The Telegraph
Wednesday , December 26 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Night stroll in Barcelona

It was nearly 1am in Barcelona and my friend Neda and I were heading to the bus stop after an enjoyable drink and dinner with friends at Cat Bar. There was a weekly quiz at the pub and we were a bit sad to have lost the 30-euro prize money by just half a point.

I was staying with Neda and we intended to catch the night bus home.

At the bus stop, we saw a woman drunk and out, lying there. There were several people at the bus stop, both men and women, and I saw them trying to speak to her and find out where her home was.

Soon, it appeared that the woman wasnít Spanish. A policeman appeared and called up an ambulance. By the time our bus came in 10 minutes, the ambulance had arrived and people were about to help the woman into it.

In Barcelona and other European cities Iíve been to, girls travelling alone at night are safe and itís no issue at all. I have seen drunk girls walking or cycling home from nightclubs and pubs well past midnight in places such as Maastricht in the Netherlands, Berlin, Paris, Rome and of course, Barcelona.

As an Indian, this was interesting to me because such things did not happen back home. And frankly, I felt a little ashamed. And now, with all the hue and cry following the terrible rape in New Delhi, the level of security, freedom and equality that Iíve seen European women enjoy, has again struck me as remarkable.

Barcelona has a nice beach and large number of women sunbathe topless there. I didnít see any guys even staring at them, let alone passing lewd remarks or doing anything worse.

Walking along the banks of the Seine in Paris, Iíve seen both young men and women sit on the little benches there and enjoy their smoke or drink.

In Rome, boys and girls chill out in the open in the university area till very late at night.

In Berlin, after finishing dinner and drinks around midnight, my friends, some of whom were girls, left for home on the last sky train or on bicycle. Some just walked.

One afternoon at Kampa Park in Prague, I saw a group of schoolgirls (whoíd probably sneaked out of class), down a bottle of alcohol dangling their legs from the bank of River Vltava and waving at tourists on the barges passing by.

The question is not whether smoking or drinking is good for you or not. Itís a question of equality of the sexes in society. If no questions are raised when guys do it, why canít girls do it too?

Hereís hoping that one day, Indian women, too, will wake up to a safer and freer society.