Conquering the fear of the setting sun

One of my distinct memories of growing up in Delhi involves the everyday spectre of a setting sun. My mother, worried about my safety when I started at university in the early 1990s, made me promise that I would always return home before dark. The home-before-sunset wasn’t a rule as such but a ‘safety measure’ that was followed by most of my female friends, acquaintances and neighbours. It was neither questioned nor explained. The routine was so deeply ingrained that rushing home before dark seemed like a matter of commonsense. For most of the female residents of the city, the dying glow in the sky marked the temporal limits before which to conclude their share of public activities. An elderly neighbour used to call it ‘Lakshman Rekha’ — the invisible boundary drawn by Rama’s brother Lakshman to protect Sita — which women must obey for their own safety. It was, as if, an informal state of curfew was imposed daily after sunset on one half of the population.


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