You don’t need to be a sociologist to know public safety and security, especially for women is one of the burning issues in India, something that has tarnished the country’s reputation and made tourists think twice about visiting Indian cities. This story, then, should not come as a surprise to anyone in India today, but it hits home and it hits hard!

Titled ‘What Women Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Running‘ and published in BuzzFeed, Aishhwariya Subramanian’s emotional and hard-hitting piece is a must-read for anyone who is a runner, and especially women runners. It paints a sad picture about life in India for women who have braved many obstacles to come out and start running, and we won’t be surprised if many such stories do emerge from this brilliant piece. Here are a few extracts. Read the full story here.

In its own way, on some days, living here can feel like survival contest. You have to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Know how to defend yourself. Be able to quickly judge who means to harm you and who’s a saviour. When to duck and where to hide. How to dodge groping, pinching, and grazing hands when you least suspect them. Which lanes have street lights and which ones to never, ever walk. The intricate, delicate art of the late night fake phone call.

Running is opposed to every single rule of being a Good Indian Woman. To begin with, it’s selfish. It’s detached from your husband’s, parents’, and children’s comforts and ambitions. When I run, I’m not benefiting a single other person. I’m chasing a high. Can you think of anything less ladylike? As if that wasn’t bad enough, running means leaving your family and being out of your home for hours at a stretch. It means dressing for comfort, not for modesty or sanskaar. It means sweating, bouncing, and forgetting dignity in public spaces. It means pounding open roads at 6:30 a.m. while your mother-in-law stays home wanting her morning chai.

I was running in the outskirts of Bangalore when a man on a motorcycle hit my butt hard as he passed me. The force threw me off the road. I ran to catch up with my friends, swallowed my tears during breakfast, and later broke down in my bathroom. He’d left a bruise and it hurt to shower.

But, like all true passions, running becomes an addiction. At every race I have participated in, I have seen men and women of all ages and sizes burst into tears of happiness when they cross the finish line. The run validates us. Our problems don’t go away because we run, but they do feel manageable. In a world where most of us lead nondescript lives, running is our chance to feel like we’ve achieved greatness.

Moreover, in a country where women’s body image is fraught and policed by all and sundry, running is an intensely personal way to get familiar with your own physicality. It does wonders to your self-esteem. Instead of measuring your body’s value by how it looks, you get to feel yourself becoming faster, better, stronger.
Women deserve access to these joys as much as anybody else does.

And here are some reactions from Twitter:

This is a hugely important piece in the light of many women-only running events around the country. The interest in Pinkathons and other such runs has only grown in the last few years, and this has enabled them to expand to new locations. This has a huge positive impact on women’s fitness. But it doesn’t outweigh the issues that many women have faced over the years. Even mobiefit co-founder Gul Panag also had to deal with unruliness and groping at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, which prompted her to comment saying, “I won’t advocate running around the city to women in Delhi,” to NDTV. Our sincere hope is that it brings more of these issues to light, so that such incidents don’t remain hidden. And we stand in solidarity with brave women who continue to run and inspire their friends, neighbours and family to keep getting fitter.

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