Image credit: @missgloriadesign

A few nights ago, I was returning to a friend’s house after a fun evening with my colleagues. As I approached her building, I took out my phone — possibly to text her saying I was almost there. Right then, it was snatched out of my hand. The shock took a few minutes to register, and I saw two men speeding off on a bike with my phone. A phone that has years’ worth of exchanges with family, friends, partners, acquaintances. A device that has close to four thousand pictures — all of them highly personal, and some a little more than the others.

As I stumbled out of the auto rickshaw in a panic, resulting in a deep gash on my knee and a psychological impact that will take me a good while to overcome, I had never felt more helpless. I should have been grateful that I was (largely) safe, that all I lost was a phone. But I was upset beyond belief, afraid of the fact that some strange men had access to some of the most private aspects of my life. What if they’re looking at my pictures? What if they end up on the internet tomorrow morning? I conjured up several unpleasant scenarios in my head.

Then I blamed myself. Why was I using my phone in an auto? Why was I out at 9 PM? Why was I out after dark? I had, over my last three years in this city, developed a sense of security that for a woman, was almost brazen. I travelled home alone late after work, made dinner plans (something I barely did growing up because I was afraid to go out after dark), went to parties , and got back home on my own. Perhaps this was the world’s way of giving me a reminder that women aren’t supposed to feel safe doing these things.

Later that night, after a short hospital visit and a lot of panic, I sat sipping a beer with my friend. And I felt surprisingly calm. It was just a phone after all. Yes, if some of my pictures end up on the world wide web, I won’t be happy. But I won’t be ashamed either. I’ve done enough of that. Walking with a slouch, wearing clothes a size too big, looking over my shoulder, making myself small.

It’ll be a while till I recover from what happened, sure. But I’m not going to let those two men take away the sense of confidence and safety I took years to develop. Perhaps my phone has been wiped of every trace of my life, perhaps not. Maybe all those pictures are still there, maybe not. I can’t say what could happen. But I can now safely say, I don’t care — because those were some great pictures.