It is terrifying being a woman in Delhi.
I have been waiting to watch a film all week but the film I wanted to watch was based on “Arushi’s Murder Case” and it did not have really good reviews so no one agreed to tag along. I waited almost a week and then I decided to watch the movie by myself.
It isn’t that bad to watch a movie on your own, is it? People can judge me all they want but I am quite secure or so I thought. As I walked out of my house I immediately called a friend, who wasn’t well and therefore couldn’t watch the film with me. I then called my erstwhile guitar teacher who is also a famous cricket commentator now. He agreed to meet me at the theatre but did not want to watch the film I wanted to watch. Anyhow, I was late for the film I wanted to watch so I checked BookMyShow’s app and tickets to “Birdman” were available. Great, I thought, now all I have to do is reach the mall on time.
I got into the car and immediately locked the doors from inside, I then took off my heels to ensure I could drive confidently. I set Google Maps to the mall where PVR is. I don’t drive a lot and haven’t ever driven a lot so I am not very good with roads, neither am I a very confident driver, especially when I am nervous. I am not a bad driver. If I know where I am going and it’s daytime I can drive like a charm.
There were several trucks on the highway and I had tied my hair up and worn a hoodie to make sure I don’t look like a woman from outside the car, I know it seems lame but it makes me feel weirdly secure. If they see a woman in a car, who know what they will do?
There was a lot of truck traffic on the way and a policeman stopped me (I am terrified of traffic policemen too), it wasn’t for anything serious, the traffic signal wasn’t working so some policemen were directing traffic.
I finally reached the mall and it was now time to park. The first basement was full so I had to go down to the second basement which was quite empty. I was petrified. I looked inside my bag frantically to see if I was carrying my pepper spray, but I wasn’t. I wore my heels back peeped outside the car in an attempt to locate the lift lobby before getting out of my car, it was nowhere to be seen. I felt a lump in my throat. I swallowed it and bravely got out of the car and rushed to the nearest lift lobby I could find. The security guard and a couple of men stared at me, the glances made me extremely uncomfortable but I walked nonchalantly into the waiting area. I was relived to see that a couple also walked in a few minutes after me. I suddenly felt safer.
I reached the 3rd floor and it was now time to book tickets. My friend hadn’t reached because he was coming all the way from Saket. I called to tell him that we were only getting front row tickets for Birdman’s 8:45 PM show. The other option we had was to watch the 11:10 PM show. That would be too late for my friend as he was planning to take the metro to get back home. “What do we do?” I asked. “We have the option of the 11:10 PM show and I can always take a cab back!” he said. It seemed fine to me and I went to get tickets. I was at the counter when the Manager said tickets of the second last row for the 8:45 PM show are available. I was very pleased and called to let him know. He said he would be there shortly. I went into the theatre before him as the film had started and he joined me.
It is always hard for me to focus on a film when I have missed the beginning. Anyhow, I tried to focus but I kept calculating in my head how long the movie would be and when we would be out because the idea of going home alone was freaking me out. I decided that I am going to ask my friend to drop me to the basement and then we would drive up together to the metro station where he could get down and I could go my way. I was also thinking that I must get cash out as I have to pay for parking.
The movie finished at 10:55 PM and my friend immediately realised that he must rush to the metro. I told him that I would have really liked him to drop me to the basement which he said he would do but since he is much younger than I am I did not want him to be unsafe either as he had a long way to go too. I told him I would be fine and went down with the other people who walked out of the theatre.
Most of them got down at the first basement and the lift was almost empty. There were a few men in the lift looking at me and I felt my heart would explode. The lift read “-2” and I got down, I was so frozen that I couldn’t find my car. I used my keys to located it but I could feel the clock ticking, I must leave now. I must leave NOW. It was like a time bomb, a sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I must leave, it is getting really really late.
I found my car, got into it and immediately locked it from inside. I realised I had forgotten to get cash out. I usually have 1000 rupees in my wallet but because this was an impromptu trip and I had just given the money to mom, I had nothing. I frantically looked inside my bag to find something. I tied my hair and covered myself in the hoodie again. I kept searching and only found change, 24 rupees were all I had. I was really hoping the parking would be 20. I reached the exit barricade and pulled over to the side. My hands were trembling. How shall I approach the guard? It is so late? I really don’t want to go back into the empty mall to get cash out. Then I suddenly thought of an idea. I would ask them to keep my DL or ID and would come back the next morning for it. When I told the guard my house was an 30 minutes away it is night time so I really don’t want to go back into the mall and get cash, he said he would have to call his supervisor to see if he could do something. He came back a minute later and asked me for my ticket. He took it away. He came back and told me that I owe them 50 rupees. He also offered to pay the 26 rupees for me. “Really? Thank you so much bhaiya! I will come back to pay you!” I said. I was extremely pleased with his kindness. “I must take him a box of sweets to thank him for being so nice to me!”, I thought.
I set Google Maps again, locked the car and began the drive back home. I don’t know what it would be like to be inside a torture chamber but my shoulders felt heavy. I felt like there was a big boulder on my head. My head hurt, my heart was beating fast and I kept looking at the clock. All this waiting around had cost me 30 minutes. It was now 11:30 PM. The SAT NAV said it would take ½ an hour to get home and I was dying inside. I couldn’t listen to the radio because I wanted to be absolutely alert. I spotted a lot of “Thekas” and drunk people but I kept driving on. There were absolutely no police check posts to be found anywhere. I remember when the “Nirbhaya Rape Case” had happened. A million check posts had suddenly emerged. Today, there were none. ZERO. The traffic policemen from earlier were also missing. I kept driving focussing hard on directions. Suddenly crazy dogs that bark at moving cars comforted me. The seemed like the sane ones.
The roads were only covered with taxi and truck drivers. I was reminded of an incident when one of my friends had told me that a truck driver’s assistant had once toppled a man over breaking his leg. The truck driver then got in and killed him with his truck because he did not want any police related complications for breaking his leg. I felt more burdened. It was like I was in the movie SAW and I was about to be killed. It was as if I was expecting or fearing for something to happen. As I got closer to my house the burden seemed to be lifted off of my head and shoulders. However, when I reached my society and got to the basement parking, the fear was back. I kept thinking in my head, “I don’t even feel safe in my own society!” When I got into my lift and got home I cried in relief.
My phone suddenly buzzed: NDTV News Flash: “Eight year old girl’s body found in a shed, police suspect rape and murder.”