Safety in India, particularly for women, has always been a concern. That’s not to say that India is completely unsafe for women. However giving due respect to recent “unforgivable” crimes against women and girls, it is imperative that all of us share tips that’ll help every woman, girl and young child walk freely with their head held high in every city and town, of the world, not just India. This is my contribution to the same. Since I’m based out of Bangalore, I’ve written with respect to this beautiful city. However they’re applicable everywhere.
1. Transportation and commute:
A general rule of thumb here is to pick your mode of transport wisely. Whilst public transport such as buses and autos can be often safe, the time of day should play a pivotal role in picking the mode of transport. For example, during peak hours, avoid public buses since it is quite likely that you’d find yourself right in the middle of a packed crowd, constituted mostly of unknown men. Definitely a situation that you’d not want to be in. Similarly at late nights, if alone, try and avoid taking autos and flagged down cabs. Always try and use a registered radio cab service, which is often recommended to be safer. Yes, it might be a tad more expensive; but safety is of paramount importance, isn’t it?
2. Be connected:
If travelling alone at night (or sometimes even in daylight) or through less crowded/populated areas, always remain connected. Great tips are to text your cab number/driver name/ vehicle colour etc to someone, or better yet, get on the phone and convey these loudly to your confidant on the other end of the line. This should deter the driver (or his partner(s)) from attempting to do anything immoral to you. This might also be a great opportunity to call up a friend or relative that you may have not been in touch for a while. It doesn’t matter who you call - it’s about remaining connected. Alternatively some of the popular radio cab services in most metros, also provide an option of SMS tracking when you book the cab. So your alternate registered contact will continue receiving SMS’s every time your location changes and until you reach your destination. I recently signed up for this option when my wife had to travel to the airport alone. We’d booked Meru cabs in Bangalore.
3. Use Social Media effectively:
Like most of us, I’m also guilty of having used Twitter and Facebook, to “virtually” check-in. Usually it is for unimportant things like hotels, restaurants, movies and the likes. However using a social media check-in when starting a journey, can actually help people locate your whereabouts. Yes, it doesn’t deter the driver from trying any hanky-panky business, but at least people are aware of your surroundings
4. Speed-dial it:
It is one of the functions that is present on even the most basic phones, yet not many of us choose to use it. Save the contact numbers of your local police stations as well as your emergency contacts on your speed dial. Most phones even let you dial out your emergency contacts even if the screens are password protected. So if anything goes wrong, all you need to do is hold down on the relevant speed dial number and it dials your emergency contact.
5. Travelling companionship:
Appreciate that this is not always possible, but when you can, always travel in groups, or at least with another companion, preferably male. Yes, I know, it makes me sound sexist and someone against women’s right to freedom. Trust me, it is a safety precaution that can work, especially in India. But do make sure you are travelling with someone you know well, such as an office colleague or a friend. If taking a cab or an auto, even if it increases your travelling companion’s journey time, try and get dropped off first.
6. Travelling to a new city for work:
If travelling to a new city for work, or even relocating, ensure you ask your company to organise the move as well as make arrangements for your stay. Also ask them for their relevant local contacts that you can use once you move. And then ensure you do some research about where you are going to be put up. Always ensure that you completely lock the doors and windows if you’re put up in a hotel. I know it goes without saying, but you’d be surprised at the amount of people I’ve spoken to, who do not lock the windows or doors in the hotel, simply because they assume that it’s already locked.
7. Crowds and festivities:
In most places across India, festivals are celebrated with great pomp and splendour. People swarm out onto the street like an army of ants. Understandably most of us tend to let go of our inhibitions and join the fun at times. However do pay extra attention to street celebrations in India. Try and avoid mixing with strangers during these celebrations, especially during times of Holi and Diwali. Additionally do not, and I stress DO NOT, accept any sweets, food or drink form people you do not know. It might appear a bit rude, but your safety always comes first.
8. Use “Smart Safety” apps:
With most of us having embraced smartphones, this should be an easy precaution to take. There are many reputed safety apps available, irrespective of the platform or type of smartphone you use. These apps such as Smart Suraksha, enable you to pre-program emergency numbers and send urgent SMS’s to both your contacts as well the local police stations with your location. We have the technology, so it’s time to use it effectively for our safety.
9. Arm yourselves:
No, I do not mean you become a gun-toting maniac. However you can have a number of small items in your handbag which can serve you well to help defend from these lunatic men. Great examples of such inconspicuous “tools” are Pepper Spray cans, Maglite® torches (trust me, they are worth every paisa as a weapon too), a strong umbrella which can also be used to beat the crap out of your assailants.
10. Be firm with your body language, vocal and learn some form of self-defence
If anyone makes you uncomfortable either through teasing, being too close or even staring at you, you have all the right to draw everyone’s attention. Such men, almost always, test the boundaries through an accidental brushing of your arms or other places. Use a firm push of the hand and aggressively set your boundaries. Be vocal and just walk away. They are unlikely to follow you further, if in a public place. Additionally it always helps if you take a few self-defence classes. There is absolutely no substitute for an aggressive kick to the groin to some of these shameful excuses for men-kind.
It should come as no surprise that most of these tips are applicable in every city, and not just for women in/visiting Bangalore.
In today’s world, where some of these men are capable of making you feel gross and dirty without even touching you, it is essential that every woman and girl is armed with the knowledge of how to get out of a sticky situations, should you find yourself in one.
Stay Safe all!