I distinctly remember the time when I first moved out of home. The suitcases were jam-packed with homemade snacks, the handbags rife with religious symbolism. “The Gods will help ward all danger off, my dear.” drawled my dear Granny. She tucked in a bottle of pepper spray when she thought I wasn’t looking. The Gods too, I nodded mentally, need a weapon of action. My point being, leaving one’s safety to intangible assistance is hardly an option in these – as Lord Krishna points out in Mahabharat – corrupt, self destructing era of kalyug.
Pune conventionally has a ‘safer’ reputation than good old Delhi. All the more reason to take safety in your own hands and let the beautiful city remain thus. Here are a bunch of safety tips that have always held me in good stead in lands away from the comfort of sweet home.
#1. An Eagle’s Eye is your best accessory
There was a time when stalkers were as loving as Amol Palekar in Choti Si Baat. These days, they more often turn out to be goons, idlers and psychopaths. Keep a lookout for these species and warn the local police station if remotely suspicious. Sporting the muscle-man of your kin or your pet Swiss Knife – just casually, once in a while – could also do the trick.
#2. Chuck that music on late nights out
The fanciest of gadgets are put to dust if they can’t bring you help when it is needed most. Moreover, the gadget isn’t to be blamed if your incessant music drains it of battery. Until you arrive home safe and sound, especially from a low-traffic, late-night ride, it’s best to let your phone rest. You may need it to contact people through a dialler or through a utility app such as Smart Suraksha which connects to five pre-chosen contacts at once and also sends them your location.
Otherwise, you may want to invest in one of those 24-day-battery-life (or is it 30?) monsters.
#3. Bear responsibility for the beer
Whoever defined independence as a chance to make ourselves better, did a neat job of utility moralizing. Indeed, the probability of being safe goes up manifold if you can hold your head high and walk straight. Pune’s vintage breweries and lounges may be too tempting to resist. But if you’re alone and will be late coming home, drink responsibly. The romance of uninhibited and inebriated grandeur is no good in a confrontation with a goon.
#4. Carry a self defence weapon
God alone can keep count of the number of articles that my purse, on an average day, contains. I am told by several that if only Robinson Crusoe had managed to get hold of it, the classic would have had a very different plot. But the bottom-line is that irrespective of all that jazz, there’s nothing to beat Pepper Spray or a Swiss Knife. Easy to use and work wonders, both of them.
#5. Develop a loud, high pitched scream
A shout-out never fails to attract attention, even when you think no one is looking. If suspicious, nervous or plain scared and at your wit’s end, scream. Don’t let an empty lane unnerve you; your shouting may bring forth a couple of ferocious, helpful dogs. Pune has a lot of these.
#6. Choose to trust… and to mistrust
We trust easily, despite voicing bells of warning to others. The prepaid auto-wallah at the airport or railway station still stands superior to the independent seeker you haggle with to save a buck. The housemaid your neighbour recommended to you may be worth her weight in gold but that is no reason to let her miss her police verification. Weigh your object of trust and weigh well.
#7. Consider a lesson in karate
A packed lifestyle may prevent us from devoting time to painting that masterpiece or composing that novel. But picture a dreary lane and a clump of hideous goons at its end and that lesson in karate seems immensely inviting. Give it a thought, perhaps during that new-year-resolution-week, when Pune brims with optimism and wintry sunlight.
#8. Choose a safe wardrobe
Colour, style, occasion notwithstanding, the times necessitate ‘safe’ clothing. The frills and fancies are sure to be cursed when entangled with barbed wires and street signage. When cognizant of being alone and late, rule out footwear and clothing in which you can’t flee. Pune has several lanes which resist repair and remain, well, unfriendly. And hurling high-heeled footwear to injure an assailant comes only with practice, trust me.
#9. Don’t be untraceable in wanderlust
Our streets don’t really lend themselves to solitary travellers, without a care in the world. Pune does offer a number of delightful destinations, for instance the lovely hills of Matheran. But no matter what your destination be, make the effort to let your immediate family/friends/neighbours/whoever-you-have-in-the-world know. If calamity were to strike, there will at least be someone who can come to your rescue.
#10. Understand the landscape keenly
Nothing like the local map at your fingertips – the road directions, the local businesses, the streets and their traffic conditions, police stations and hospitals. This comes with spending time in a city and brings untold confidence. When alien to such knowledge, tag along a native to act as a substitute.
Better safe than sorry, they say. Granny and I strive to be responsible for our own safety. And then, we leave the rest to God.
What are your recommendations to be safe in these trying times?