NEW DELHI: I wake up to my mother fervently shaking my shoulder. Disregarding my obvious displeasure at being woken up at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, she thrusts her phone screen in front of my barely open eyes. The occasion is a “must-watch” WhatsApp video advising women to check for the child lock hidden on the inside of car doors, to deter potential rapists from confining women using the mechanism. As I check my own phone, I see that three more concerned Aunties have alerted me of this life hack of sorts.

“Taxis are not safe for women!” says one such WhatsApp message.

I begin to wonder—what exactly is safe for women anymore? How many measures must a woman take before she is completely protected from sexual violence?

This PSA video comes in the wake of an increasing number of rapes occurring in moving vehicles in New Delhi, the most famous (at least in terms of reportage) of which was the Nirbhaya case. The most recent case, however, is the rape of a 22-year-old Sikkimese woman, who was forcibly abducted from her Gurgaon PG and raped for hours in a moving car before being dumped on the road.

The climbing rape statistics in the city only add to my mother’s worries, and those of women all over the city. The number of reported cases in Delhi alone have increased from 706 in 2012 to 2199 in 2016.

However, what proves to be as horrifying as these figures, if not more, is our response to such incidents. The onus of preventing rape seems to lie on the survivor of the crime rather than the perpetrator. With every new report of sexual violence against women, our paranoia increases, heightening the need to safeguard ourselves against such crimes. Our energies are spent in confining a woman’s world, decreasing her presence in the public sphere, instead of securing her right to exist outside her home.

As I prepare to leave for an internship in Delhi, my mother suggests that I install the Delhi Police Women’s Helpline application on my phone. Once that is done, we are ordering pepper sprays on Amazon.

“It should be small enough to fit in your bag.” she says matter-of-factly.

“Should I look for a portable chainsaw too?” I retort, exasperated.

She shakes her head somberly whilst telling me that this is not a joke.

“Yes it isn’t. That is the problem”, I mutter.

I am supposed to catch an early morning train to Delhi for which I decide my outfit well in advance– nothing form-fitting of course. Once in the train, I ask my co-passenger if he would be willing to trade his aisle seat for my window one. Why? The aisle seat allows for quick escapes.

My parents call me every hour of the journey to check on me. “Don’t use the bathroom while the train is stationary. Someone might grab you from the outside or push you from the inside.” they tell me for the third time in three hours. I obey, of course. These are measures that I have always taken while travelling by train.

The train ride ends at New Delhi Railway Station, but the rape prevention measures accompany me everywhere. At least ten minutes are spent every night in deciding what to wear in the morning. Does my bra strap show? Too much cleavage? Visible panty lines? Will I attract too much attention if I wear this? All these questions run through my mind even as I try to sleep.

The morning arrives and I realize I have not contemplated my outfit enough. My aunt tells me that my behind look prominent in my pants of choice. Apparently, even the outline of an anatomical structure common to all members of the human race is something to be kept under wraps. I am dropped off to the metro station, where I hurry to the women’s coach at the end of the platform. I ponder over the reasons why we need a women’s coach at all, daily eve-teasing and harassment being one of the main ones. The fact that women get regularly harassed in the normal coaches is common knowledge.

As I return from my internship, I drop a message to my mother telling her that I am on my way back. “Hurry, it’s going to be dark soon!” she replies. Taking an auto from the metro station, I switch on Google Maps for I am in unfamiliar territory, and cannot trust the auto driver to take me home safely.

It’s 6 p.m. now and I have made it back before sunset. I mentally tick off everything on my list of rape prevention measures as a notification lights up my phone screen. It is yet another WhatsApp message containing a link to an article introducing an invention called the ‘electro-shoe’, made by some well-meaning entrepreneur intending to prevent rape. The shoe can be used to inflict an electric shock on the rapist, and simultaneously send alerts to the police or family members of the threatened woman.

Somehow, I cannot appreciate the ‘electro-shoe’.

I am glad that issues over women’s safety provide many entrepreneurial opportunities, but I am sick of anticipating rape.