| 1. MUMBAI
In Order of Safety
Eight years ago, when Georgia Anne
Francis moved to Bangalore from Muscat, she thought the Garden City
would be loads of freedom and fun. She was right. Bangalore did
offer a new sense of freedom, but fun was often marred on the streets.
"It is routine for a single woman to be ogled and whistled
at even on major roads of the city," says Anne Francis, 28.
She isn't the only woman in Bangalore to feel this way. A BT-NFO
India survey of 350 working women in six metros-Bangalore, Chennai,
Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai-shockingly reveals that India's
Silicon Valley is also the second unsafest city. Says Gautam Nath,
Director (Corporate Services), NFO India: "That comes as a
complete surprise, since popular perception is to the contrary."
What makes it so? The discomfort stems primarily from attitude-of
men and the local administration. For example, a greater percentage
of working women in Bangalore feel that public is most unhelpful
when they are in trouble; they also feel that local police provide
inadequate protection to them; and no doubt for these reasons, the
women most afraid-after Delhi, the worst city on the survey-to venture
out alone after 9 PM are Bangalorean.
But no city breaks working women out in sweat like Delhi does.
The national capital has the most number of women who dread working
late or spending time with their male colleagues-within and outside
the office-after office hours. Besides, more working women in Delhi
think that men are resentful of having them in the work place.
So if you are a woman, just where should you be working? The Hottest
State for Business (See Business Today, September 28, 2003) is also
home to the safest metropolis for working women. In Mumbai, women
have no problems using public transport to get about, working late
hours or partying late into the evening with male colleagues. It's
also the best city for single women. What do women say in Hyderabad-the
next best city-Chennai and Kolkata? Turn the page to find out.
|As safe as it gets: Shirsat has taken
the local train home at three in the morning and felt totally
You can hate the city for its squalor,
sprawl, or cramped chawls, but you can never ever hate Mumbai for
its people. Just ask Suvarna Shirsat, 28, a chartered accountant
and manager at accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young
Cap Gemini. "There are places like Bandra-Kurla complex that
get quite lonely after seven in the evening, but you almost never
feel unsafe," declares the Mumbaikar.
Shirsat leaves her Andheri home at eight in the morning and the
office bus drops her at her Vikhroli office by nine. On days when
she misses the bus, Shirsat has to take either public transport
(bus or train) or an autorickshaw to reach office, but she never
feels unsafe. Unlike Delhi, Chennai, or Bangalore, autorickshaws
and taxis are paid strictly by the meter and they almost never take
you for a ride. In her previous job, Shirsat has even taken the
local train back home alone three in the morning without any worry,
The sense of safety also means that Shirsat can shop alone or
hang out with friends or colleagues from office in the night, or
catch a late evening show and never have to fret about it. "Also,
the work environment is really cool and professional," says
Shirsat. Carry on, Mumbai.
|Traditional at heart: Dorothy Thomas
likes the city's considerate work culture and traditional life
Conservative But Safe
How do you stay out of harm's way?
if you were to ask that to a working woman in Chennai, she'd probably
say, "By playing it safe." Like Dorothy Thomas. A resident
partner at Kochhar & Co, (and the only woman lawyer partner
in Chennai), Thomas heads a team of 12 attorneys and travels abroad
almost every two months. In Chennai, her day typically begins at
8:30 AM and ends at seven in the evening. But there are days when
the 29-year-old has to work late (mostly for clients overseas) into
midnight, and for those days she has a strategy. She takes an hour's
break after seven and returns to work straightaway, but with minimum
of jewellery on her. Says Thomas, who studied law in Pune and worked
in Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai, before moving to Chennai: "Driving
to and from work in a car is safe, but you wouldn't want to go out
alone late in the evening with expensive jewellery on you; that
would be inviting trouble." She also says that the city's male
executives are generally courteous and considerate, although the
city is not as safe as it used to be (she grew up in Chennai). No
wonder, it's Hyderabad and not Chennai that is the second-most safe
city for working women.
Not So White Collar
|Bad vibes: Anne Francis distrusts most
auto drivers, although this one is an exception (photo dramatised)
One time when her Kinetic Honda ran
out of fuel on her way back home late in the evening, it was an
autorickshaw driver who proved to be her knight in shining armour.
But that was just once. Even today, whenever Georgia Anne Francis
hails an autorickshaw in Bangalore, she always checks out the driver
before hopping in. "There are visible clues in their appearance,"
explains the 28-year-old. "Those smelling of booze I definitely
avoid, and I also don't hire them if I get negative vibes. A woman
can never be too careful." Ergo, when Anne Francis is driving
on her own, she avoid roads that are not well lit. On that count,
Bangalore has definitely surprised Anne Francis, who works as an
assistant to fashion designer Manoviraj Khosla. Eight years ago
when she moved base from Muscat, she thought Bangalore would be
a welcome change. In many ways it has been, but in many others,
not. Despite the city's tech mecca label, eve teasing is common,
complains Anne Francis. And a recent break-in at her apartment complex
in Cooke Town has not added to her confidence. "Most people
here are extremely nice and friendly, but there can be nasty exceptions."
Bangalore, take note.
|Worst of the lot: For Sisters Nidhi and
Manisha, even driving on their own is no guarantee of safety
For some days now, sisters Nidhi and
Manisha Kapur have been toying with the idea of buying themselves
a knife, or a similar sharp object, each that can be carried in
their hand bags. An extreme move? Perhaps, but when you are living
in a city where 355 women were raped-including a Swedish diplomat
recently-in just 10 months this year, you can't be too careful.
Especially for Manisha, who is younger of the two and travels to
suburb Gurgaon, where she works as a Senior Manager (IT) with a
leading MNC, the daily commute is a serious cause for concern. Not
only is her drive long, but it's poorly lit and patrolled. Nor does
Nidhi, who works in Delhi, feel safe driving on her own. "Even
during the day I drive with the windows rolled up and the cellphone
handy," says Nidhi.
Both have long given up on public transport (Delhi's infamous
Blueline buses), which they feel are dens of eve teasers and molesters.
Unsafe evenings have meant less of socialising. And when the sisters
do party, they shack up at the host's rather than risk driving back
home late in the night. For working women, the sisters say, Delhi
is a disaster waiting to happen. Let's hope they are wrong.