This should never have happened to me. This city has failed me.
That night, I did not see any patrols on that street. And Uber, the taxi-hailing service that I had trusted, had employed a driver with a criminal background, without a (Public Service Vehicle) badge. I later learnt that they had also neglected a complaint by another female passenger, Nidhi Shah, about driver Shiv Kumar Yadav’s conduct, and failed to take action. The irreversible loss that my family and I have suffered because of this is unimaginable.
On December 5, when I walked out with my friends after having dinner, I chose to travel by a reputed cab service hoping to reach home safely and because, after the December 16 gangrape two years ago, this is what was recommended to every Indian girl — take a safe option to reach home.
I had used Uber so many times that I trusted them completely. Also, I did not want to trouble my friends and colleagues by asking them to drop me home.
Today, I find it difficult to sleep. Memories of that night keep coming back in flashes to haunt me. I try to sleep but can’t because of the constant fear. The incident has left a deep impact on my psyche, I feel scared to go out alone.
But I was never like this before. I had attended a school where the environment was very liberal. They taught us how to be practical, inculcating values of freedom and courage at a very young age. At Delhi University, where I completed my graduation, I used to travel by public transport, but never faced any harassment.
I have always believed that if I see something wrong, something I feel strongly for, I will speak up, even if it means opposing my family or friends or relatives. That is why, after the incident that night, I called the police first, before even informing my parents.
And that is also why in December 2012, after the gangrape happened, I took to the streets in protest and urged my family and friends to join.
I strongly feel about the issue of women’s safety. The government may have taken a stand then but I don’t think it has been a concrete one. No strong message has been sent out to society. It hasn’t deterred the criminals. There are hundreds of other, similar cases.
Isn’t it ironic that the Uber driver had the audacity to threaten me by saying he would use an iron rod on me? Instead of being deterred, this man actually used the December 16 gangrape to scare and assault a woman.
I pray for justice, stringent punishment for the accused, action against Uber. If no action is taken this time, we have failed as a society, as a government, as a system, as a country and as human beings. A clear and strong message needs to go out.
Yet, I also appreciate Delhi Police. They were humble in their behaviour and efficient in finding the culprit. In fact, I wanted to give them a reward, but they did not accept it. The senior officers just said that I could treat the entire investigation team to a cup of coffee, instead.
Now, looking ahead, there’s the question of managing society and my career. Some people in my neighbourhood have already started raising questions about my dignity. I have stopped going out alone and I am facing immense difficulty in coping with the pressure.
For instance, a friend of my mother called her after an incorrect newspaper report, asking why we had filed a case. She told my mother, ‘Badnaami hogi (You will get a bad name)’. My mother replied, ‘Badnaami uski hogi jisne yeh kaam kiya hai, meri nahin (The people who will get a bad name are those that did this, not me)’. She said she was proud of me for reporting the incident.
Some of my colleagues, who claimed to be friends, would message me, saying how I could “shut” my eyes to “reality” and “not face the world.” Later, some friends took me out to make me feel better. I realised that those who stood by me in this testing time were my real friends.
Now, I have started working again. My office has been very supportive. My seniors are in regular touch with me and are tracking my progress. They have also provided me with counsellors to help me feel better.
It’s not just my colleagues and seniors, others have shown sensitivity too. After the incident, I attended a wedding where no one asked me about it.
So now, after what has happened to me, if someone does not have a brother or a husband or a male guardian to tag along, does a girl stop going out? Do you want her to sit at home?
We have the right to go out, too, and work peacefully. I have visited other countries with my parents and never felt unsafe. In fact, travelling is my passion. But I have realised now that this city is unsafe. I cannot go out alone. I will think twice before going out alone.
For me to feel safe again here, the most important thing is to have cabs driven by women drivers. More patrolling and increased police presence also help women feel safe. When a girl is travelling in a cab, the vehicle should be properly checked and details of drivers must be thoroughly inspected. If Uber had been diligent enough, this incident would never have happened.
Also, the public needs to be sensitised. People usually tend to avoid instances where they feel they will get embroiled in police and court cases. That mentality must be done away with.
I also believe that more opportunities must be given to women if such incidents are to be curbed. India is a male-dominated society, and men will not be able to take women for granted if there are equal opportunities. Education, too, plays a very important role in how we shape our young minds.
As for the new generation, people of my own age, I want to say this: Speak up, see something, say something. Don’t be quiet.
As narrated to Sumegha Gulati
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