Delhi…This City Needs A Transformation Where Women Capture Its Public Spaces

Exploring Delhi, a city that had fascinated me since my teenage years, became a challenge with unwelcome attention, constant stares, and the feeling of being watched.

It was my second week in Delhi, when I was walking back to my accommodation around 11 p.m., that I experienced a chilling incident that sent shivers down my spine. Around 200 metres away from my PG in the lanes of Laxmi nagar where shops were still open and people occupied the streets, I noticed a man on a bike following me and persistently calling me.

It was when I took the turn to the last lane that was poorly lit, fear gripped me, and vulnerability took hold. No one was around, and he rushed past me on his bike, shouting something. I rushed inside and closed the door immediately. It was only my second week in Delhi, and it sent shivers down my spine. 

“What would Delhi be about?” was the question that occupied my mind from the moment I landed my internship at The Hindu. Amidst the buzz of news and the allure of historical landmarks, I was excited and nervous as I prepared myself armed with cautionary tales of Delhi’s lack of safety. I scoured the internet for articles, determined to learn how to navigate the city. 

Big dreams…braving the capital

However, amidst my growing confidence, a wave of concerns soon troubled me. This is the story of a 20-year-old woman, with big dreams and aspirations, braving the capital.

Most recently, at the Darya Ganj Sunday book market, a place that had become one of my favourites, an unknown man shadowed every step within the market as I filled my bag with books. Initially, I brushed off my intuition, but once I left the market, I realized he was still following me. Though I eventually managed to get out of his sight, the experience left me deeply unnerved.

Delhi exposed me to a side of being a woman that I had never encountered before in my 15 years of schooling, two years of lockdown, and one year of offline college in Pune. Growing up in Ranchi, where I was sheltered by my family, I rarely experienced walking alone through the streets. But in Delhi, I found myself the subject of stares, smirks, and inappropriate comments from men of all ages and backgrounds. It perplexed me that they believed such behaviour was acceptable, only to lament the lack of safety for their own female family members.

Some Delhi women said they had grown accustomed to accepting this as an everyday affair though it made them uncomfortable, I drew a line, refusing to normalize or ignore such behaviour. And trust me, even I thought at some point if I am not dressed ‘decent’.

Stepping out to pursue stories and explore the city, which had fascinated me since my teenage years, became a challenge with unwelcome attention, constant stares, and the feeling of being watched.

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Everyday reality for women in Delhi

It dawned on me that this was not an isolated incident; it was an everyday reality for women in Delhi.

Even in the pursuit of stories, I encountered unwanted advances and uncomfortable encounters. During my visit to the Jantar Mantar protest site, where wrestlers were demonstrating, a man fixated on my appearance rather than engaging with me as a person. However, I noticed that walking alongside someone else made me feel safer and more at ease. During another story, a student whom I interviewed kept persistently asking if I was alone, oblivious to the fact that I was in a crowd predominantly composed of men.

It made me wonder, where were the women on the streets and protest sites?

To craft authentic stories, I understood the importance of building sources. However, one particular student saw this as an opportunity for romantic pursuit, despite my repeated rejections. His persistence escalated into stalking and attempts to contact me through various social media platforms. I was taken aback, realizing that no woman could escape such unwanted attention.

But I had a platform and a pen at my disposal, I delved into the narratives to pursue a story of women working night shifts, an idea ignited solely from my experiences and perceptions. Listening to their experiences, I realized that safety concerns are not just a general concern but possess layers of complexity.

Assigning blame to faceless strangers who roam Delhi’s streets is easy. However, people (men and aunties, looking right at you) need to acknowledge that no one deserves to feel unsafe from invasive staring even after they are visibly uncomfortable. This unsettling realization forces us to reflect on our roles in perpetuating a culture that thrives on objectification and harassment.

Delhi, a city teeming with life and stories, can be both captivating and overwhelming. In my 45-day window to the city, I explored several facets, ventured out alone, and realized that women’s experiences became a part of me. While the notion that “Delhi is unkind” is debatable, it was through personal encounters that I confronted the harsh realities women endure daily. 

Though the transformation of Delhi where women reclaim public spaces may not make headlines, it is an essential change that must occur. I am no longer the same person who arrived in Delhi with trepidation. These experiences and nuanced stories have only strengthened my resolve, if nothing great, for why I want to become an independent woman, unafraid and always seeking to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

Image credits Getty Images Via Canva Pro

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About the Author

Suruchi Kumari

Hello! I am a feminist and an aspiring journalist. I'm all about dedicating myself to ensure unheard(ignored) and everyday stories of people find a regular place in your feed, through pen or mic; read more...

10 Posts | 6,524 Views

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