A Tale of Two Cities, Bold Bom-bae and Eerie Dilli

Social Commentary

A Tale of Two Cities, Bold Bom-bae and Eerie Dilli

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Once upon a time, there lived two young maidens named Bubbles and Buttercup, in the non-fictional town of Jamshedpur. They grew up together braiding each other’s hair and discussing their teenage romances and angst with the gusto of, well, teenagers. Absolutely inseparable from each other – and almost insufferable to the giggly cliques that dreamt of being as popular as the duo – they battled the Rowdyruff Boys – you know those rotten boys in every small town who stalk and catcall women on the streets, grope them in public places, and make blank calls on their landlines at night?

One day, when one of the Rowdyruff Boys grabbed Bubbles’ boob in broad daylight – in a tremendously popular and moderately crowded street while she was riding her scooty – they both decided to skip town.

Bubbles became busy lawyer-ing and partying in Bombay. She subscribed to the universally acknowledged truth about it being one of the safest cities in India. She can now wear the clothes that she never could in her hometown – crop tops, tube tops, halter-necks, off shoulders, cold shoulders, and mini skirts! She also became privy to the comfort-gasm of denim shorts. Where she’s from, shorts are about as perverse as dildos.  

The other night, when a drunk Bubbles was riding an Uber back home from a party at 3 am (in clothes that would certainly have had the same effect as Petrificus Totalus on her parents) she remembered Buttercup. Last she heard, Buttercup was killing it in Gurgaon – she was apparently oozing swagger at her job at a leading credit card company, and had settled with a pup and the love of her life. Happy and inebriated, she decided to call Buttercup to Bom-bae (she’d just decided that the city was her best friend) and after what seemed like a million years, they met.

Buttercup visited Bombay. Having just concluded a solemn deliberation on hair products, they started discussing their adult love lives with the gusto of, still, teenagers. Over colossal mugs of beer, they congratulated each other on their professional successes, and swooned over how great the men in their lives were. As they started to head towards the loo together, Buttercup suddenly stopped in her tracks and hesitated. “Someone should hang back and watch over the drinks, no?” “Huh! Why?” “Umm… We could get roofied! Obvious, much?”

Living in Bombay, this was a thought that had never occurred to Bubbles.

She was suddenly aware of her privilege – a privilege that isn’t available to girls in most other cities, a privilege that she’d begun to take for granted, a privilege that allowed her to head over to any SoBo bar by herself and order a drink, or four! With a sharp twinge of disillusionment, she realised just how myopic her optimism had been.

Squatting on Marine Drive at 2 am and staring pensively into the sea, Bubbles wistfully wonders if Buttercup would ever be able to walk the streets of her chosen city alone.

On Women’s Day, Bubbles was out partying late into the night celebrating some shallow, consumerism-ridden idea of womanhood. Meanwhile, back in Gurgaon, Buttercup was too scared (and with good reason) to step out of her apartment at 8pm (which is practically daylight in Bombay) to buy some eggs from the shop downstairs. It’s not like Buttercup is a shut-in who doesn’t let her hair down while downing drinks like a boss at Gurgaon pubs. But, to ensure her safety, she must be accompanied by her boy love. No one’s claiming that’s a foolproof defence either, mind you.

As soon as her salary gets credited to her account each month, Bubbles embarks on her splurge-fest. Food, online-shopping, spa, alcohol, home decor… you name it. As for Buttercup, last month, as soon as her salary got credited, she invested in getting a wrought iron grill put up outside her apartment door as an additional security measure. Next month, she is planning to install one of those new-fangled doorbell cameras. And she’s NOT even being paranoid.

Bubbles prefers to pool her cabs in a bid to save money. Of course, that gives her more liquidity to splurge on clothes and parties. For Buttercup, that’s probably not the safest idea, and may also cease to be an option very soon. On Women’s Day, while Bubbles rejoiced in the offers on drinks for women, Buttercup celebrated (within the confines of her house, of course) the installation of a panic alarm system in the capital’s buses.

Yet, Bubbles often sighs as she remembers an exceptionally hot afternoon in April 2005. She was parched to the bones and innocently stood sipping cold water from her bottle at lunch-time when a senior walked by with a smirk and remarked, “Haan haan, choos lo, baby (Yeah baby, suck it)!” More than a decade later, cocooned in Bombay, she may have been able to wriggle out of the constant barrage of such wretched harassment and obnoxious objectification. But, having chosen to dwell in Gurgaon, Buttercup clearly had the worse end of the stick.

Squatting on Marine Drive at 2 am and staring pensively into the sea, Bubbles wistfully wonders if Buttercup would ever be able to walk the streets of her chosen city alone, at this hour. She recalls Buttercup lamenting that she can’t even go for a morning jog at a public park without getting hooted at and stalked. Shrouded in despair at this ghastly barter of fate, she sighs. The faint notes of the Victoria’s Secret body mist Buttercup gifted her recently linger in the air around her. “Maybe, I should gift her a can of pepper spray for her birthday this year.”