Walking on the streets of Lok Vihar after sunset isn’t the best feeling. This is especially true if you’re a female like my friend who was also my host in Delhi. Ketki prefers travelling by taxis wherever she goes out not only because it is convenient, but also because it feels safe. ‘Feeling’ may be a really abstract term, but it is also very powerful. The visceral feelings are hard to explain but understanding these as a designer is necessary as they drive our behaviour.
Delhi, the capital territory of India, doesn’t do well when it comes to women’s safety. It sits adjacent to the most violent state in India: Uttar Pradesh. So, it is easy to blame the shortcomings on the immigrants. But really, it is the failure of our society.
My cousins and I were driving around at Bandstand in Bombay at around 2am. I noted that the place seemed unsafe because I could only see males in the area. My female cousin felt the same but was quite surprised at how I felt. For me, the imbalance of genders with a higher density of men reflects heavily on the society: maybe the society is bias when it comes to women’s rights, maybe they are not equally represented in the government, not respected, and so on. This is all of course in comparison to safer cities like Sydney which I have lived in for well over a year.
Public Art at Lodhi Colony, Delhi
Compared to Bombay, Delhi seems much more backward. Walking from India Habitat Centre to South Extension station on the Pink Line metro after sunset didn’t seem much of a challenge. But after we left the more lively and well-lit areas, I started to grow more aware of my surroundings. As we crossed the foot over bridge near Sewa Nagar railway station, we (Ketki and 2 of us guys) thought it was a good idea for Ketki to walk between the two of us. There were few men on the road, but that was about it. We began walking faster as news from Delhi’s recent past regarding women safety began popping in my mind. It seemed to be all over as we boarded the late evening Pink Line metro from South Extension station.
However, the awkwardness continued. I noted that there were 2 or 3 women amongst the sea of passengers getting down at Shakurpur. Ketki and I made sure to be close to each other. Even when this station was so close to her place, we preferred to take a rickshaw to her place. We started seeing more of children and women as we got closer to Ketki’s place.
I found the whole experience frustrating. I wouldn’t do it again. So, I can only speculate on how Ketki felt during our long walk. We decided to leave out the details while sharing the day’s adventures with her parents.
This has to change. Delhi is the national capital territory of India (New Delhi is the capital district). It should serve as an idol for the rest of the nation to follow. At the very least, not so far from being one. This is a failure on many levels. Installing street lamps, having more security guards, or imposing capital punishment for rape will not solve this. These are band-aid solutions to issues deep-rooted within our societies. I hope the society of this diverse nation changes for the better of all in the near future.