Gedi, means a leisurely trip around town, mostly in cars. Old timers still swear by the eateries dotting the routes.
It used to be fun to drive down the gedi routes of Chandigarh once upon a time. People looked forward to meeting new people, grabbing a bite or two in the many eateries that lined up along the routes or even striking up life-long friendships. But then, as the recent Varnika Kundu case has laid bare, Chandigarh’s gedi culture has become reminiscent of a different kind of a hunting ground.
Gedi, actually, means a leisurely trip around town, mostly in cars.
Old timers still swear by the eateries dotting the routes. Gusto Kitchen and Kaffe for its scrumptious meals, Dumpling Hood for the melting momos or Super Donuts for the space you have left for dessert.
But ask a woman from Chandigarh what gedi routes mean to them now and they spit out two words — stalking and harassment. The “dangerous” gedi routes start from Sectors 8 to 11.
The old routes for leisure trips today are noisy, precarious arteries with speeding cars play blasting music and young men on garishly-coloured bikes perform crazy stunts.
While gedi routes are unavoidable if you have to be up and about town, women fear Citco parking in Sector 10 the most. They fall easy prey to stalkers in the two parking lots there.
“We went on these routes to chill, socialise, one knew that he/she could meet at least 25 people he/she knew. But all that has changed today,” said 29-year-old Varnika Kundu, who fell victim to stalking by Haryana BJP unit chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas and his friend Ashish.
Kundu’s sister Satvika said, “There’s isn’t a single woman in Chandigarh who has not been stalked on the gedi routes.”
A writer by profession, she too has had a similar experience recently.
Now-a-days “some boys seem to have forgotten where to draw the line. I know people who have met on the gedi routes and have become life-long friends,” she said.
Ms Kundu’s father, IAS officer Virender Kundu, wondered when the boundaries of decency got breached. “The dynamics became complex when outsiders and casual visitors started coming here. Apart from hooliganism, boys pull off dangerous stunts only to show off. The police are aware, but they see these stunts as harmless – youthful release of energy. But the general behaviour now borders on the criminal. Aggressive and vulgar confrontations are the norm. The girls will needs to be respected.”
Speaking in the same vein, entrepreneur Lakshay Arora, 23, blamed the rich of Punjab and Haryana “for misinterpreting the socialising gedi culture as an invitation to harassment”.
It may be noted here that stalking was declared a criminal offence in 2013 after former President Pranab Mukherjee signed an ordinance to give more teeth to laws dealing with sexual violence against women.
“Pathetic” and “cheap” are the two words writer-cum-producer Aakriti Sachdev, 24, used for describing the gedi routes, some of whose wide roads are flanked by lush gardens and beautiful homes designed by French architect and urban planner Le Corbusier. She left Chandigarh seven years ago.
“My mother experienced harassment here, as did my elder sister. And it is just not the guys. This culture (read harassment) has been propagated by both men and women,” she moaned.
Ms Sachdev also blamed this growing menace to the lack of police action. “The culture of stalking started with a few people. The police should have nipped it in the bud then itself.
The freedom (stalking) is allowed so much so that it has become a callous culture now.”
A 21-year-old student, who did not wish to be named, recalled how she was tormented by stalkers some months ago.
“A group of men followed me around and kept pestering me for my number,” she said.