Walking at night- a fantasy?

Before I start with my own story, I would first like to marvel at this very simple yet powerful and effective comic strip. This comic strip is a part of Sinfest, a web comic written and drawn by American comic strip artist Tatsuya Ishida (a pseudonym, I guess). He’s an invisible web comic artist and one of the interesting things you can see as he matured is that he’s gone from drawing pimp ninjas and geisha sluts to developing a very feminist sensibility. I have posted, liked, circulated his comic strips on social media and on my page on feminism, but this by far has been my favourite. Four pictures and three lines: that’s what it takes to speak a million words, words which are so strong that they pierce you from within. It is like he has hit not one but many bull’s eyes with one single dart. It is a shame for this world in this century that walking at night is a feminist utopia fantasy story.

Now let’s get back to my own fantasy story…

The other day I was coming back home after having dinner with a couple of friends. (A note to those who don’t know: I am an Indian woman who is currently living in Munich, Germany). It was about 11 pm, not very late and I was peacefully walking back home without carrying a pepper spray or any kind of weapon to defend myself. The act was very simple I had dinner with some friends, after biding them farewell, I took the underground and from my station I walked till my home. When home, I changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep. Now you may ask what is so special about this simple act of going home after an evening engagement that I had to write an entire blog post about it.

While I was still doing this simple act, i.e.,  walking back home (I know I am stressing on it and it looks repetitive, but it is important to mention the act) I realised how this simple act was unimaginable for me a couple of months back while I was still in India, how I always needed the company of a trusted male friend who owned a car and about whom I was very sure that he would drop me home safely. I remembered how for many many women this is still a utopia, a fantasy and they might not be able to do this simple act their entire lives. They will go to their graves without taking a walk at night.

Living in Germany since the past four months this act had become a part of my daily routine, my life where I would walk back everyday in the evening either after university or from other prior engagements. I got so used to it that I didn’t realise that it is something special that I should treasure because it is a privilege that I am receiving right now from this country.

And then the hard reality hit me. I am going back to India in a month’s time. I am going back home after five months. I will meet my family, see my friends and loved ones. But was I happy? Yes and No. I was dreading this moment and now it is slowly coming to me. I would never be able to do this simple act of walking back home at night again. I would again require my trusted male friends who would drop me home safely. I would never again be able to smell the night’s air or watch the moon walking quietly behind me.

All this happened while I was still walking and by the time I reached my home and unlocked the door, I was sad, very sad. Only the thought that this is soon coming to an end, that I will have to bid farewell to this freedom spoiled my joyful happy meeting friends night and made me cry, cry not just for myself. not just for my own freedom, but for every woman who lives shackled and oppressed. I was sad and depressed till sleep took a better hold of me. That night I quietly went into my room, changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep.

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17 thoughts on “Walking at night- a fantasy?

  1. Hi, you’ve been in Germany for a few months, have you never faced any form of street harassment there in these months? This is unimaginable for us Indians so I want to know if thats even possible.

    • Hi Sia, no I have never faced any kind of street harassment in Germnay. But that doesn’t mean that the entire West or Europe is lke this. Germany is one of the very few countries which I would say are almost 100 percent safe. At least speaking from experience, I have stayed in Germany thrice for short periods of time and have never faced anything.

  2. I am a very average female who was hounded by ‘admirers’ while growing up, up until the last day of my stay in India, even with a kid in arms. I have been in US for over a decade now. I have never, not once, faced a single incident of street harassment. Ever. Of course, there are many issues here, but entitlement to a female body is not one of them.

  3. Good article. I live in India and a few days ago had an argument with two of my “friends” who told me that “Girls shouldn’t go out after dark” (“but we are not sexist. Boys are not allowed to remain outside without informing either.But girls shouldn’t stay outside unless their work requires it. They should not have fun outside after dark. We are not sexist.”)

    It has been hounding me since then. I am so disgusted by most people of India. Caretakers of their own oppression.

    Glad you have some freedom for now.

    • Hi Panguin, I know how irritating and frustrating it can be. People always try to curb a woman’s freedom, but such thoughts should not deter you. Most importantly we need to create awareness and sensitize such things.

  4. I’d like to know if its certain parts of India that are better than the others. I’m from Bangalore and I don’t imagine that my friends would ever speak like that. In Bangalore you could walk home in the evening/night without being harassed. Although, things are not at par with Germany. I feel that they are getting better.

  5. I felt sad reading this. As a girl living in Kerala in an extremely orthodox society, it is very painful to think about this reality. I know what lead to this kind of restriction. Patriarchy and subsequent obligations. If all the women just took to the streets at random at night all alone for a year continuously then we could achieve the perfect foreign freedom. But nobody is ready to do it. Basically women are happier this way I think.

  6. Pingback: Why Should 'Walking Alone At Night' Always Remain A Fantasy For Women In India? | Youth Ki Awaaz

  7. I was walking in Bangalore a few years back. This was at night and I am a man. So I thought what could happen. Well… You might think that I got beaten up or robbed by some A hole… But no… It was the police trying to get me in their Van. 4 cops with batons etc. Man I was scared. Its one thing to be mugged, but for the police to try and do it… Sorry to say, India is not safe, male or female. thief or police. You can get screwed over by anyone. Another time I was standing in the street. Loads of people around and the cops came to tell me to move… WTF.. sorry to say but they are really bad… And please dont say, I should stand up for my rights, once im beaten or dead, Its just not worth it..

  8. Interesting post. The first time I walked alone and outside at midnight, it was in Edinburgh – not Delhi and definitely not Shillong. And I’m a man. Now that I live in Delhi, I wouldn’t dream of venturing more than 1 km from my place after midnight, not without my .38.
    Why do you think the outdoors in Indian cities are such hazards at late nights?

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