Tuesday, February 2, 2016

30th January 2016

Yesterday night was special. After spending an extended weekend in Delhi, I headed back to Bombay. The paradigm shift from winters to a pleasant climate is a kick in the gut. I usually prefer the Delhi-Bombay Rajdhani as it saves me the extra miles from the Mumbai airport, but this time I was in hurry so chose the latter option.
After reaching home I curled up in the annals of my comfortable bedroom, still reeling under the winter chill that had been coughed into my lungs by Delhi.
A little later in the early evening I received a phone call from my best friend. She was in Bombay and wanted to catch up with me. Unlike in Delhi where we scoot inside our homes after eight pm, in Bombay it's a different story. The people of Bombay are not bothered about others and their lives, as all of them are hurrying to reach their destinations, since travelling is an arduous activity. Perhaps because of this reason Bombay is brimming with human life even at night.
For Delhites though,  conforming to the idea of travelling at night is difficult. Even then over the years, I have punched fear right on its face and journeyed across the length and breadth of the city. 
I remember those days when I had landed in Bombay, and navigation had bogged me down. I couldn't ascertain routes or plan an outing, and had to rely on the autorickshaws and kali-peeli taxi. In Delhi, where every nook and cranny of the city is connected by metro, moving around isn't a big deal anymore.While in Bombay you need to have extra starch in your backbone to hop onto the local which drives the city. For a person who had recently landed in the city, the probability was a big no. I chose the next best option, the rickshaws and taxis, since learning routes took some time. Infact memorizing the names of places took me about two months until I could wean myself off from relying on taxis.

My friend picked me up from near my house. Ah! What a welcoming move it was, and the only reason that inspired me to move out of my bed that evening as I was comfortably curled with a book I had been struggling to finish. I think in another life I was a cat. We strolled around the Juhu beach watching human life scuttling into the sounds of the city that never sleeps. We went shopping for books and clothes at the R city. Malls like R city  tells us about how the urban Indian middle class has grown in stature. I wanted to add a few more books to my reading list this year, and the Crossword store at the R city is one of my favourite book stores. After having eaten, drank and made merry to our heart's content we drove across to the other end of the city and loitered at the Marine Drive willing to melt into the honking cars and yellow street lights that were shining brightly on people hastening to the safety of their homes. To experience pure freedom in Bombay one must hang around the Queen's necklace in the wee hours of the night. It tells you about the importance of occupying the streets at night to keep harassment at bay. 
While my friend was willing to drop me back to my place, an urgent phone call from her family made her scoot sooner than it was anticipated. I kept ambling around the brightly lit streets for some more time and took a taxi from the Mumbai central railway station. While boarding the vehicle I noted its registration number and sent it across as an sms to a dedicated helpline number 9969777888. This would have let the Mumbai police keep a track of the vehicle I had boarded via GPS and follow its navigation route. This was launched in Bombay on the eve of the International Women's day in 2014.

                                                Picture credit: etsy.com

Bombay cab wallahs are a strange lot. They will make you feel at home, with their constant blabbering that can sometimes get cranky. And yes, most of them display the women's helpline number on their dashboard. This one put down the meter and started with the chatter. 
"Where do you exactly live?" he asked
"Just drop me near the Hirandani gardens."
His intrusive question rang a bell in my head. I coiled like a tiny rabbit clutching my bag tightly with my left hand. I guess he was intently looking at me through the mirror. 
"Why do you look scared madam?" he inquired.
"No I am not scared. Who told you?"
My voice bubbled into a shriek and I started pretending that all was well with me. It was 1 am and this was the second time in my life that I was out on the streets at this hour. As my heart wavered between fear and uncertainty, feeling foolish for staying out at night the cab driver's voice broke my chain of thoughts.
"You can turn on the gps system on your phone. If you do not trust me."
"Thank you for the suggestion." I replied.
Yes, I had forgotten to turn on the gps system. I guess the frailty of fear had left me blank. This is the most important precautionary measure that a woman needs to arm herself with while journeying during odd hours. 
After starting on the gps, I heaved with a sigh of relief. Yes, the guy was following the correct shortest possible route to Powai.   
"You must always turn on the gps if you are travelling at this time. Don't worry I'll drop you safely." said the driver.
"I know, I was a wee bit scared and it went out of my mind." I replied with a thankful smile.
I reached in 45 minutes as the roads weren't choking with traffic. From the time the cab driver had indicated me to turn on the gps till the time I reached home, I contemplated about the importance of the gps system. Gone are the days when auto drivers and taxi drivers could take us on a not so joyous ride across the city, to charge a hefty sum of money afterwards. And if we had recently stepped on the soil of the city, we were bound to get tricked. 
That was past tense. This is the age of the GPS system designed to tell you the exact route you can follow to reach your destination. One can also plan their navigation route using the GPS system before hand. 
As I reached my apartment complex and our guard opened the gates for the cab, I thanked my stars for having reached safely. 
I wonder how did fear make way into my mind? Was it due to the media's exaggeration or lack of faith in myself? Why did I forget to turn on the gps system? These questions quivered in my restless mind.
With the most modern amenities like gps that are just a few clicks away, life has become easier and safer. We should be on tenterhooks while travelling late at night for it's better to be safe than sorry. Always turn on the gps system the moment you board a cab or a rickshaw.  
"Thank you bhaiya." I said as I paid the cab fare expressing my gratefulness to him.
"It's ok madam. Even I have a daughter. Do wave from your house after you reach. I'll wait here until then."
I was moved by the kind man's words. The devil who I thought was raring to harm me was an angel in disguise.
I hurriedly walked up the apartment building, opened the door shutting it behind me with a thud and rushed to the balcony. I fluttered my hands at him in gratitude as he turned on his car and drove away.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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