Jessica hated the London Tube during peak hours. She could think of many things she'd rather do than be pressed against smelly armpits or the top her head being scratched by the scruffiness of unshaved men. As the new showbiz editor for the prestigious Vogue magazine, Jessica was settled career-wise. Her impeccable and elegant dressing sense made her one of the go-to fashionistas in London. As she re-read her questions for her interview of the new Hollywood heart-throb, James Griffin, she briefly glanced at the profile photo of the man who had successfully dethroned the big hitters. Unlike the six-pack sporting, clean-shaven blokes that she fancied, James had long dishevelled hair and always sported a week-old stubble. “I hate that smelly stubble in men” thought Jessica as she got off. As she sat down at the coffee shop of The Savoy, she thought “He’s late. I hate that in men too”.
Suddenly a dapper looking man slid into the seat opposite her. “Jessica, is it? I’m James Griffin” he said extending a hand-shake. As Jessica extended her hand outward, she couldn’t help but notice his neatly trimmed hair and clean-shaven face.”Wow”she thought ”He looks amazing!”
Oh, in case you are still wondering about how much of a difference a shave can make, just take a look at the two photos below of Henry Cavill - yes, the new Superman dude, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Oh, yes, I think a day or two old stubble can look smart, if trimmed to perfection.
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!
As she panted up the stairs of the partly constructed building, Ramya wondered if she’d made a mistake. The rapidly catching up foot steps from the floors below did not give her the liberty of time required for straight thinking, and she continued climbing, taking 2 steps at once, in order to leave some gap between her pursuers and herself.
As she skipped up the 11th floor, she saw a rather large block of wood cordoning off the entrance into that section. All she could see was pitch dark blackness. There were no lights or lamps from this floor onwards, and she had to make a decision quickly. She strained her eyes to try and identify a suitable hiding place amongst all the construction rubble. All she could see was an infinite expanse of blackness. She strained her ears to try and locate the loud sounds that her pursuers' boots were making against the cement stairs. They still seemed to be a few floors below her. "Probably the 6th floor”, she thought.
“Maybe I should hide here” she thought “If I can’t see anything, probably they can’t either”. As she stood there contemplating her way out, as if by magic, the clouds suddenly parted to reveal a glowing full moon, which quickly bathed the entire building in light. She panicked. Hiding here was no longer an option. “But I can try and throw them off track to buy some time” she mused. As she looked back beyond the cordoned area, she noticed a number of huge metal drums. Slowly an idea formed in her mind.
She quickly picked up the wooden block and threw it with all the force she could muster, into the rows of metal drums. As the wood collided with the metal drums, loud clangs reverbertaed around the building. She was sure they’d heard them too. She heard them stop, now just a couple of floors below her, and exchange a few confused questions, trying to ascertain her position. She took off her heeled footwear, and quickly climbed up to the next floor. The moon had gone back into hiding again, and she could only hope that there were more metal drums on this floor as well. She listened out for footsteps. All she could hear were the two men whispering something. She could also see the odd flashes of light from their torches a few floors below. Looked like they hadn’t moved from the 9th floor yet.
She took one of her precious heeled shoes, and threw it into the black abyss of the 12th floor. It too made a loud clang as it crashed into a metal drum. She skipped up to the next floor, and repeated the same with her other shoe. “That should confuse them for a bit, especially when they see my shoes” she thought as she bounded up the remaining stairs to the 14th and final floor. The 14th floor was an open area with absolutely nothing in it. Just meters and feet of an open expanse of space. As she stood there wondering what to do next, she could hear footsteps rushing up the stairs below her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they caught up with her. "And then….." Ramya shuddered to even think about what could happen next. She took out her phone and looked at the screen. There was a single bar showing minimum range. She knew from experience that it wasn’t enough to make a phone call. She knew it was enough to send an sms. But she did not have the time to type out a message.
Fighting back tears, she ran quickly to the farthest corner of the floor. She suddenly wished she had listened to Arjun, her fiancé. She suddenly wished she had listened to all her colleagues. She suddenly wished she had listened to all her friends. All of them had repeatedly told her about a new app “Smart Suraksha" which could have potentially saved her from the two rogues who were now menacingly walking towards her from the other corner of the floor.
The app could have alerted five of her pre-listed contacts and the police via a single touch which would trigger an sms, with her location and whereabouts. And even one bar of signal would have been sufficient for that. Suddenly "she wished she had Smart Suraksha with her", to get her out of her predicament.
She peered over the wall of the building and noticed a large pile of hay on the ground along with the some other construction materials. She glanced at the two behemoths, making lewd gestures and grinning as they inched closer to her by the second. Seeing no other option, she quickly climbed atop the short wall, and faced her tormentors for what she hoped would be the last time. Mouthing an obscenity at them, she took a giant leap of faith. If she landed on the hay as she’d hoped, she could still escape with minor bruises. If she missed, she’d be reduced to pulp. "Better that than be stripped off all my dignity" she thought. As gravity accelerated her free fall, she closed her eyes and could almost hear Arjun say “I wish she had Smart Suraksha with her”. "Yes", she thought, “ I wish I had Smart Suraksha with me!”
Disclaimer: This is a work of realistic fiction - i.e. I’ve used real life scenarios to develop this piece. For the record, if ever in trouble, my dear ladies, please use the Smart Suraksha app; If all fails, and you’re been attacked by a man, remember that a knee to the above-mentioned man’s groin will buy you a lot of valuable minutes. Under no circumstances, do I advocate jumping off the building. And for the record, Ramya did manage to fall into the stack of hay and escaped with minor bruises. And yes, she downloaded the "Smart Suraksha" app!
The app can be downloaded for Android phones via : Google Play here
Stay Safe everyone !