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Given the poor safety of women in India, a single woman moving to a new city could be reasonably concerned; safety tips for single women in India.
By Debjani Talapatra
A growing breed of Indian women are moving cities (and countries), not as ‘trailing spouses’ following their man, but in pursuit of their own career growth. Living alone can be equal parts exhilarating and nerve racking. With increasing career options for women, the sense of independence and personal growth that comes with living away from a protective home environment is unparalleled. But living independently is not without its challenges.
Many single women find it difficult to rent an apartment because of their single status. When that hurdle is successfully crossed, some find themselves the object of neighbours’ scrutiny, with intrusive questions asked about their personal lives and tabs kept on their coming and goings. Some landlords forbid male visitors, while others subtly disapprove. Moving to a new city and living with strangers (roommates) can be overwhelming.
Here are some safety tips and other resources to help single women in India safely navigate the move to a new city.
Research. Try to spend a weekend or longer researching the new city before you start work. Stay with a friend or relative for a few days, and ask around for tips on the public transportation available, bus and train routes, proximity to your workplace and rents in different parts of the city.
Choosing where to live. Based on your budget, you need to decide whether you want to live as a paying guest (PG) or rent an apartment. Another option is a working women’s hostel, which may be even cheaper, but these usually have outdated curfew times.
Once that decision is made, ask colleagues and friends which neighbourhood are considered safe for women. These may not necessarily be the ‘posh’ ones. Neighbourhoods with a mix of various income groups and residential-commercial units may actually be safer than quiet, wealthy localities where no one is to be found on the roads after 8 p.m., unless it is in a car.
Hang around your preferred neighbourhood at a few different times of the day. This will help you determine how safe that area is.
Neighbourhoods with a mix of various income groups and residential-commercial units may actually be safer than quiet, wealthy localities where no one is to be found on the roads after 8 p.m., unless it is in a car.
PG Checklist. If you choose to live in a PG accomodation, here are a few things to find out before moving in.
Once you move in, if you’re sharing rooms, it’s best to talk to your roommate (s) and set the ground rules. If you aren’t comfortable with people using your things, make sure you let them know. It’s advisable to be polite, but firm.
Since this is a new environment, it’s best not to have any jewellery or other such valuable items lying around. Since bank lockers are notoriously unavailable in most Indian cities, leave them behind with your parents or with a trusted friend (or relative) in the city.
Apartment sharing. If you are sharing a flat with a roommate, and have an option of choosing one, spend some time getting to know a person before moving in with them. Try and find out if your views on cleanliness and household responsibilities are in sync. Diya Thankur, 29, recounts, “I was in a hurry to rent a place and ended up sharing it with the filthiest woman in the world. She would leave coffee mugs and dirty plates lying around and did none of the shared chores!”
Learn more about the working hours and lifestyle choices of potential roommates. If you are a teetotaller, you may not be comfortable with a roommate who smokes or has to have a few cans of beer in the fridge. These seemingly innocuous habits have the potential to turn into big intolerable problems.
Learn more about the working hours and lifestyle choices of potential roommates…seemingly innocuous habits have the potential to turn into big intolerable problems.
Money Matters. One of the most critical matters to discuss with a roommate is that of sharing household finances. Prerna Prakash, 26, says, “My roommates were so petty that they’d keep an account of who ate how many slices of bread and then pay only for the ones they’d eaten! Living with them was uncomfortable and nerve-racking!” Agree on how you will split expenses; then, keep an account of expenditure using a roommate expense tracker like this one and settle accounts at the end of the month.
Rules for visitors. It is also best to mutually lay some ground rules regarding visitors to the apartment, including friends and parents, especially how long they can stay and how you will deal with the additional expenses. Ranjana Gupta, 28, says, “My roommate’s mum would come visiting twice a month and end up staying for five days at a time. She’d take over the flat and make me feel like I was the guest!”
Know the neighbours. Most young people tend to lead very insular lives and don’t socialize much with their neighbours. However, it is always better to maintain a cordial relationship with the neighbours. (Yes, we know, some neighbours are very nosy when it comes to single women, but not everyone is this way). This enhances your safety net since neighbours are often the first responders to any emergency.
Keep numbers handy. It is always useful to know which is the hospital/clinic closest to your residence and keep the numbers handy. Keep a folder that includes a few takeout menus for days when cooking seems like a chore. Ask neighbours and check food review websites for tips on good places to eat around your area. Getting numbers for the local kirana stores that home deliver is an absolute must.
Finally, give a trusted friend or relative an extra key to your place, in case you lose your keys. With the right mix of caution, flexibility and the willingness to enjoy new experiences, life as a single woman in a new city can become the experience of a lifetime.
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A feminist man sometimes seems like an oxymoron, but maybe there are some out there. How is it to be married to a feminist man?
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This is a working list. Will keep adding to it.
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