New Year Geebies

New Year and safe fun

Bombay circa 1982. The new year was just 1 hour old when we staggered out of the restaurant having gorged on a huge Vadilal ice cream, as a fitting finale to an evening of dance, gin, wise cracks and the works. It was lovely weather and for some reason I kept humming Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head, while the guys went for Jethro Tull . A lone voice trembled on Beatles numbers as we walked around Marine Drive. A cop passing by asked if we were together and we sped him on with a slurry Happy New Year. But the guys made a close knot around us girls, protectively. Vaguely looked around to be sure all was well. The cop and the fresh air , sobered me up and I thought back to the previous year, when for the last time in my life as a bachelor girl I had gone with a few girl friends to a disco at CBE.

It was famed for its rich guys, seemingly swankier than even some from Madras (? ! ), but we girls were clear in our minds. We will stick to the guys we knew–all brothers of friends. So while we were dressed in skirts and trousers and bell-sleeved tops I think- we were clear that we had to be `disco virgins’. Never look at a guy in the eye even if he was a friend of your friend’s brother, ditto if some `outsider’ asked you to the dance floor, and the cardinal rule, don’t let any guy walk you to the car.

Laugh if you will, but we did manage to have fun. `Safe fun.’ This year, when we cheered the New Year in from the cosy confines of a star hotel, I insisted on accompanying my daughter when she went to the ladies’ room. “Don’t make eye contact with any guy,” I warned her , referring to the crowd milling around in the corridors… everyone of those guys is very likely a decent chap, but you never know, I said when others at the table felt I was going overboard with the `safe fun’ thingy. ..

The fact is, sex-related violations in public places–be it groping in buses or cinema halls, being chased down an arterial road (Stephanie on R K Salai who lost her life ) and lewd comments in parks and beaches–are on a high as never before in our cities, even in Chennai. If guys are going to go berserk like a pack of dogs in heat when a girl steps out to look at the sky and sand at 1 am or even 2 , or have a couple of drinks in a pub?

The early morning bytes on TV on Jan 1st, and the front pages of all papers did something that no other New Year has done till date…. Made us face the reality that is out there.
What fun can there be in life if there can be no safety, not even safety in numbers? If you have to be wary of a single man, the man in a group and the man who loses himself in the mob, what joy can there be , wondered my daughter’s friend..
Should wanting to wet your feet in the Marina in the night be as out of reach as a trip to the moon, she asked, clearly angry. I let the anger ride… afterall what safety net can I offer her?

12 Comments so far

  1. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on January 4th, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

    Indian ‘male-ism’ is a backlash to ‘feminist-vadism’.


  2. Vatsal (unregistered) on January 4th, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

    “The fact is, sex-related violations in public places–be it groping in buses or cinema halls, being chased down an arterial road (Stephanie on R K Salai who lost her life ) and lewd comments in parks and beaches–are on a high as never before in our cities, EVEN IN CHENNAI.”

    Since when was sexually-repressed chennai a safe place for women? Maybe all those articles on eve-teasing and groping women in buses that I read in the Hindu happen elsewhere. After all, it is only the ‘northies who do it’. :)


  3. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 5:37 am

    The issue of women being molested by new year revellers is not new.
    Women should be advised by the media not to risk being exposed to the boisterous crowds which are not controllable by other males, not to mention the police even. Women groups should also take the initiative in educating ‘wannabe boisterous females’.

    The media has to recognise that these boisterous new year crowds are a common occurence in the Indian scenario. Dogs wagging tails should not make news! The media should stop supporting feminist groups without applying any thought.

    The ‘conservative’ Indian society which has bottled up sexuality among the middle class, and this explains the psychology behind this event. Maybe Mumbais police should allow some bar dancing to let off some sexual steam.


  4. bhamadeviravi (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 8:24 am

    Partha, Vatsal :
    Thanx for your comments.
    Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata used to be safe cities for wome–comparitvely.. it is not about northies, southies, east or west..
    the issue is about making a metro safe enough for wome and girls to be out at night, if the want or need to…especially since our lifestyles have undergone massive changes in thelast decade or so..
    Confning women to their homes, is, in my opinion, not a workable solution.


  5. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 12:42 pm

    Bhamadeviravi, wonder who let feminists like you out of the asylum. While I pity that many people, including women, cannot go into boisterous crowds, whether at the beach or a college or any other place, women groups should take the initiative in educating ‘wannabe boisterous females’.


  6. Sundeep (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

    In my opinion harassing women in public/home are not men they are much worse than an animal.

    The issue of molestation happens not just in Chennai or India but around the world, even in developed countries. All I can say to the girls having a night-out, regrettably, is to think sensibly about where you want to go and not to binge on drinks.

    Male or Female when stuck to their limits I am sure things will be lot better!


  7. Karthik (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 9:42 am

    @ Parthasarathy,
    காட்டாற்றுக்கு அணை போட நினைப்பவன் கோமாளி அப்டின்னு காக்கை சித்தர் சொல்லி இருக்கார். ;) ஆணோ, பெண்ணோ, எவ்ளோ தான் பீலிங்க்ஸ் வெவ்வேறன்னா கூட, இந்த common denominator இருக்கு. மனசுக்கு தோன்றத பண்ணனும். மனசு அலைப்பாயுதா.. அத கட்டுப்படுத்தி வைக்க கூடாது. ஆனா மத்தவங்கள hurt பண்ண கூடாது. அவ்ளோ தான்.

    so, இந்த மாறி உலகம் எனக்கு வேணும்னு நெனச்சு, அத நோக்கி தான் நாம பயணம் செய்யணும். அத விட்டுட்டு இப்போ உலகம் இப்டி இருக்கு, அப்போ நாம இப்டி தான் behave பண்ணனும் அப்டின்னு சொல்ல கூடாது. இத சொன்னா feminism அப்டின்னு பெரிய வார்த்தை எல்லாம் சொல்றீங்க!


  8. Parthasarathy (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    Karthik,

    The point is, this issue is presented, by and to, females, as if it does not affect any one else in society.

    The very word ‘boisterous’ is related to the male of the species. If females want to experience it too, what else could you expect? Feminists now demanding the right to being ‘boisterous’, the last bastion of the males – that too on their terms! A watered down, female, version of ‘boisterosity’, perhaps?

    If feminists had their way, there would soon be rules that dictate when you can go ‘up’ or ‘down’, and jail if you dare to disobey ;-)A dangerously feminist India seems to be in the making within a sexually repressed society.


  9. David (unregistered) on January 9th, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

    Partha, your comments reveal how antiquated your outlook is I am sorry to say. Women have equal rights in this country to every man. No amount of your giving advice on how they ‘should’ do things will change that. I completely agree with Bhama. Unless we are all going to support individual rights, whether it is a man or woman, all the progress the country has made is fairly meaningless with behaviour like Mumbai witnessed on New Year’s eve.


  10. rambhai (unregistered) on January 11th, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    wow how in the name of lord did you steriotyped the “NORTHIES” as being vulgar towards woman. its not the direction of india that makes your personality but the enviornment in which you live in affects that. so please donot say the “northies” are like that


  11. bhamadeviravi (unregistered) on January 11th, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

    RAMBHAI:THANK YOU FOR READING THE BLOG.
    I AM NOT SURE WHAT U ARE REFERRING TO.. NOWHERE IN MY ORIGINAL BLOG HAVE I USED THE TERM NORTIES, BUT WHEN A READER WROTE IN, USING THAT TERM, I REPLIED SAYING, “IT IS NOT ABOUT NORTHIES OR SOUTHIES”’— IN OTHER WORDS I AM SAYING “DO NOT BE PREJUDICED AGAINST ANYONE, BUT LOOK AT THE ISSUE”..
    ALSO I HAVE NEITHER MENTIONED NOR STATED ABOUT VULGARITY ANYWHERE IN THE BLOG… HOW DID THAT GET IN???
    TRUST THIS ANSWERS YOUR QUERY??? :-)


  12. Anand (unregistered) on January 14th, 2008 @ 4:44 am

    I understood Vatsal’s comment to be in a rhetorical sense and I suspect that the meaning is something like- we like to bury our head in the sand and blame others whereas we are infact as bad or maybe even worse. Surely this is what I think the comment means.



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