It was a day or two after the Uber rape incident. Three of us were going to meet over drinks at a popular South Delhi bar. We decided to drive ourselves to the said destination and cap our evening by 9 pm. We took stock of the city's situation, post the assault, and considered activating the rape safety valve. There were new rules this time that we needed to be aware of. Don't take a cab, drink less, do not doze off, and drive home at an hour that is positively 'rape-free'.
Delhi has been seeing change since the last December brutal gang rape incident. After each such episode there is inevitably lovely sloganeering all around, all-black profile pictures on Facebook, vigil marches and police barricades at every nook and cranny of the city for a week bringing traffic to its knees.
We thought it was time to capitalize the rape-free hour that evening. Taking cue from the messiahs of women, I am obliged to share this nifty little secret of how to calculate a rape-free hour. It is ingenious. Here's how you do it. Now pay very close attention.
You minus all the time you desire to loiter in the city post sunset, you don't get stuck in dingy alleyways, you don't order an LIT (Long-Island Ice Tea), you keep a father, brother, boyfriend, any reliable, preferably familial, male entity at close proximity, you negotiate with your boss to let you off early everyday of your work week, you set a curfew hour that is acceptable by your parents, your landlord or your husband, you always address the 'other male' as bhaiyya (brother) -- even if it is your assailant. In short you just keep a very low profile, invisible to be precise.
It is time we get used to being cut off from the public space and take solace in the fact that we have celebrities rooting for us. Just as they canvas for 'Save the Tiger', they too will cry for us. 'Save our sisters.' Yes, that's how you escape rape. After all who wants to be hunted? Not even the tiger. Aren't we glad we have dreamy men posing on billboards urging humanity to restore our dignity. Isn't that what this is all about?
Live with these demarcations, ladies. Liberty and license be damned. For far too long we have been championing ideas of equality. Utter bollocks. Self-censorship is deservedly the way forward. After all, we got ourselves the snazzy pink Ladies compartment in the Delhi metro where we squeeze butt-to-butt, armpit-to-armpit and feel a tremendous surge of sisterhood and safety. It's like sorority club on rail. How cool is that?
For most part, these handy tips have been tried and tested by some of the most emancipated women I know. But we have never been able to arrive at the so-called rape-free hour. Women still get assaulted. They still get preached to. And it is usually regarded as the women' problem.
Guess what! There is no excuse for the city drawing its shutters on us. The city cannot be off limits for women. It is ours. And will always be so.
On that note, the three of us met again, another evening, and we stood put till the time we wanted to. Misogyny and stupidity be damned.