Courtesy: Humans of Bombay
“I grew up in a slum in Bombay. Since I was young, my father didn’t keep very well and I grew up watching my mother work around the clock to make ends meet. She started her own catering business, and would sometimes work over 12 hours in a day — the people in my slum looked down upon her for coming home at ‘odd hours’ and spoke badly about her, but that only increased the respect I had for her. At 16, I gave up my education and started working to support my mother — my first job was as an office boy. I used to help fix computers — I was the first one to get to office and the last one to leave; I tried my best to learn more…to be more.
I rose up the ranks with time and finally ended up in sales. Within a few years, I got a job at a reputed ad agency — life had come full circle.
It was during this time that a particular incident changed my life. I had gotten onto the train station for my every day commute, when I saw a group of men harassing women who were trying to get into the ladies compartment. I couldn’t fight them alone, so I went to the cops who initially tried to dismiss me. After some coaxing, one of the officers came with me — but by then these men had left. I was really affected by this — I thought of my own mother who would return home late after work and being harassed in this manner…wouldn’t I have done something? I could’t let it go.
A friend and I started researching and observing multiple train stations only to realise that were hundreds of such men everywhere and over 85% of women had been harassed or felt fear while commuting.
I invested in buying a pair of sunglasses with a built in HD camera. I started standing at the end of women’s compartment and recording everything within my sight. My documentation made me feel sick– I got a taste of being in these women’s shoes, and the harassment they faced. We presented all this evidence to the inspector and showed him the magnitude of our problem — thankfully this time, he understood. A team of 40 police officers began working with us — everyday these cops and I would stand in between two stations. The live feed of my recordings would catch the offenders on camera so that by the time they reached the next station, our officers were waiting for them. Within 6 months, we caught hold on 140 offenders who were jailed. And our fight continues — I now take up more personal cases of domestic abuse and women who are feeling unsafe at any point — I do everything I can to help them.
I know I took a step towards this, because I felt personally responsible for the men who were behaving like beasts. All men everywhere are looked at in a certain light, because of the few hundreds who create the chaos — I wanted to try and restore that balance. I have tremendous respect for all women, and it started at home — my mother taught me well… I didn’t respect anyone as much as her. And maybe that’s the message we should send out — raise better boys at home, and the world will know fewer disrespectful men.”
– Dipesh Tank