Those were App-less days.
She would attend evening classes in a suburb 15 kilometres away, and take a bus back home. One would call her at some point, and feel reassured to hear, that she was already in a bus on her way home, or waiting for one at the bus stop opposite her Institute.
But that day was different. There was no response from her. The phone just kept ringing. As the evening turned to night, her parents got immensely worried, and were just leaving to contact the police , when there was a call from her.
She had been hit by a speeding bike while she stood at the very crowded bus stop opposite her Institute. She was knocked down, bleeding and hurt. Maybe she was recognized by the daily bus travellers , and the vendors behind the bus stop, but someone helped her get up , gave her a big handkerchief to stem the blood flow, and stopped a rickshaw which took them to the nearest municipal hospital. The kind gent, even waited and looked after a backpack, (and a bag containing a birthday cake from Merwan's) till someone in OPD did the stitches (just missing her eyes) , and dressed her injuries . The person even asked her where she lived and accompanied her in a rickshaw, since she was a bit weak due to the loss of blood and impact. Closer to her house, and nauseous from fumes in the unending traffic jam, she had left the rickshaw, and started walking home; realizing her phone was still in her pocket, she called her folks, and told them what happened. They rushed to the entrance of their gated campus and were shocked to see her, blood smears on her clothes, bandages on her face, slowly lugging her backpack.
That was my daughter , and it was Christmas eve 2008.
When I read about this Smart Suraksha today, all this came back to mind, and I wondered if things would have been different . I wished she had Smart Suraksha on her phone. Perhaps she would have activated it while on her way to the hospital, and we would have rushed there. Maybe some of us would have automatically received a message. It would have given us her location. One is never always lucky as she was in the sort of people she met who helped her, and one could have activated friends in that area to rush to her aid, if her phone had had this app.
These are difficult times. A thousand things go through your mind, until whoever has left home for work or study comes back home safely each evening. It is a sad state of affairs, but anything can happen... and this holds for members of either sex. There are goondas, there is road rage, and misguided folks who take law into their own hands.
Times have changed today. While earlier, there was security in numbers, and by and large, Mumbai's BEST buses are the best, our roads today are cursed with several new dangers. There are those unqualified to drive, who inflict themselves dangerously on innocent folks on the road. There are chain snatchers who whiz past on bikes, and attack you . There are even folks who molest while blending in with the crowd, and attack. There are some of us who travel in suburban trains , and incidents of being attacked by drug crazed imbalanced molesters continue to be reported, particularly in compartments which are isolated at certain times.
Then we have the new venues for trouble. Unimaginative constructions , troublesome in many ways for pedestrians, who have less energy, speed, and luck, in the face of horsepowered traffic that would have gone over skybridges/flyovers with ease. But NO. The sky walks that continue to be built across Mumbai, presumably to allow folks trouble free access to places across roads with massive traffic. These sky walks are not used as much, and have now become places where it is dangerous for women to be, particularly in the evenings, very early mornings, and by themselves. Someone could follow you, and seize the moment.
Fear and panic often freezes your thinking. It sounds useful at such times to have a button you can press, that informs your loved ones, friends, and even police , about where you are. Perhaps with a loud siren/whistle etc to attract folks around the venue.
We are a nation that thrives on special benefits for folks deemed special . Mostly by themselves. And so we have public leaders , protected by , say, 37 constables and 5 cars ; some have fewer police protecting them, and so many have these protection forces just sitting outside their residences. There are folks who crave for an upgrade in security, and pester the government , and receive it as a quid pro quid for something. We even have police, protected by police .
Given the fact that those in power often gift themselves and others like themselves, contraptions like smart phones and laptops, at public expense, there are several things one can suggest. Preinstall Smart Suraksha on these phones. Maybe call the version Smart Suraksha Grande Duo or something , in honor of the exalted status of these folks. Whenever these folks smell danger (and I can guarantee that they have a very keen qualified sense of smell), it should activate the nearest security squadron. Waise bhi, the guys in the Black Cat set up are trained to respond instantaneously. You could have many such squadrons situated all over Mumbai, and these could be shared by our esteemed folks in power.
There are some companies, who give phones to their employees as a benefit. These could come preinstalled with Smart Suraksha. Unlike politicians who never have to justify any expenditure , or refuse to give reasons for spending money, corporates could put this down to their share of Corporate Social Responsibility. It will clearly be a useful thing for so many women employees , who must travel at odd hours. Particularly those in the news and broadcast industry, and those who work in shifts.
And now, just a little something to cheer everyone, in these dangerous times.
There is an arterial east-west road that runs close to where we stay. In the process of road widening , it has become very difficult to cross this road, particularly with the increasing traffic and the fact that much of it disobeys traffic rules. The road is used greatly by school kids, and several senior citizens who escort the younger kids to and from from kindergaarten. So the road authorities, in their knee jerk reaction, immediately constructed these foot over bridges, which are like shorter length sky walks. Folks lugging bags of vegetables, senior citizens with climbing problems, and others refuse to use these, with the result, that these are now isolated places at certain times. The noise of the almost 24 hour traffic and the honking makes it impossible to hear anything from these bridges.
A few days ago, one heard that one of these hardly used sky walks, was being regularly used in the evenings. By a gentleman, who coached kids of the neighborhood in karate. A whole bunch of small kids, gathered there, in the evenings ,doing their karate exercises and workouts, guided by their teacher. Good exercise, away from bad local influences. No disturbance, good strong surface with lighting, and whats most important , free.
I am sure there will be spoil sports. Someone will send these guys a stupid notice. These "someones" almost never notice hawkers on such bridges.
But my vote goes for these innovative folks teaching their own Smart Suraksha!