YOUNG COLLEGE boys in flash cars, loud music reverberating from their vehicles, squealing rubber on tar and catcalls, as the vehicles stop-start at the sight of the other sex — it’s all too common in Sector 10, the heart of Chandigarh’s infamous geri route.
And what’s common too is the view that there is nothing wrong about this activity. The word geri literally means “round” or roam, but over the decades, Chandigarh has embraced and normalised the “boys follow girls” routine that takes place on this route through sectors 8, 9, 10 to 11. This is also where DAV College, Home Science College for Girls in Sector 10 and Government College for Girls in Sector 11 are located. “We come to relax our eyes here,” said one male college student.
Varnika Kundu’s ordeal took place late at night, but on the geri route, stalking takes place in broad daylight, is a public activity, and treated as if it is a coming-of-age ritual.
The men are all in swanky cars or on motorbikes. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that the ritualisation of stalking and ogling on the geri route grew as car ownership became common among youth in the late 1980s, and moved to a new level in the 1990s.
Girl students of Arts College in Sector 10, adjoining the Leisure Valley Park, are the most vulnerable. The men mostly drive Punjab-registered cars.
“We have heard a lot about geri route and this Leisure Valley route. We are hostellers and students of a private college and we are here just for a drive with friends,” said one man, who was there with his friends last Thursday.
The activity peaks at the beginning of each academic year, as well as on Valentine’s Day and Holi, two occasions when men seem to think they have the licence to cross all lines of decent conduct, and with women they do not know.
The police are mostly onlookers, holding that they cannot act until someone complains. But so normal has this activity become that there are few complaints from women of harassment on the geri route.