Fear & Caution
6:00 am – Pleasant morning. Might be a good idea to do some history spotting and photography.
6:30 am – Reach Hauz Khas Metro Station. The shutter to the underground railway station is half down. No one around. Feel for the pepper spray can in pocket & proceed with the safe feeling it provides.
7:10 am – Spot a pillar saying “Mehrauli Puraathathveeya Udhyaan” (Mehrauli Archeological Park) confirming that you are not lost. Excitement replaces the anxiety of walking alone on a deserted road with every passing cyclist slowing down to stare at you head to toe.
7:20 am – Set up tripod at Balban’s tomb. Two men appear from the foliage and come near you. The thought of pepper spray reinforces confidence.
8:00 am – Metcalfe’s Folly. Few uncles resting after their morning walk strike up a conversation with you – “beta, filum banaa rahe ho?”, “aajkal bachchon ki shauk hoti hai. . documentary banaane ka”, “nahi? toh kyun purane building ke photo lenaa?”, “aise hi? waah [all laugh]”. You think the world isn’t all that creepy anyway.
8:20 am – Marvelling the the moss near Quli Khan’s tomb. Over-protective uncle-ji arrives to give you a lecture.
“Nahin? Kahin akele to nahi ghoom rahe ho?”
“Akele? Photo lene? Dekho beta. . Itni subah akele maat ghooma karo.”
“Kyun? Kyun ki yahaan gandhe gandhe aadmi hain”
“Aise akele kyun jaana? Pata hain na zamaana kitna bigad gaya hain? Khud danger ko paas bulaana teekh nahi hain”
“Ghar mein tumhe aise akele kaise ghoomne dete hain?”
“Aise mat bolo. . Aaj kal ki ladkiyaan bhi. . Badon ke baat sunte hi nahin”
You can’t take it any longer. . You give him a lecture on how not just ‘subah’, ‘akele’ is unsafe and how the ‘gandhe aadmi’ attack people even at their homes. Show him pepper spray & in general, make the old man curse himself for attempting to give out unsolicited advice! 😛
8:35 am : Rajaon Ki Baoli. 5-6 dogs frowning at you for having invaded their privacy, but aren’t interested in protesting. You want to go down into the stair-well & click a few pics. But. . there is a young man who saw you coming and sat on the wall at the entrance. He has been looking at you since then. You think “Is this one of those ‘gandhe aadmi’?”. Idea of descending into the well dropped!
8:40 am : Searching for Gandhak Ki Baoli. Intend to go searching for the Bhoolbhulaiyya – Adham Khan’s tomb from there. Few more men pass you giving you the looks. One on a motorbike takes pleasure in startling you by whizzing past close to you. Dense foliage all around. Only dirty pigs and dogs there aren’t questioning your presence. You decide this is the area of the ‘gandhe aadmi’, turn around and walk back. With the pepper spray can in hand, one finger ready on the button.
8:50 am : Walking back to Qutb Minar Metro Station. The road that has come alive with vehicles, cyclists, fruit-cart-walas and pedestrians assures you of safety. The pepper spray has gone back to it’s nook in the backpack.
Thank you Uncle-ji. I gave you a piece of my mind confidently. But you managed to kindle the subconscious paranoia. I owe you the ‘pleasure’ of missing Gandhak ki Baoli & Adham Khan’s tomb.
Isn’t it sad? How we are programmed to assume that the world is creepy & dangerous? How you are never allowed to forget that? Especially if you are a female… Let alone over-protective uneducated uncle-jis in parks, even Profs tell you to lock the lab door if you work alone all night. . And to
try to make sure that atleast 2-3ppl are around.
I’m wondering. . Isn’t this “cautious” behaviour implicitly acknowledging that the ‘gandhe aadmis’ are in-charge? That the world is theirs to indulge in all kinds of crime? Telling them “We are afraid of you. We would curb our freedom & try our best to avoid you. But we’d never try to claim our right to be free by defying your taunts & threats. Please go around behaving as you please”?