Ever since moving to Bangalore three months ago I’ve seen that there are really so many ways to measure personal safety and security. And each city is unique. Off and on for the past 18 years I had been living in a wonderful seaside village called Sitges, located 20 minutes south of Barcelona, Spain. What had been a sleepy, quiet and peaceful town when I first moved there at the age of 22 has turned into a popular tourist destination with an insane amount of pickpockets and thieves, which is a real issue. Yet never once did I feel that I was in any personal danger, no matter what time of night or which part of town I was walking around in. And my daughter, who is now 15, was fine to walk back and forth to school from a really young age. She and her mates could go to the beach on their own or around town and I never once worried about her. A couple of years ago they even started taking the train into Barcelona and riding the metro there on their own and it was all perfectly safe.
Yet here in Bangalore, things are quite different.
When I was first starting to look for a place to live, the guys at work insisted that I focus on apartments with security gates and personnel, and not to look at independent houses. Since it is only me and my daughter, they felt that this was the only option for us “just to be safe” which I was a bit disappointed to hear. I love the independent houses in downtown Bangalore, and there are so many lovely neighbourhoods with multi-story, fantastic houses. But okay, we took their recommendation and found an amazing flat that we love. This was my first heads-up that Bangalore is not necessarily the safest town in the world.
The second night that I moved into the new apartment I arrived home from work and relaxed for a bit and then decided to head out around 21:00 to go check out my new neighbourhood. I live right on a lovely park with a stunning catholic church adjacent to us and a beautiful mosque just a block away. So I first walked around the park and then onto the high street, which happens to be Mosque Road in Frazer Town. I continued up and over a quaint bridge, past local vendors selling fruit and veggies on the street…and right before I was about to come up on the lovely mosque a guy on a motorcycle stops in front of me. He used some lame topic about fruit to start talking to me but basically wasn’t going to leave me alone. Luckily two gentlemen near the mosque saw him and came up to the rescue. First, they told me that they had seen him circling the block a couple of times, which had caught their attention. They also proceeded to scold me for walking around alone so late at night. So late at night? Were they kidding me? It was 9pm. Nope!
Turns out that Bangalore is not Sitges, and unfortunately for me – a night owl – I can’t run around my neighbourhood or pop in my headset and power walk around town at night. It’s just not appropriate for a woman to do. What a major bummer. So now, if I want to just run down the street to pick something up from a shop on the high street after 8pm or so, one of the security guards graciously offers to accompany me and of course I accept.
The other eye opener came when I was out with my mates one Saturday night after Skyye Bar closed and we were on our way to a friend’s flat. At that point we had two cars in the group but had pulled over on the side of the road to wait for another friend who was a few minutes behind us. All the guys exited the vehicles to chat, so I did too. When they saw me I was basically escorted back to the vehicle and asked – kindly, of course – to wait inside in order to keep a low profile. What in the world? I am not a fan of separate rules for men and women so they sat and explained why. Each one had a different experience. One went like this: he had been walking with a female friend in Bangalore when two vans full of guys had pulled up and started to hassle the girl as if they were going to take her. Luckily some cars came down the street and the guys took off. But that was a pretty close call and my friend knows he would have been powerless to do anything being so outnumbered. So he hasn’t forgotten this, hence the rule that we ladies keep a low profile late at night. Fair enough.
Now it’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong. In fact, one of the things that I noticed straight away is that theft is almost non-existent here when I compared it to Barcelona and Sitges. It’s okay to leave personal belongings in plain sight in the car when you leave the vehicle for a while. No one is going to break in and steal anything. This includes my laptop and bags, etc. People leave their helmets dangling from the mirror of their scooter and no one steals them. When you go into a restaurant you can leave your umbrella outside the door and no one will steal it. I know this sounds silly but in Barcelona you have a 50/50 chance of someone nicking your umbrella if you leave it.
And my favourite safety tidbit is how safe ladies handbags are here in Bangalore. I was shocked the first time I walked into a bar and saw ladies purses just sitting around – or even better, sitting around and open! I couldn’t believe it. In Barcelona, the pickpocket and bag theft is so out of control that when you live there you actually adapt the way you hold them and you certainly NEVER set them down and let your guard down for a moment or it will be stolen within seconds. It’s really that bad. But here, it is safe like in the “old days” and I love that about this city. At least this is the case at the places I frequent.
In fact, when I am out (on a date with my laptop) writing at a restaurant or bar on my own and need to go to the restroom, I can easily leave my bag and laptop at the table and feel 100% safe that it will all still be there when I return. I almost always take my handbag with me “just in case” but I do like the fact that I probably don’t need to do that.
XOXO from Bangalore
© Angela Carson and Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011