The urban women seemingly have a better access to public space, with millions of women participating in workforce, commuting daily by using the public transport. Yet, on observing the urban spaces closely, we realise that women restrict themselves when accessing a public space.
In the final part of the gender and public space series, we explore the streets of Bengaluru.
Bengaluru was a quaint, sleepy town until the mid-1980s when Texas Instruments set up its base in the city, sowing the seed of what was to become India’s Silicon Valley by the end of the 20th century. Suddenly, the Garden City woke up perplexed, as a massive chunk of young, technology professionals migrated to Bengaluru to work in the rapidly growing IT sector.
Till the first decade of this century, Bengaluru continued to have that look of wonder on how it would cope with the growing population, and keep up with their demands. Yet, there were no signs of complain, because this was the city to totally ‘chill out’.
Today, Bengaluru is the 8th most populous city in India, with much of the young, independent workforce settled away from parents. This explains the city’s unique youth-friendly, cosmopolitan culture, where women can be free and safe.
Thousands of women working in the IT sector vouch for Bengaluru's safety, how they can wear, whatever they want, travel safely even at middle of night, feel comfortable to visit one of Bengaluru’s popular beer pubs and enjoy their drinks.
A walk by the Brigade Road would reveal how comfortably women and men enjoy their shopping, pub or café hopping or mingling with the opposite sex.
Bengaluru was also known for embracing the LGBTQ community pretty early in the movement, and providing a safe space for the queer crowd to be free from stigma.
Bengaluru, thus, maintained a reputation for being safe for women for almost two decades, until the New Year's night of 2016, when reports of mass molestation in Brigade Road broke. While some may say it was a politically-motivated conspiracy, NCRB data says that “Bengaluru is the third most unsafe metro city in the country.” So, what is the reality in Bengaluru?
For my photo series, I began the shoot with Cubbon Park, where a 30 year old engineering graduate was allegedly raped after dark. Other than that, I chose to explore Ulsoor Lake, KR Market, city’s traditional trade and commerce area, Russel Market, Vidhan Souda and the Baghmane Tech Park.
In my view, except the areas frequented by the IT crowd, Bengaluru is no different from any other city. Plenty of women go around the city, cautious of the fact that public space is the men's domain. Women access it only for legitimate purpose and walk the route between the private space (home) and public space, with almost no loitering.