Last year I had volunteered for an ultra run event, where participants ran for 12 hours. I never imagined myself running for that long, so at least witnessing such events, brings sense of joy. This year also they announced the same event, and so I thought to run this time for the partial distance, at least 30 kms at minimum. I was not running since more than a month and felt out of practice, so I decided to cycle the whole distance of more than 70 kms after the evening. I had asked few running fellows if they can come along, but they might have other plans so I was all on my own. I choose the evening time, as it could resemble the actual event, and I also wanted to check the visibility along the route and the quality of the road as well. Most importantly I knew that, chances of me getting left behind on the running day, would be high as I run very slow specially when I have a broken leg. So being a tester I created a whole set of test environment to check if it would be feasible and okay to run all on my own.
The moment I told this idea to my sister, she immediately denied me the permission. As we two only live here, I had nobody else but her to convince, and that made my task more easier. I have not yet told my mother about my adventurous ride. Initial 5kms ride, were like look at the route, no of bridges, the quality of the road and so. After 10kms passed, I was like a happy bee flying on the cycle. After 15kms, it turned into dark but as it was a highway, there was a full traffic going on both ways, which lend me enough light to see the road ahead. I was anyways equipped with batteries on my cycle so I had nothing to worry about. The only thought which I was worried about, was if the cycle gets punctured, I might have to cancel the plan in between. But anyways I could take cab anytime, anywhere these days so I had a back up plan as well.
After 25 kms suddenly a car stopped by myside and I found a friend passing by with his family. So I stopped, chatted for sometime and clicked a picture of us and I started back as I had got 50 more kms to ride. I was really enjoying my ride so much. After around 45kms I stopped by a road side restaurant to get water for a few minutes and then started back again. From this point I felt like I had no energy to ride as I am not used to ride for so long, almost 2.5 hours had been passed, and this was my third longest ride as of yet. But I gathered the strength and will to continue thinking about the ultra event I am going to run in.
Just after few kms from this point, I found an auto rickshaw driving behind. Initially I took it casually as another vehicle passing by. But later I got to notice it because of its unusual slow speed. I slowed down and still it didn’t cross me. So I got more suspicious. Ladies in general get the instinct when something is not right around them. I looked back a few times to check and gave a hard look to the auto driver. Upon figuring out that now I am aware of him following me, he drove to my next and told me that he is doing so just to protect me and for my safety on the highway road. I scolded him 3-4 times, and directed him to get away, but he kept following me in a slow speed. The one thing by this time I made sure, is to keep paddling though I had no great energy, but if I might have stopped ,I would have not been able to walk properly. It was almost 5-6 kms, the auto driver was following me.
For a moment I thought it could be that he is genuinely following me for my safety. But I didn’t have a good reason to believe him based on his body language. I finally told him that I will call police and I acted like I am calling the one, still doing all this I didn’t stop anywhere and kept paddling as fast as I can. By this time he lost his polite language and started talking badly. I could not hear everything he said, as I was riding on the cycle and his auto too was making a noise. But I could read his body language and I kept myself alert from this point. The passing vehicles were so big and fast that they would not notice us. I tried to stop a few two wheelers but they didn’t stop. This guy was still following me with his continuous murmuring, and by this time I too lost my anger and told him so angrily to go away. He then started calling bad names and I am not sure but all I could hear had either of two meanings, he was threatening me to use a rod like thing either to break my cycle or insert it in my body to show me what he can do.
Naturally I understood the mess I got myself in, and there were no people walking by nor the vehicles which would stop. Suddenly he overtook and stopped a few meters before my cycle. Luckily he stopped on the sides and there were no other vehicles coming by and I had a full road to change the course. He came out of the rickshaw, but by the time I changed the direction on the other side and paddled as fast as possible to run away from the spot. He still started following but I was now about to reach the circle full of people and buildings. He overtook again and stooped by the circle, may be to read my next direction. But instead of going ahead, this time I drove down to the service road and reached to the building security personnel who was sitting outside. I told him about the guy and by the time they would see him, he flew away from the spot.
Naturally, the first question of them were why was I riding cycle so late and alone. They helped me to cross few meters so that the guy does not follow me and they made sure that he is not around now. It was around 9:30 pm and the auto guy almost followed me for half an hour. I still had 20+ kms to ride to reach home. I had not only lost the physical energy but the mental energy as well. Whether to call home or not, whether to take cab from here or what, would it be okay now to ride for next hour and two, what if he comes again. I was not in a position to take a decision and I didn’t take any. I kept paddling on the road. I lost the sense of people and vehicles passing by, though I kept scanning them as they passed by.
The remaining distance I rode that night with thinking about what the girls who face the worse of the situations would have gone through, how terrible it feels in the situations where you can not save your own self. I have grew up in a family where my father had never questioned me or restricted me to do something, nor he ever lectured on what girls should do and when. He was always okay and chilled out person who always encouraged me to do whatever I like to do. He himself was so adventurous that he would go anywhere anytime and sometimes we would know when he returns from the journey. The freedom which has been given to women/taken by women, is very dynamic in nature. There are situations, and there are timings women should be aware of. A woman can not just go on her own will or should not take decision on the spur of the moment, because then there are consequences to face. If you don’t have to, you might be the lucky one, but all days are not same. Understand that as a woman, one has to be ready to negotiate freedom at each level. Keep calculating how much freedom is good at which point of time. If a man runs at night, he is cool, but woman would be fool in doing so. For men, it’s training, for women it’s risk.
I consider my freedom the most richest thing, I never have had a calculated freedom. If I felt doing something I have done it. But this time when I saw myself running from the spot while sensing the danger and the consequence of the situation I was in, even in those fraction of seconds I might have asked myself thousand questions like What did you think of yourself, Could you been able to fight and save yourself, Why the hell no vehicle stopped to help, What could have happened, if the security guys have not helped you, Would you ride again like this, and and take risks. I reached home after riding for almost 4.5+ hours. Have not had hunger to eat but drank milk and went to sleep weeping silently.
Next morning I told my sister that I would not participate in the ultra event explaining her everything. She told me that she would come along but I was firm in my decision not to run.
Two-three days passed but I was weeping the whole day and night, and I could not understand why and what is bothering me so much, that, I am crying unpredictably at random times? That is when I realised that it is not the incident that is bothering me, but the disappointments in myself. I guess it was hard for inner me to accept the fact that I had to run away from the spot. Technically it was right and was not the time to show off hollow bravery. But somehow my inner being was not happy with me running away instead of fighting. I tried to make peace with myself and make her understand that you can’t win all battles by fighting, and to save yourself, the best you could have done was to just run away and that’s what you did. But I was like talking to myself with “You disappointed me, you just accepted the thought of the calculated freedom and your acceptance is what bothering me. You have never disappointed me so much”
Now it was high time for me to get over this, as I could not continue like this and also have my everyday training to go on. So I decided to run the event again and strangely the day I changed my decision, those thoughts left my mind and I didn’t cry thereafter. I did run 30 kms in the ultra event. I would not stop doing adventures, but certainly one more safety check has been added to my checklist. This is what life is, you try, you learn and you move on. The moment you stop, you are dead. Keep paddling.