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Millennium Post

Mumbai, don’t ever change!

I moved back to Delhi after a two-year stay in Mumbai in 2010. In two years, the city broke many myths for me which I had begun to believe as hard truths while growing up in Lucknow and then studying and working in Delhi. The first one was that women can’t venture out after dark without a male chaperone. As I stayed in south Mumbai, I frequently went to Marine Drive to relax after what is considered after hours in Delhi.

11 pm was my favourite time. I was mostly alone, with some music. Two years. Nothing happened that made me think about not coming back the next day. Another myth that was broken was wearing only certain kinds of clothes in public. Mumbai made me discover shorts, skirts and a plethora of stuff that I only wore when escorted by a man with a car in Delhi. And don’t get me started about cars. A necessity in Delhi, they almost looked redundant in Mumbai. There were cabs available almost everywhere. Cabs that never overcharged and that would drop you home safely even if you were a little high after merry making with friends. In Mumbai, I discovered that I could make plans without worrying about returning home early. I could come back from a day out in Pune at 2 am and still reach home.

While venturing out late at night or wearing the kind of clothes you want to without being jeered at is not a big thing for men, which is why they can’t look beyond how overcrowded or smelly Mumbai is, it is freedom for women. Especially, for those who come from small cities or cities with an overtly patriarchal structure. As a woman, Mumbai gave you a chance to really engage with the world denied to even educated and upwardly mobile women in places like Delhi and most northern cities. It is almost a revelation to most women when they realise that it is never too late to get back home.
That it is okay to get sloshed at some bar and call a cab to go back. That it is okay to smoke on the street without being taken for a call girl. That it is okay to live alone and not be stalked by men who think you are an easy catch. That it is okay to not fit into societal norms of being ‘good-looking’ and to be yourself. That it is okay, in many ways than one, to live.

2010 was not so long ago but the rising number of sexual assault cases is a cause of concern and threatens to destroy the only city which perfectly suited a working woman. There was an 11 per cent increase in sexual assault cases from 2011 to 2012 and a shocking 45 per cent rise in sexual harassment cases in 2012. Mumbai ranked second in terms of reported rapes in India with 232 cases following Delhi with 585 cases.

It is scary and disappointing to think that if I ever go back, I would not find the same city which is the epitome of freedom for me. This should be a worry for every person living in Mumbai or has ever lived and now misses its freedom. The cosmopolitan culture of the city has already been taken to ransom by MNS and the likes of it. It is already difficult for Muslims to find an apartment.

The city is slowly losing what were its biggest attractions. It cannot afford to lose the security that it offered its women. It can’t afford to not have equal participation from both sexes in everyday living.
I don’t think Mumbai can survive if its women scurry into their homes before sunset. It is up to the people now to make sure that it never happens. It is up to its people to demand better rights from its government. It is for the people to get more involved and make sure they get a city they deserve.

On arrangement with Governance Now
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