A few years ago, while still in college, my friend and I decided to venture into HKV (Hauz Khas Village). It was one of those quaint places that we associated with solitude, filmy posters and Gunpowder or Thadi, these eclectic restaurants that everybody was raving about.
In the 1980s and 90s, it was a secluded spot where designers opened stores frequented by their foreign clients. And then in the 2000s, it became home to independent artists, expats and restaurateurs. The 'village' was no longer that, it was buzzing with activity and came to be associated with the changing landscape of the city, the boho-chic crowd who thronged these places and passed their time.
From haute couture to hooliganism.
Hauz Khas Village - a pristine little hamlet in the heart of the capital, is anything but pristine now. The quaint restaurants overlooking the gorgeous lake have now been replaced with pubs playing dhinchak music. The quiet lanes of the village are now crowded, casually violent.
Things change, like people. What was once untouched and only frequented by a few is now, well, welcome to entitled dilli ke douchebags, who think it is their right to call women names, who park like uncivilised morons and behave like they own the place. Hooliganism, drunk brawls are routine. It is a painful reality that we are conveniently choosing to ignore, because well, it is convenient.
An intellectual bastion, now infamous for being too 'rowdy'.
What happened last night at Hauz Khas Village, where a woman almost got abducted by a group of men, is not what we associated it with. The girl with her drunk friend, almost got picked up by a group of men in a car. As girls we have always been told to not take the empty lanes, to avoid secluded areas, to be safe. But this happened in a crowded place, with people around. How can you feel safe when you can literally be picked up off the street? This could very well have been another case of rape and murder, had it not been for a brave girl who came to rescue another.
Not a one-off incident.
In February 2017, a 24-year-old student was raped in Hauz Khas Village. The police, after the incident, had assured more vigilance in the area, but sadly this incident is proof enough that nothing much has changed. There are reports after reports filed in the media, on several incidents of eve-teasing, sexual abuse, from a place that we associate with 'frivolous fun'. Who do we blame? We just had to ask a few friends if they had experienced similar incidents, and out came the cat from the box.
"When they made the extra parking space, a friend and I had parked there and there were barely any cars there, no light. We got chased by two men and there was a group of men drinking outside. We felt scared and vulnerable."
"I was walking alone at 11 in the night, from Hauz Khas to my house which is in Green Park & three men, out of which two seemed pretty drunk, called me and said, "Can we drop you anywhere?". Even after saying No, they continued chasing me until I got into an auto. It shook me and I will think twice before venturing out alone."
Shady, crowded and superficial.
That parking space, is just another shady place where people smoke up and create ruckus. That bar you frequent may actually not have a fire safety check in place. That bouncer you think will protect you, may not have undergone any training whatsoever.
Has anything translated to actual change?
Are the bars well-equipped to handle unruly situations? Are the bouncers well trained to fight the menace? Is there enough police personnel guarding the area, or interested in guarding the area, so you and I can have a good time? The village is closer to many reputed colleges in the country and more often than not it is frequented by these youngsters who are not legally permitted to drink and end up creating a ruckus.
For a woman in her 20s, I party, go out with my friends, I work hard to earn a decent living for myself, so what I do should be none of your business. Am I a commodity that you own? Do I not have the right to have a good time with my friends? If I drink, does that make me promiscuous? So, you can take me for a ride?
Hauz Khas Village, has now become a poster child for everything wrong with the capital. And this should be ringing alarm bells. The men who decided to come for the girl, had a plan, they came to rape and kill her. They thought they could pick her up easily, from Hauz Khas, because it was 'easy'. We wish we could tone it down and say, hey it is not all that bad, because hey, it is that bad, very bad. We are no longer safe in our own neighbourhood, we are no longer safe with our friends, we are not safe anywhere. We have categorically ruined a place we once associated with fun banter and quiet evenings. It is upon us, perhaps to change a little.
Illustrated feature : Aakansha Pushp