rajat made her stand :p :p
    v Nice piece ! 🙂

  • The whole part in italics at the bottom is very true. Must have been said a thousand times before, but every time I read something of the sort, I cannot help but agree and feel sorry. indeed, it’s a mad world.

  • Most of the incidents you have quoted have truth in them, but you also tend to over analyze some situations. Now the metros are crowded at certain times, no doubt about that. People do stink, men and women both. Everyone has a problem with that, be it a man or a lady. Men do not think that the whole metro is ‘reserved’ for them. It’s just that when they find an empty seat, they tend to grab it, and so do you. If you need someone to give you a reserved seat, you need to ask for it, it’s not a big price to pay I would say. And I do see people giving up the reserved seats each and every time I travel.

    I travel to Rajiv Chowk frequently and considering the amount of crowd at this station, I think people behave quite calmly. They tend to wait for people to get out of the metro and are always lined up at the gates. Yes, I am talking about the general compartments. Everyone needs to go to work, everyone is in a hurry, you can’t expect people to hold a signboard and make way for you.

    I appreciate the overall effort to bring to light the problems women are facing in Delhi but the overall tone of the article and the strong emphasis about men being the reason for every known trouble to women kills the spirit and makes it just one of articles written by a feminist who thinks men can never amount to any good.

    • Well Ankit, I agree with your views. But, I would like to leap to the defence of the author, who I might daresay is not being a feminist here. She may have exaggerated a few details here and there, but that is just to highlight the plight of women.

    • @Ankit: I appreciate your point of view. But, while you might call me a feminist elsewhere, for another thought of mine, here, I refuse to accept that I am being so.

      But I can see why you don’t like what you don’t like. Actually, it is obviously impossible for a woman (or two) to be tormented like this by men at every minute, everywhere. But since my motive here was to ‘show Mrs Dikshit’ how bad it can be, and I had only a day for it (as per the concept), I had to club in together various (TRUE) incidents that I, as a girl living in Delhi and with many other female friends (obviously), know of. I hope that clearly explains the situation. Thanks for reading.

  • Appreciate the effort you took to take up the challenge and bringing forth a lot of points. Without being judgmental, I would simply like to ask a small question.

    Pointing problems is good only if a solution is proposed, else it is nothing but cribbing. You have a point to put, then you should; but just to avoid the point losing it’s weight and to ensure that you yourself have understood the situation and are willing to contribute towards a change; I would love to see suggestions for improvement coming in, also volunteering to be a part of the solution.

    Also, please excuse me, I have no intention to hurt anyone, but I guess a lot of the article seems to bring a hate against men in general and trying to show that women need a lot of protection.. Frankly, the way you wrote about men is rude and does not solve the purpose (may actually put off a few men support you might get). Women are empowered a lot, but by expecting favor for a seat in metro, they underestimate their own strength and make themselves fall down.

    Women a lot strong, they have the strength to bind the family and hence are respected and loved by all.. Please don’t lose your self-respect or esteem just to get a seat for a few minutes..

    The challenges faced by women in day to day live surely need serious attention, but we should be the part of the change..

    Lets not just blame others, but lets introspect and see how is that we are many women in our family strong, how is that we are adding to the security..

    @Sugandha: Appreciate your efforts and best of luck.

    • I’m sorry if i’m sounding rude, but are you really that daft? of all the things that you could have understood from the article you feel that all that Sugandha is trying to point out is that she does not get a seat in a metro?

      I agree she points out to the problems faced by women and girls and that is the whole point of the article, to make you think. its just a glimpse into the everyday life of a girl in Delhi, and why don’t you come up with solutions since you feel there is a need for them. its not you who is harassed on the roads and buses. We ARE! If you think we are feminist to put these views out in the open then we ARE!. what is wrong in being a feminist? you stay stand up and fight for the problems, well this is how we fight. And we don’t hate all the men in the world, we have fathers and brothers and friends all of whom are males as you might be knowing and we don’t hold prejudice. It is the minority from your gender that acts in lewd manner that prompts such articles to come up. So next time before calling some one a feminist, just check how much of a masculinist you sound.

      Lastly, You say that what she wrote about men is rude and you even go ahead and point out that women might lose the support of some guys who might have supported us after reading her article? then i would say shame on you and those men who will not support our cause because its through the indifference of guys like this that life turns to be hell for us.

      @Sugandha – Hats Off to you girl! finally someone took the chance to show our side of the perspective to the tongue-bashing media and govt. who blame us and our dressing for all the wrongs that we face.

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