I do not know really! You see crowd all around you, and yet there are times when you feel that you are alone on that stretch and there is a shadow or two lurking somewhere close! Am sure this must be true of other cities too. Here’s an experience I encountered a few days back.
It was around 7.30 PM (not very late by Chennai standards I guess. Or is it?) and I was returning home from work. Its barely a few minutes walk from the bus stop to my house. Rain in chennai is a rare treat and I dare not complain about the bad roads due to the rains. Its okay as long as it rains. It had rained during the day and naturally the road I had to take was messy. Thanks to the Chennai corporation folks who have dug that road for the 4th time in less that 2 yrs, which made it even more worse.
There were’nt many people on the road and I was trying to stick to the pavement as far as possible to avoid the slime and sludge on the road. Had barely walked a few yards when I had this creepy feeling of someone closely toeing. Was hesitant to turn around and look and so continued walking a little faster which was difficult given the road condition. Now I was sure that someone was walking right behind me and was trying to keep pace with me too! Without turning around I just looked ahead to see if there was any help within reach. A new eat-out is coming up on that road and I could spot 2 or 3 heads near that building, a little distance from where I was. I had to get a little more closer for any of those men to hear me if I yelled. I walked faster to get into a hearing distance of that group.
When I was confident that I could be heard, I turned around to see a man, very small-built and shady-looking, barely 2 feet behind me. I raised my voice and threateningly asked him why he was following me and what he wanted. I was sure the people outside the building heard me and I saw this man eyeing them. He hurriedly said ‘ille, onnum ille (no, nothing)’ and darted off to the other side of the road and disappeared. And then realised that my knees were shaking!! I stepped into the middle of the road (to hell with the sludge!) and walked home. I couldn’t care less for any cars or bikes coming at me!!
Whether the intent was theft or physical abuse, I do not know. But it leaves that bitter taste and depresses you because even today women cannot walk home freely without having to worry about the physical safety. Free India my foot!