“Eve-teasing” : Safety in Mumbai

Posted August 31st, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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So, I have been reading the media reports about India being unsafe for women. I have been living in the United States for about 13 years now. Although I have visited India pretty regularly in these 13 years, I haven’t spent more than 5 weeks consecutively. Now reading all of the reports and blogs I am trying to reconcile my experience in India (or primarily in Bombay) with what I have been reading.  And I have been trying to figure out if things have just gotten worse or is it just my perspective.

Growing up in Bombay, I was never afraid of traveling alone. As I used to quip, this is one of the most populated cities in the world—how am I really ever alone!  I wasn’t nervous about getting into a train at night. When I was studying for my bachelors degree, I often stayed late in college or had “study dates” with friends and didn’t think twice about reaching home after 10 pm.  When I graduated and accepted  my first job  in medical equipment sales, I didn’t blink when I had to travel all alone to parts of Bombay that I had never been to (or never even heard of)  alone to visit medical clinics.

That is not to say that there were no incidents.  Eve-teasing (rather a benign sounding term for  what is actually public sexual harassment) was common. A few gropes here and there were expected. My girlfriends and I all had several of these stories to share. Of the guy who pinched your butt in a crowded railway station. Of the guy who grabbed your boobs as he rushed past you on the road.  Of the guys who passed lewd comments while you walked to buy a packet of bread. We spoke about the group of guys who sang the latest Hindi film song accompanied by suggestive gestures. And about the creepy fellows who crank-called your home, when you were all alone. Or even more frightening—of those men who followed you home silently everyday till you decided to take a new route home.

Despite this, I was proud of being a Bombay-girl. I counted these “inconveniences” as a payback for the independence that I had.  I was proud of the fact that I could travel alone to meet friends –unlike my cousins in Kerala. I didn’t need a 10 year old boy to accompany me and my girlfriends if I wanted to see a movie in the evening. I was never scared of using public transport unlike my friends from Delhi. I didn’t need to cover myself from head to toe unlike some of the folks I knew who lived in smaller towns (read: any place other than a metro city). I was a Bombay girl.  I was confident. I could handle eve-teasing. I know how to navigate an unknown area. I was not embittered or terrified or traumatized by these events.  As far as I knew it – these were reprehensible acts performed by cowardly men but it was a part and parcel of life.

But now after years of being in the US, these media reports have made me question my former reaction to such incidents.  In the last 13 years that I have spent in US, I have been heckled just once (I was so out of practice of handling this that I was flustered and hurried away) I don’t have to watch how I sit in public (cross my legs – in Bombay, don’t cross legs in Kerala). I haven’t had to worry about getting into an empty train compartment.  I don’t worry if my dress will make me a target for attention. I haven’t needed to watch or worry if I am showing too much cleavage or if my bra-strap is showing. I can laugh out loud and not worry about getting noticed. I don’t have to clutch a book to my chest when I walk in a crowded mall. I haven’t ever needed a sharp implement (safety pins/hair pins) to discourage wandering hands when I am seeing a movie.

I can understand when people say it is not fair to compare the two countries. And I don’t intend to justify or rationalize the differences.  In fact, I am actually feeling guilty (almost like I am committing treason) when I feel relieved about not having to face eve-teasing. I didn’t even realize what a burden I was carrying till I didn’t have to carry it anymore! Its strange and very sad that I was proud of being a Bombay girl because I could survive the eve-teasing when it would have been much better to be proud of being a Bombay girl because I didn’t have to face any!

Food Tour Of Greenwich Village, New York City

Posted August 17th, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Food, Travel
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NYC Trip1We spent the last weekend visiting friends in the New Jersey area and took the opportunity to see the Greenwich Village in New York City.  We have been to New York City several times but have always spent most of our time visiting the main tourist destinations in Manhattan. This time we decided to skip that and do something different. While doing some internet research on local attractions, I came up on a site that offers food tours for Greenwich village. Intrigued by the idea of a food tour, I explored some more and found out that there were several recommended food joints in that area.  After some more Google searches and reading a couple of food blogs I came up with my own itinerary for a food tour of Greenwich village.

My friend Pooja lives in New Jersey so, we took the train from her place to 9th Street Metro and walked down a few blocks to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. At the entrance of the park is a large Arch modeled after the Arch de Triomphe in Paris. The park is dominated by a large fountain in the center but surrounding it are strolling areas, gardens, play-area for kids, benches and an open air chess tables.  It was fairly crowded with locals and tourists relaxing, reading, eating, playing and enjoying the open air band. Annika was enthralled by the drummer and spent quite a bit of time dancing to the beats.  After spending about half an hour there, we crossed the garden and entered Macdougal Street where our food tour started in earnest. Continue Reading »

Postcards from Indy!

Posted August 17th, 2013 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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I had the opportunity to visit Indianapolis for a conference (American Association for Physicists in Medicine) earlier this month. Annika was suffering from croup – a variant of bronchitis that affects the larynx and the trachea. She had fever, sore throat and a weird kind of painful cough making her cranky, miserable and irritable.  Seejo was smart enough to have an official trip scheduled  right around the same time.  So I was left to take care of a sick and clingy child all alone, leaving me angry, miserable and irritable.By the time Seejo returned after three days, I was ready for a break.

Although Indy hardly ranks as a top tourist destination, I was really looking forward to the trip to Indianapolis — to unwind, relax and sleep!  I reached Indianapolis on Monday morning and took the cab directly to the conference venue. I had never attended an AAPM meeting, so I was looking forward to learning the hot topics that physicists are buzzing about, their current gripes, and who they like to take potshots at. I find that one of the most interesting aspects of any society meeting is  the clear demarcation of “us” and “them” in that field. Since I work in a very cross disciplinary landscape , these distinctions always fascinate me, mainly because in most cases I group them together.  For example,  I learnt that the biotechnology industry clearly believes that they are different from (and really competing with ) the Pharma folks, the breast radiologists separate themselves from the breast surgeons although they attack the same disease, the data managers love to take potshots at the clinical researchers and QA, the nuclear medicine radiologists are quick to point out the difference between them and other radiologists and so on. And in this case the clinical physicists clearly look down on their brethren who do low energy solid state work. Continue Reading »