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?