Some words are unforgettable. I remember having watched a martial arts movie when I was in the Indian Military Academy where the main protagonist says: ‘We’re all basically alone. We have to fight our battles alone and by ourselves. Therefore, prepare well.’ I neither remember the name of the movie nor what happened after nor before these words were spoken. These words have stayed with me and have emerged from the depths of my memory only now when the newspapers are so full of dastardly attacks on women.
I am not a woman.
But remember, males have one X and one Y chromosome – and women have a XX chromosomal sequence, which means there is a woman in every man. This also means that whenever an X chromosome is hurt, a part of every man is hurt! It matters if she is hurt. It matters if she has to say: ‘I wish I had a SmartSuraksha with me!’ Why, dammit, why? Why must SmartSuraksha (or smart protection, to give it a loose translation for those who don’t understand Hindi) just mean protection from wayward, lewd, and lecherous males?
Specky, my wife, happened to be sitting in the Study with me as I wrote these lines. I read them out aloud and asked her what she thought of SmartSuraksha being positioned for just women.
‘You do have a point there,’ she said, ‘suraksha is needed by all. But don’t forget that we are surrounded by all sorts of crimes against women and, therefore, women need this more than anyone else.’
I agreed but made a mental note to ask the developers of this app to either create one for men too or promote this one as a protective app for men as well. I then told Specky that it isn’t sexual harassment and rape that end the list of crimes against women… one often reads of incidents where a mobile phone is snatched from her hands in broad daylight, or her gold chain pulled by miscreants in a bazaar and hundreds of people helplessly watch. The newspapers have reported cases where women were paraded naked in the streets or pulled and dragged by her hair. There are cases where women are burnt alive for dowry. ‘So I agree that SmartSuraksha is indeed essential for women,’ I said, and then continued, ‘and obviously in these days when most of us have a smartphone always waiting to be touched and woken up, an app for phones running on Android 2.2 and up.’
Specky was curious to know more about this app and I told her that SmartSuraksha is ‘a mobile application, that can track your whereabouts and at a single touch will send an sms to the pre-listed 5 contacts simultaneously and also the police. An additional feature of this app is that if you are in a situation where you are able to give details of the would-be offender, you can even record info like model of the car or clothes he is wearing, in your sms.’ ‘Seems quite good,’ she said, and then after a thoughtful pause, added, ‘you remember the protective device that the Students Union had distributed in the University of York?’
I nodded and recollected that small rectangular box that all female students were asked to carry when they were returning late in the night. This plastic box had a small pull-out switch that kept the device sane… but the moment it was pulled out, the device let out an ear-piercing shrill whistle that went on and on forever. Female students were asked to pull this switch out when they perceived a risk and then throw the device away from them. This would distract and disorient the criminal and the shrill sound was enough to bring out people from as far away as a hundred yards! Now this means that even in 1997, women needed ‘suraksha’ and this device was pretty smart for those times!
This mention of that protective sound-emitting device was enough to awaken the analyst in Specky and said, ‘Women have always needed to arm themselves with protective devices. If it isn’t whistles and alarms, it is pepper spray. If none of these are available, there will always be a few who train themselves in the martial arts or even boxing.’
‘I’m surprised I never hear of women jamming their knee hard into a man’s groin,’ I said, ‘they should know it really hurts there.’
Specky looked at me silently and said slowly, ‘violence of any sort isn’t a woman’s forte… and this must be difficult to execute when fear and panic is making you go weak in the knees.’
‘That’s quite correct,’ I said, ‘if those around you are bent upon hurting you, what is really needed is an aid that fetches help fast. Even an army platoon, when ambushed, needs back-up forces to come fast, knowing that just strong knees to smash the balls of insane bullies will not be enough!’
So what matters is the right sort of help that can be activated in a fraction of a second… this is what being smart today really means. And so, as a damsel in distress discreetly taps her smartphone screen to send SMSes for help to her friends and the Police, she can always use her gift of gab to stall the actual moment of intended crime until they come rushing to her rescue! This is what smartsuraksha is all about.
‘The way you put it,’ said Specky, ‘it seems that smartsuraksha is more important than aggression, fear, or flight!’
I said, ‘It is. These kind of apps are the smart way to find your way out of modern day problems.’ We realised that carrying a small knife or a pepper spray or even a destabilising device that shocks need time to be readied and can be difficult to carry all the time and everywhere. But a smartphone is something that you carry with you all the time. And then you can say: ‘I’m alone… and yet I’m not!’
It is far better to seek
Than in panic or anger shriek
Give safety a new start
Just tap and tip-toe
To begin a show
That criminal intent
Will finally repent!
So know that raksha
Appears with smartsuraksha!
21 October 2013