If the known devil is better than an unknown angel, you must be in Mumbai. At the outset, this is the city of dreams. But, delve a little bit closer and you realize, the product is nothing like the advertisement. Bulging at its seams, the island city has many despicable secrets hidden in its dark alleys. The streets don’t always lead to a safe haven and the railway tracks have witnessed many sordid tales. The illuminated skyline seems to be fighting a losing battle, all the while, pretending to be a city that never sleeps. In spite of this, the backdrop of this city provides a canvas to a million dreams, nationwide. Everyone wants to lay claim to this enigma. Here, opportunities are based on competence, and independence and freedom are two very different avenues. It is here that ordinary lives make extraordinary stories. The metro shines like a star, while the rest of the country views her through their imitation rose tinted glasses.To this city, I belong. As a child, I have travelled its corners trying to grasp the stories within my secured cocoon. As a teen, I made my way through crowded buses, trains and streets, holding a safety pin for added security. As an adult, I’ve been cautious about who, what, why, where and when. The city that encouraged me to fly also clipped my wings from time to time. I protested, cried, flinched, fought and at times, surrendered. I was broken but I learnt to pick up the pieces. I learnt it was okay. That was where I was wrong. ‘Okay’ is an interim. It is not a resolution. It is not okay to be seen like a commodity. It is not okay to be treated unequally. It is not okayto put yourself last. It is not okay not to be in charge of your own life. Mumbai, I realized, was everything but impartial. No woman was free, completely. No matter the age, the community, the locality or the social strata. Shackles came in all shapes and sizes. Sadly, sometimes, they were passed from one woman to another.
Before we up the battle for gender equality, let’s make women on par with women. Let no mother have to tell her daughter to bear the insolence, lest the family be shamed. Instead, let her accompany her daughter to lodge a police complaint. Let no mother-in-law harass a daughter-in-law for dowry. Instead, let her urge her son to be a better husband and father. Let no neighbours question the integrity of a single mother. Let them, instead, help her get on with another day. Let no girl have to trade her childhood for the dangers lurking around. Let her have the security, instead, of having you watch her back. Treat every woman just the way you would treat yourself. And for that, you need to give yourself a fighting chance. I know, I did.
Men, you cannot be compared to women. We both have two very different horizons. However, this city is mine just as much as it is yours. There’s room for all and I refuse to be bullied into a corner. If I see something wrong, I will question. If I think you are being inappropriate I will warn you. If I think you still have not understood, don’t blame me for teaching you a lesson. My assets don’t fancy a conversation, lest alone being trespassed. And the sooner you learn that, the better we will get along.
Women, stand up and raise your voice. Be informed and be aware. Be in control of your finances. Get your health check-up done, periodically. Live, love and laugh to the fullest. Be yourself, there is none like you. Teach your sons well and educate your daughters better. Mirror the change, one day at a time. And, we will surely be one step closer to a Mumbai for Women.