I am a runner, I love running outdoors, discovering new routes and seeing new places. In fact, that’s how I love to explore new cities. I recently moved to New Delhi and will be living here for the next couple of months. A transition like this is bound to make you feel insecure, anxious and uprooted- amidst all the excitement, there is a feeling of having to start-over. No qualms about the re-do part, because I’ve genuinely wanted to do this for a while. I know people around, and I’ve been to the city too many times to feel completely lost around here. I’m trying to embrace this city, settle down and discover Dilli! The only question on my mind though- am I really free here? By free, I mean safe for some incoherent reason…
Everywhere I go, right from the building that I live in to the streets, and to every single corner, I feel eyes following me. It makes me feel really conscious and nauseous at the same time. It could be all in my head, or it could seriously be happening. Earlier this morning, I was leaving Leisure Valley with the plan to run back home. As soon as I got out of the park, I was waiting to cross the road when an Innova stopped on the other side of the road- and the driver was point blank just staring at me. Cars were behind his and started honking, but he just sat there and wouldn’t budge. Then he moved his car to the turn, stopped again and signaled at me. I felt something I hadn’t felt in a while. I felt fear. What if he followed me back home? What if he tried to do something on my way back? I was frightful that he would come for me, and I kept looking to see if he’d drove away.
Guess what I did just after crossing the road? I got into an auto-rickshaw, ended my nike+ run and exhaled a deep sigh. My body wanted to run longer, and I could’ve easily run the 4K back home- but I chickened out. After the exhaustion of running, I did not want to have to go through a personal attack or combat of any sorts. I chose to not fight. I call myself a warrior, I’ve done MMA and Kung Fu so when push comes to shove, I can really protect myself. But it’s one of the things you know, you know have the ability but you kind of wish you’re never tested on those lines..
I have had a very protected childhood. Then, I moved to the UK for my undergraduate got into this habit of running everywhere, and am so consumed by it that one of my biggest fears is a tragedy that’d affect my legs. Be it London, Coventry, Cardiff, Scotland or anywhere that I’ve traveled there, I felt free to explore and create new routes, find secret attractions and meditate anywhere I felt like. Coming back to India, I feel like my love for running is being taken a toll over by eyes that rape. It almost feels like they’ve never seen a girl before, or it is their god damn right to throw sharp ravenous glares at me.
An article by Michaela Cross described how she felt, and it resonates with me so much, in my own country that I’m going to share her words. “There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. I was prepared for my actions to be taken as sex signals; I was not prepared to understand that there were no sex signals, only women’s bodies to be taken, or hidden away.” What if one morning I set out to run 25K, really out-perform myself and get taken or attacked? It doesn’t sound so hypothetical, cause these things happen for real here, and it just might.
How am I supposed to sustain the determination if I don’t feel safe? If at every step, I feel like maybe I should go to a park nearby and run inside? I want to win laurels for the country, but at the moment all I’m winning is insecurity. My mind over matter technique will take some training to get used to this indirect, perpetual and prolonged exposure to eyes that hunt. I know I’ll get my way around this, but even if I do, there are hundreds who won’t be able to! Aggressive, starved and vicious packs are out prowling on the road- how do we stop them? What if anything ever happens to me on the road…what if?
I just want to run you know, that’s all I’m asking for. How am I supposed to feel or where do I go if I don’t feel safe in my own country?
Make India safe, please.