J cycled to work everyday. She cycled everywhere mostly, ever since she learnt how to manage the two wheeler, which was quite late in her life, late by normal standards!
The distance she cycled to reach her workplace was no more than 10 kilometers, not too much, considering she used the traffic-free cycle paths.
The cycle path was lovely, shaded by trees on both sides, sometimes snaking under an overhead bridge , under archways and past green, open fields. It was the lovely part of the city, J loved it. As she cycled she heard birds chirping, saw squirrels crossing the path and an occasional house cat, out for its morning jaunt. When the sun shined through the trees, the whole place lit up! That path was used by pedestrians too, and so there were joggers, walkers and even dogs out with their owners.
However, in spite of all this, the path was relatively quiet and empty, sometimes there would be no soul for a kilometer, the emptiness was inviting, warm and safe. J never felt threatened, frightened, or even panicked when she never encountered another human being for a long time. This was a new feeling for J, she never grew up here, she migrated to this part of the world due to her work.
She grew up in a busy corner of the world, teeming with people, yet amidst so many, she never felt safe on the streets, in deserted stretches and pathways. A footstep behind would mostly imply someone was following her, the trees on the deserted path could be used by a person with evil intentions. Dusk and eventually night, would imply she had to hurry back home, as darkness gave the man power, to do or to be anything. The woman is never safe.
Ever since she had learnt to step out alone for her college, university or workplace, J observed and understood simple rules of survival in this crowded world. She dressed shoddily to avoid attention, she kept to group travelling after sunset and she always stuck to busy routes. This last one meant she had to factor in that time, to reach her destination. The feeling of insecurity pervaded everywhere, outside the four walls of her home.
J felt frustrated at times and she never understood the cause, just then her workplace shifted her to this new location. It was far away from home, from family, from everything familiar. However, it offered something new, J was always ready for some adventure, the spirit had remained dormant due to being born in that teeming world.
The new place was beautiful, less crowded and offered more. J discovered her new passions, she learnt cycling, she learnt to be herself and more confident. Fear took a backseat, freedom took the forefront, a world of possibilities opened up before her. J was exuberant, her joy knew no bounds.
J knew she was lucky, she had experienced freedom, something rare in the world she was brought up in. The path she took everyday made her realize that over and over again. In this world there are so few places where a woman could feel safe, the cycle path was a piece of heaven.
Sometimes all a woman needs is a small stretch of place where she can be, who she wants to be……………very few are lucky to get that! Most are drowned beneath societal demands, man’s hungry eyes, and prejudices in this world.