When I thought about what my first thought every morning was and what followed after, I realised I have an extensive, exhaustive mental checklist that could give even the president’s list of scheduled meetings a run for its money.
As I begin my day, I involuntarily tick off imaginary boxes: should I use the metro or the bus? If the metro, then what should I wear so that I am not gawked at? And if the bus, how many men are going to scan me from a top to bottom for god only knows which secret security agency? And what should I do about it today that will be different from my reaction the previous day?
This mental ticking of the imaginary checklist continues on public transport alongside consciously keeping an eye on my surroundings; it’s like I have an inbuilt radar. As I scroll through the news on my phone, reading about the devastating incident of a girl being molested in so-and-so area, a woman attacked by bikers, a girl raped on her way to school, I add further ticks in my head, that something has to be done about this, and soon.
I am constantly on this ticking-mental-checklist mode. Should I use the lift if I’m alone? Should I use the stairs if they’re dimly lit? Should I take the underpass if it is deserted, or just jaywalk? These mental ticks are applicable to people as well. Should I cringe at the sight of a man staring at me incessantly, or respond and confront him? Should I go out with friends after work or adhere to the infamous “get home before dark” deadline?
Having ticked these innumerous, imaginary but very-much-there boxes, I realized how mentally drained I feel – not because of any physical exertion or a tiring day at work, but because of the constant pressure I am putting myself under to ensure I am safe just because my city is unsafe. Be it public transport, public places, workplaces, educational institutions or our own houses, women have been victims of enduring violence and harassment in varied forms. Given that I have been subjected to domestic violence in unimaginable ways myself, just the thought that so many women still continue to face it behind locked doors, but hardly unknown to people makes me shiver.
The city and the people residing in it – our society – have exerted women to this extent by attacking their strength, safety and integrity. So many women suffer this plight every single day for years at a stretch, failing to understand when their misery will end.
So many parts of the world are seeing incredible innovations by women, women who are extremely successful and achieving great laurels. Be it technology, politics, healthcare or education, there is not a single area in which women have failed to leave an indelible mark.
A stark contrast to this are the other parts of the world where women are beaten, locked up, deprived of food and water, molested, harassed – their souls are scarred and they are left to wither. Their dreams are crushed and covered up by people who fulfil their own dreams at these women’s expense.
A woman is forced to give up so many basics so that we can get every luxury we have entitled ourselves to today. We treat her as luggage that languishes at the carousel, we discard her like rotten food that is worth less once its covering is ripped off, we forget to thank her, for she is an inanimate object for most of us, we fail to value her as we think we are entitled to her, as if she is a commodity we can avail of as and when we want. We fail to acknowledge her and give her the respect she deserves.
However, in this extremely grim state of the society, a flicker of hope can now be seen. Today, an amazing number of people have started fighting for all the women who are unable to do so, fighting a battle that aims for equality in every sphere of life. No matter that it might take vigorous campaigning, rigorous rallies, and great movements to bring about this change, these people are not stepping back.
Silence may be the biggest harassment a woman suffers, but this silence is gaining a voice, and this voice is getting undeniably louder and stronger. Needless to say but still important to assert time and again: respect women, respect life!
A B.Tech in biotechnology, Salini Sharma currently works as a Cancer Research Editor. She is an active member of the Delhi Outreach Team of Safecity. A university gold medalist and the first corporate-employed woman from her family, the cause of women empowerment drives her, and a major part of her social and personal life revolves around it.