Wednesday, 6 November 2013

My tips for Smart Suraksha


I am a paranoid person by nature. I always assume the worst and try to remain alert, no matter how safe the environment looks. Perhaps this has aided me in surviving a lot of odds, barring situations which spiraled out of control due to sudden bursts of involuntary impulsiveness on my part. Many a times I have been chided by the husband for checking and double-checking locks, hiding knick-knacks out of sight in the car and wanting to keep the mobile with me all the time. But then, I have no other option – this is the life I have chosen for myself as a woman in the 21st century. I need to fight for myself and gather help in times of need. I have to survive and help my fellow women-folk overcome perils as well.

I have lived and attended schools in Guwahati and Dehra Dun, higher studies in Delhi, worked in Mumbai (and Delhi for a short period) and presently residing in Bangalore. And so, after spending my life in all these amazing Indian cities, I can safely conclude that my childhood spent in a tiger sanctuary was the safest period of my life.  

Here are my tips to remain safe (in relative terms):

1. Keep your mobile with you Yes, this seems a little funny, but I feel safe only when I have my mobile phone with me. There is this sense of security when you know that you can reach someone at the press of a button when the need arises. Better still, download the Smart Suraksha App and that will ensure that someone has your back all the time. I remember the time my female colleague used to drive home late from our office in Gurgaon, keeping her phone online all the time, disabling the auto lock system. I think we are in a better position now with such apps as Smart Suraksha available to us. 

Also, ensure that your mobile is fully charged when you leave your home/work place. It won’t do if it is dead just when you need it.

2. Work place – I have observed that while being located in a Central Business District works wonders for commuting to office, it is that much unsafe to leave from office if working late hours. The office buildings empty themselves by 7 pm and the teeming office crowd is replaced by nefarious activities in the very same lanes with people of questionable backgrounds and intents. I speak from experience after countless late nights at Ballard Estate in Mumbai, a buzzing office destination by day and a hotbed of other less reputable businesses by night. 

In such cases, I used to rely on being escorted by a male colleague to the railway station or a cab. You should do so, too. There is no shame in asking someone to accompany you, or asking someone to come and pick you up. Better still, do not work late nights. Avoid it as much as possible. Those days, we had to work on desk-tops and hence had to stay back till we finished the chore. Laptops have taken that phase out of my life now. Request for a laptop if you are still living in that archaic condition in office.

3. Avoid posh residential zones – Surprisingly, this is another unsafe area. I used to stay in Juhu in Mumbai and in all my years of residence I hardly saw my neighbours. Only their dogs, cats and their sedans. The lanes would be pretty with huge shady trees, unfortunately aggravating the insecurity in the area. There would be huge gates, all locked, and I used to wonder if anybody would ever come out even if I shrieked at the top of my voice. My advice, avoid such posh areas. Take alternate busy roads. At least someone is bound to notice in case something unfavourable happened to you.

4. Car safety – If you are driving alone at night, take care to see that all the car windows are up and the doors locked. I know of a case where my colleague’s phone was snatched off the dashboard in broad daylight at a traffic stop. The miscreant had simply taken advantage of the auto unlocking of the door when the car had stopped. Also, never keep your bag, shopping packages, laptops or anything in public view inside your car if you are leaving it unattended. Hide everything out of sight. Push them below the seats or zip them up in the seat pockets. 

5. Stranger tides – Never ever accept lifts from strangers, even if that meant waiting indefinitely for your bus or an auto. I remember making the mistake of accepting lifts from a seemingly kind ‘Uncleji’ as a student in Delhi, along with a room-mate of mine. Realization dawned when I boarded his car alone one day in the absence of my room-mate and he offered to take me out for a movie. Hence, do not take any stranger at face value, however genial that person may seem to be.

6. Trains and buses – It may seem rude, but it is always safer to keep to oneself during long train and bus journeys. Courtesy should be applied but not to the extent of opening up wholly in front of a stranger/strangers. You never know what their motives may be towards a girl travelling alone. And, as my mom used to tell me every time I boarded the train, “Never accept any food from strangers.” I have heard this throughout my childhood and I staunchly adhere to this rule.

7. The bag – I think one should always carry a ‘weapon’ in one’s bag/purse if travelling alone. It doesn’t necessarily mean a pepper spray. For many years, I carried a small but heavy torch-light. I used to come late from tuition and whenever I reached a lonely lane I would take out the torch on the pretext of darkness but more towards safety. And it is always wise to keep an uncluttered bag so that you can pull out your weapon of choice at a short notice.

8. Keys – Never share your house/car keys with anyone, unless you trust the person completely and he/she is known to you. Duplicate keys can be forged easily and houses can be broken into. Nothing is impossible in today’s world.

9. Auto travel – While I always felt safe travelling by auto-rickshaws in Mumbai, I can’t say the same for Bangalore. Although nothing untoward has taken place besides large scale swindling, I have decided to keep myself prepared. I had read somewhere that in case you feel uncomfortable in an auto, start talking over the phone with someone and throw in the location and the number of the auto in your conversation. The auto driver, if he had anything planned, would be dissuaded by this act. Hopefully.

10. On a bike – I can’t seem to shake off my insecurity even while pillion riding on a bike. The husband gets his bike over whenever he gets frustrated with the traffic snarls of Bangalore. On those days, I loop the bag over my arm and keep it ensconced between the husband and me, instead of letting it hang from my shoulders. I believe that would protect it from potential bag snatchers. A good idea?

11. Jewelry – Let me add a bonus tip, over and above the 10 tips. Please wear minimal jewelry when going out. I generally remove my gold chain and keep it in my bag till I reach office, where I put it back again so that my Bharatiya Nari image remains intact. I realized the perils of jewelry when a motorbike-riding chain snatcher had attempted to make away with my chain in the ‘safe’ neighborhood of Juhu one early evening. 

Or, just wear imitation jewelry, if at all.

All these tips are as a result of the cumulative experiences in the cities I lived in, particularly as a single girl. No place is safe for a girl. But we can arm ourselves with such safety tips and apps like Smart Suraksha. Precaution is half the battle won. Hopefully, the 21st century won’t turn out to be such an unsafe place for us, after all.

(I am sharing my Smart Suraksha Tips at BlogAdda.com in association with Smart Suraksha App.)

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