That Last Mile Home: ‘I Can’t Trust That Men Won’t Gang Up On Me’

For many women, their commute to work or elsewhere requires them to take more than one form of transport. We asked women across India what happens on their last mile home which is often the moment when they are most vulnerable – dimly lit roads, very few female pedestrians, no policemen around, just that sinking feeling that anything can happen and the wish to get home as soon as possible.

This is when women hunker down, walk fast, call a family member or pretend to be on a call. This is the time when they know they might need that sharp object in their bag, and this is when they wear their backpacks in front of them. The Quint talked to women in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad who share their last mile story.

Like Medhashree Talapatra, a professor in Kolkata argues, for many people backpacks are just for carrying stuff, but not for women on their last mile home. For them, it’s a shield, a handy place to keep something, anything, that could be used for self-defence.

"“A backpack is what you wear to ward off gropes on you breasts. To protect yourself from unwanted predators.”" - Medhashree Talapatra, Professor, Kolkata

A crowded cab isn’t an issue for most, except for Tannishtha Sinha, a student from Kolkata, who is apprehensive about taking a shared taxi to her house from the nearest Metro station.

"“I can never be sure that the men won’t gang up on me. If a group of men look at me for more than five seconds, my heart starts to race. I am in constant fear.”" - Tannishtha Sinha, Student, Kolkata

Some women have stopped going out at night altogether, unless they have friends or family to pick up and drop them.

"“Even Ola and Uber are not at all safe, so even for short distances to go to a shop or anywhere, I think twice.”" - Sakshi, Doctor, Puducherry

Other women rely on shuttles that drop them to their doorstep – which spares them the scary feeling of walking through unlit and desolate areas with nothing but moving traffic in the distance, very few female pedestrians and an atmosphere of danger.

Options pertaining to work and going out are limited. For many, this has become so normal that they just count their blessings and move on.

"“I feel safe because the shuttle that my father’s government job provides me drops me to my doorstep. But I can only take up a job where I can leave work in time to catch the shuttle.”" - Female Commuter, NCR

While horrific news from Hyderabad, of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor’s rape and murder has shaken the nation, a woman techie from the same city tells us about how the Metro station in her tech park is poorly lit. Her 30-kilometre-journey is long with the most dangerous part being the last mile, where lonely streets make her uneasy.

"“I have to take several modes of transport to work and back. Scooty, Metro, taxi. It is not very well-lit outside the Metro station and I feel a little scared, so I call my husband or mother so that I don’t feel lonely.”" - Lipsa Panda, Tech Worker, Hyderabad

The mood on the streets of Noida at night, is best summed up by a woman staffer at an office. As the evening darkens, she says,

"“I should go now. It is not safe to be out late anymore. It’s getting dark, I’m getting nervous. I should leave while everyone else from my office is on their way home.”" - Woman Staffer, Noida

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